Every two or three years, edgy teens aggressively obsess over a new alternative female artist. For the longest time, Lana Del Rey, Marina and the Diamonds and Lorde were the original holy trinity of mainstream alternative music. After Melanie Martinez missed her chance to become the next edge queen, Billie Eilish stepped onto the scene. Many wondered if she could be the one who would make the holy trinity a holy quaternity.
Interscope Records released Eilish’s debut album, “Don’t Smile At Me,” in August, 2017. She was only 15 years old. Compared to Lana’s “Born to Die,” Marina’s “The Family Jewels” and Lorde’s “Pure Heroine,” “Don’t Smile At Me” seemed experimental and almost incomplete. Each song had a different feel to it lacked a cohesive aesthetic or theme. Her music was not bad—in fact, several of her songs were really popular—but to many, Eilish was a “flavor of the week” type of artist. Her almost too relatable personality and impeccable sense of fashion kept her relevant in the early stages of her career, but her style finally began to surface in the handful of singles released soon after her first album. Still, something was missing.
In late April,, Eilish dropped her second album, “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go” under Darkroom/Interscope Records. Her delicate voice contrasts with a low bass, moody beats and intense noises which harmonize into a chilling yet alluring sound. By creating this album, Eilish has an established aesthetic. Her album is catchy and smart.
In an interview with Beats 1, Eilish shares the inspiration for her album, stating her “beleaguerance of and fascination with night terrors and sleep paralysis” and “the complicated relationship she has with her subconscious.” According to Eilish, “every song on the album is something that happens during sleep—sleep paralysis, night terrors, lucid dreams.”
Eilish’s album are songs about her thinking to herself when she is conscious and asleep. When she is awake, she overthinks relationships and wallows in her depression. When she is asleep, she becomes bolder and confronts her demons. Her album as a whole is genius, but some songs are better than others. Here are a few standouts:
“Wish You Were Gay” is one of the songs released before the rest of the album. The lyrics tell a much different story from what the title suggests. Eilish sings about an emotionless, distant boyfriend, who she wishes is gay and not just plainly disinterested in her. Many were outraged at the deceiving title and accused Eilish of gay-baiting, which is understandable, but its story is so compelling because its lyrics are honest and different from a typical love story.
In “Bury A Friend,” Eilish switches between talking to her sleep demon and being him. In the music video, she is literally the monster under the bed. I honestly barely paid attention to the lyrics because I was so mesmerized by the intense rhythms and creepy harmonies. The instrumental part of this song is mainly moody beats and low sounds. The harmonies that overlap with Eilish’s voice give off a cool, demonic, possessed vibe--very Ghost Rider but make it Hot Topic.
“Listen Before I Go” is a suicide note. In her last moments, Eilish feels like she is too far gone to turn back. She tells her friends to hurry and see her if they care because she “needs to go soon.” She’s not sorry that she needs to go, but she is sorry that she needs to leave her friends behind. The depressing lyrics are accompanied by calm yet intense, heavy sounds. The song is depressing in the most poetic and beautiful way. The melancholy Eilish sings about is so hauntingly familiar.
“When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go” is the perfect mix of edge, depressing and bad ass. Every lyric, sound, and beat and even dialogue has purpose and seamlessly weaves into each other, including a quirky but relevant excerpt from “The Office” in “My Strange Addiction.” “Goodbye,” the outro of the album, ties the whole album together by combining lines, ideas and feelings from all of its constituent songs into one cohesive final, hypnotic, trance-like song. Everything is done so tastefully; it is insane that she is only 17 years old.
Many `Iolani students agree that Eilish's album is a winner. However, accoring to rateyourmusic.com, critics are pretty evenly split. Some think her album is just more “edgy teen cult music” that lacks complexity, while others rave over her approach on alternative music through simple yet deep lyrics, melodies and concepts. On the site, out of 3186 votes, her album averaged out to 2.84/5 stars. Clearly, her music is up to personal taste.
Like Lana Del Rey and Marina and the Diamonds, Eilish has finally found her distinct style within the genre of alternative music; the thoughtful songs and witty lyrics showcased in “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go” rival those of Lorde.
The question remains: Is she good enough to be one of them? Only time will tell, but as of now, Billie Eilish is definitely one to watch.