With diverse production and hauntingly beautiful lyrics, Billie Eilish’s WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? is exactly what modern music needs at the moment.
The album stands as the best teenage debut since Lorde’s Pure Heroine. Eilish is a visionary who sees the worst things that humans are capable of doing and thinking. With her music, she then perpetuates those capabilities as something worthy of more than a taboo. Eilish takes on the persona of all that is wrong and evil, elevating the way we view those that act on those urges.
Eilish begins the album with a whimsical introduction, “!!!,” in which she says, “I am taking out my Invisalign and this is the album.” Soft detailing like this is vital because it waters down the solemnity of tracks like “listen before i go,” which explores suicide contemplation.
The lighthearted introduction is followed by the catchiest, most pop-centric song on the record, “bad guy.” It’s perfectly fitted for pop radio, but with twisted storytelling, teen angst and traces of darker production, it still has Eilish’s signature stamp on it.
Standing as a new kind of pop star, Eilish makes her own rules and refuses to be defined by the stigma surrounding what pop music should be. Rather than waiting for approval, she has manufactured an identity that is uniquely her own, which is more than most 17-year-olds can say. Her soprano vocals and provocative lyrics have given her a niche in the fast-paced music industry, but her diversity as an artist elevates her to the level of a great creator.
WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? is all over the place stylistically, but that’s what makes it genius. The songs are bound by a common thematic thread while maintaining individual identities.
The album’s first single, “you should see me in a crown,” is the best the record has to offer. It dives straight into Eilish’s edginess. The track finds Eilish dead set on taking over the world with no regard for the deadly cost. Her blaring cockiness and horror obsession shine over eerie production, which features just enough bass drops to be at home in a club mix.
“Bury a friend” feels like a continuation of “you should see me in a crown,” but it dives deeper into examining the twisted character that Eilish has created. The music video depicts an exorcism to shed light on the track’s theme of our sick alter egos battling the rational side of ourselves.
The record is polished as a whole because of Eilish’s lyrical and sonic attention. Her innovativeness in small things like the clips from a fan favorite episode of The Office (“my strange addiction”), set her apart from other artists.
Within “wish you were gay,” the artist lyrically incorporates numbered steps that illustrate the ways her love interest is disappointing her. The addition propels the childish reaction to rejection into a well-formulated evaluation of dating in a generation of technology-reliant teen that lacks basic social skills.
The record is not without missteps, however. A bit of a boring side to Eilish’s work is exposed in “i love you.” The production is minimal, and the lyrics are good but not good enough to carry a track with no wow factor.
On the other hand, “when the party’s over,” is a stripped down masterpiece, where Eilish nails the minimalistic approach. The heartache-infused lyrics feel more genuine than anything else on the record and the backing vocals are just haunting enough to give the soft ballad an edge.
Eilish’s nine-track extended play, don’t smile at me, was enough to give her a solid fan base, but WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? will lift her to superstar status. There isn’t anyone in the limelight who looks or sounds like Eilish right now, and mainstream music desperately needs originality. Eilish won’t be disappearing anytime soon, and there is no one hiding in the wings that can fill her shoes.