How the 17 year-old alternative star has captured the pop fandom’s love with her first studio album. Behind the age, angsty brand, and charisma — how does the music hold up?
“I have taken out the invisalign, and this is the album...”
Billie Eilish is relatable. Under all of the gothic attitude and lavish designer clothes we are reminded by this record there is still just a teenage girl behind the mic. Eilish’s first studio album “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?” features her raspy, harmonic layered voices in her slower songs that resemble a much darker version of Frank Ocean. In her more gritty songs, Eilish utilizes heavy basslines and dance heavy beats to create an ambiance of a vibey night club if it had a goth theme. The tracks are woven between multiple snippets of Eilish laughing and even a quote from Michael Scott from The Office. This playful banter filled with dark melodies creates for a very angsty alternative pop undercurrent which fits exactly into Billie Eilish’s brand.
The album’s first official track “bad guy” sets the tone early. The bassline starts and slowly Eilish layers her voice, followed by another harmony of her voice, then shakers and snaps which develops to the chorus of a synthed melody line that is a perfect hook. This creates a build up effect that makes “bad guy” into somewhat of a hype song. Combine that with the fact that Eilish is teasing a love interest of hers by saying she’s the bad guy and that his girlfriend should be worried about her. This makes the listener feel empowered by Eilish’s confidence and grit. Mix that with a dope hook and slow build up and it becomes an instant anthem.
The next track on the album, “xanny” is my personal favorite on the album. Its intense melodic lines filled with multiple voices of Eilish harmonizing with herself creates a beautiful sense of fullness. It also creates vulnerability at the end when Eilish strips away the other voices and the beat, leaving her own voice exposed and raw. She is talking about her need to stop taking Xanax in order to feel okay with herself. She sings she “doesn’t want to be to intoxicated to not be scared;” she is admitting her insecurities, but doesn’t believe numbing is a proper solution. For a 17 year old who has been abruptly thrown into stardom, this song exposes her level of maturity.
While Eilish’s music does have its moments of novelty, there are some similar songs from her previous EP with no new nuance to them. You can see these similarities to songs like “When the Party’s Over” and Eilish’s smash hit “Ocean Eyes” or “you should see me in a crown” and “COPYCAT.”
Eilish’s music relies heavily on the branding and personality of herself. Rather than letting her music speak for it itself, it feels as though she relies on different ad libs and and television quotes to distract fans from her at times lackluster melodic motifs and ideas. At its best, “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?” is a brilliant ode to grunge and dark love songs. The harmonies and well produced drums make for a very easy listening album. At its worst, it feels that Eilish is trying to overcompensate for lack of new melodic ideas with different ad libs of her exemplifying a “totally relatable personality” and gimmicking fans with quotes from beloved TV shows.
I believe Eilish will grow out of this — her ad libs will start to make more sense with the overall theme and message of her album rather than just putting it in for shits. There is no doubt that she is extremely talented and this album is most certainly a bop. Moving forward, I would say as a fan of hers, to her, that less is sometimes more. Creating a holistic album with a concrete theme where the tracks flow into each other seamlessly is something I look forward to seeing from her.
By Jackson Siporin