Every other week, Anthony Kozlowski pens the Atwood Magazine column Tunes & Tumblers, pairing new and classic albums with cocktail recipes. He quickly found however that drinking alone is a sad business. So he invited his friends Pedro Isaac Chairez and Ryan James into a recording booth to aid in mixing delicious drinks and to discuss the music that they all love. Strap on your headphones and enjoy a cold one on us.
Music’s biggest night held many surprises, but the woman of the hour was none other than Billie Eilish. She capped off a culture-defining year by taking home all four major awards, and the Tunes & Tumblers gang fix the perfect drink to celebrate. She just won’t be able to have one herself for another 3 years.
🎶 🥃 🎶 🥃
The time has finally come. After a whole year of name-dropping and subtly pushing the conversation in a certain direction, the Tunes & Tumblers lens centers on a young pop icon who exploded like an atom bomb in 2019.
In case you missed it, the 62nd Grammy Awards took place a couple Sundays ago. Though the debate swirls over their continued relevance and whether a handful of recording industry suits really have their fingers on the pulse of the pop culture landscape, it’s still considered by many to be “Music’s Biggest Night.” And from the names alone, we at Tunes & Tumblers would have to agree. The Album of the Year category alone boasted a who’s who of the most Tweeted and celebrated names of 2019. There was the ever bankable Ariana Grande, the reliable indie vanguards Vampire Weekend, Lana Del Rey, and Bon Iver, and overnight sensations Lizzo and Lil Nas X. But the one name that cleaned up is the focus of today’s episode.
Not since 1980 has a single artist swept the major categories, taking home Grammys for Album, Record, and Song of the Year as well as Best New Artist. And she made history by being the youngest artist ever to do so. If you don’t know who I’m talking about, chances are you’ve just returned from a decade in exile on one of Jupiter’s moons. She is of course, the queen of horror pop, the bag guy herself: Billie Eilish.
She and her brother FINNEAS started an avalanche when they released their first song “Ocean Eyes” on Soundcloud in 2015 (at the age of 13, mind you). A somber piece of indie ether lifted on Billie’s otherworldly vocals, it propelled her to superstardom overnight. Four years later, it’s hard to imagine a pop culture sphere without her. Her feature length debut WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? sounds like nothing else on the radio. It’s a genre-bending artistic statement that hangs on the fringes of creeping darkness, a work that is as fun to listen to as it is anxiety-inducing and candidly hopeless. As pop creeps further into the unknown with the advent of streaming and the eulogy of the album, it feels at once classic and pioneering. The reasons for her win may be as many as they are obfuscated by the voting process, but Billie is perhaps the best indicator of where we are and where pop is headed in this foggy new decade.
Raise a glass with us on this Grammy Roundup episode of Tunes & Tumblers. Long live the young queen!
WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?
an album by Billie Eilish
Billie calls herself the “bad guy.” Whether or not her calling card is her best song is debatable, but it perhaps best sums up her ethos. WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP is anti-pop music, the yang to Top 40’s sparkling yin. For a long time, the pop music mill has banked on powerhouse vocals, and bright, blaring synths, and huge choruses meant to be sung along to. Billie does none of that. Throughout her album, her voice barely rises above a whisper, laying dark phantasms out like secrets meant for your ears alone. She trades the arena uproar for a quiet intimacy. It’s music made for headphones, for holding down repeat in the dark.
Man is such a fool
Why are we saving him?
Poisoning themselves now
Begging for our help, wow!
Of course, there’s an irony in Billie playing to massive audiences nowadays, but tracks like “bury a friend,” “when the party’s over,” and “listen before I go” sound best in solitude. Pop has rarely felt so personal, like a conversation had directly between artist and listener. That move perhaps reflects our increasingly connected world of social media better than we would like to admit. We expect artists and public figures to be our friends and we gravitate towards experiences that reflect this.
But popular sentiment isn’t the only thing propelling this album. It’s also good – very good. In his Grammy acceptance speech, FINNEAS stated that he and Billie wrote and recorded the entire thing in their bedroom without interference from their label. They followed their own artistic inclinations into the abyss of their souls, pulling out fun, unique sounds that wouldn’t vibe on an ultra-tailored pop record produced to sell millions. And despite all odds, that’s exactly what happened. An album with an extended sample from NBC’s The Office (check out “my strange addiction” for some head-scratching laughs and hip-swaying beats) sold over two million copies. They realized they could do anything and ran with it.
