When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? – Billie Eilish

Tau Nell | Student Writer

Not everyone was familiar with Billie Eilish when her no-nonsense track ‘Bad Guy’ marched to the top of the charts early last year, but she is no overnight sensation. The silver-tongued songstress released her EP ‘Don’t Smile at Me’ in 2017, and has been on an ever-rising rollercoaster of stardom since. She’s headlined Coachella, graced the cover of Vogue, and been nominated for six Grammy awards – all before her 18th birthday. ‘When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?’ (WWAFAWDWG) is Eilish’s first LP, and offers an exhilarating demonstration of her talent and ingenuity.

First and foremost, Billie is intelligent. Unsettlingly so. It is hard to find adults, let alone people her own age, as startlingly eloquent –  she turns words on their heads and makes them dance. Eilish proves throughout WWAFAWDWG that she answers to nobody. In ‘All the Good Girls Go to Hell’, a twisted tango with the devil in which Billie takes the lead, she reasons ‘Peter’s on vacation / it’s an open invitation’. She yawns in God’s face, sighing that the ‘pearly gates look more like a picket fence’. With a similar off-kilter energy, ‘You Should See Me in a Crown’ is a smug reminder that Eilish has the power to take over the world, should she feel like it. When asserting ‘I’m gonna run this nothing town’, perhaps Billie is referring to the music industry, which has become cramped with familiar faces and uninspiring stories; Eilish, the devious newcomer, here to raise hell and change the game forever.

But behind the intimidating smirks and bravado can be found a deeply sensitive soul. While most artists commit to one persona, Eilish isn’t afraid to expose her vulnerability, embellishing it with her signature feathery harmonies. There is unmistakable concern in ‘ilomilo’, Billie wringing her hands as she whispers ‘I tried not to upset you / let you rescue me the day I met you / I just wanted to protect you’. Eilish returns to her choral roots in the heavenly ‘When the Party’s Over’, to deliver the haunting couplet, ‘Tore my shirt to stop you bleedin’ / but nothin’ ever stops you leavin’. It may seem Billie’s heart is split in two – one half haughty and the other fragile, but tracks like ‘Xanny’ and ‘Goodbye’ demonstrate her ability to unite these opposing poles, marrying sincere sentiments with bass-boosted beats.

Simply put, WWAFAWDWG is the work of a genius. While some musicians struggle to think outside the box, Eilish tears the box apart and rebuilds it from scratch. She plays with elements we thought were untouchable – modulating her voice to a childish squeal in ‘8’, a demonic rumble in ‘Bury a Friend’, and a robotic whir in ‘Bad Guy’. This Gen Z prodigy has a long and triumphant career ahead of her. Whether Billie will use her iron grip on fans across the globe for good or evil is for her to know and for us to find out, but one thing is certain: we’ll all be blindsided by what comes next.

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