Over fourteen tracks, Billie surpasses her young age in every conceivable way, producing a mature, cohesive experience that many artists try and fail at over a lifetime. From the inescapable BDSM bop of “bad guy,” to the tongue-in-check neo-doo-wop of “wish you were gay,” through the thematic bow-tying of “goodbye,” there isn’t a single wasted moment or misstep. If anyone were to take home the gold on Grammy night, there was hardly a more qualified candidate.
Distilling such an opus into a single drink is surely a daunting task. Luckily, we have resident genius Pedro Isaac Chairez on our side. Billie may not be able to taste for a few more years, but that isn’t stopping us. Please sample the darkness responsibly.
- 3 oz Apple Pucker
- 3 oz Blood Orange Vodka
- 1 oz Saline
- Chocolate (melted or syrup, to taste)
- Pex for “Xanny” garnish
- Optional: Green Pearl Dust for an extra pop of that green color
- Fill bottom of martini glasses with choice of chocolate and chill in fridge or freezer while you make the rest of the cocktail.
- Pour ingredients into shaker (including Pearl Dust if using) with ice.
- Shake well.
- Pour cocktail into martini glass over chocolate layer.
- Carefully place pez-Xanny garnish into cocktail so it floats on top. Enjoy!
WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP is many things. It’s dark, it’s fun to listen to, it has descending layers depending on how close you listen, it’s infinitely enjoyable, it’s hard to get through. You’d want something to sip on that reflects all of these qualities when the needle drops.
Our first look at the “Billie” cocktail immediately calls to mind her shocking green and black ‘do she sported on Grammy night. The chocolate base is mostly for show against the sweet and tangy cocktail, but the more you drink, the more its rich flavor seeps into it. Likewise, Billie’s album is an exercise in layers. Tracks begin as fun romps, but hide confessional screeds of anxiety and fear. On standout “bury a friend,” she sings:
Step on the glass, staple your tongue (ahh)
Bury a friend, try to wake up (ah ahh)
Cannibal class, killing the son (ahh)
Bury a friend, I wanna end me
Teenagers hide multitudes in their thick, padlocked diaries, and Billie is no exception. She pulls no punches beneath her youthful exterior.
The cocktail itself pays homage to her youth in its saccharine combination of ingredients. Though neither Tunes & Tumblers nor Atwood Magazine endorses underage drinking, we remember what it’s like to be that age and to reach for whatever bottles we can. Apple Pucker and blood orange vodka ramp up that sweetness of adolescence, while the saltwater reels it in a notch (we are getting old and decrepit after all). An optional pinch of pearl dust enriches the color, both giving it a florescent pop and calling attention to the stark separation of the chocolate.
Though Billie herself says “don’t give me a Xanny now or ever,” we’ve given our listeners the option to dull the pain with a little Pez garnish. Take your pictures quickly because this sardonic addition sinks into the chocolate and out of sight before too long.
It may be one of our more untraditional offerings to date, but so is Billie’s landmark album. Outside the norm, boldly striking forward not without craning a few necks. Consider us thoroughly on board while we gargle this chocolate.
This week sees the return of the fab three without the added pressure of putting on airs for a musical guest. Well, not including Producer Drew, who joins us once again on the mic.
Without the need to censor ourselves, we dive deep into not only Billie’s historic wins, but what the Grammys even say about our present moment. Though almost every nominee in the crowded field deserved recognition, Billie shines because of how and why her music resonated with so many people this year. Streaming has allowed us unprecedented access to what we want, when we want it. And barring restrictive algorhythms, it’s easier than ever to share the music we like with our friends and followers. Billie defied genre conventions in an organic and distinctive way (unlike Lil Nas X’s more jarring, but still popular genre hopping approach), and made music that works on both a personal and international level. Save maybe Lizzo, no one else’s music spoke with such a universal voice in 2019.
We also take the time to clear up the confusion surrounding Song of the Year and Record of the Year once and for all, and reassure Drew more than once that the Grammys are not awards for the best grandparents (though maybe they should be).
Season two is just kicking into gear. Boot up your podcasting service and soak up all things Billie while Tunes & Tumblers dives into the new decade with a wealth of musical and alcoholic treats to come. Cheers, lovelies!
Tunes & Tumblers 202:
Billie Eilish and a Billie
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© Pedro Isaac Chairez