The Sweetest Nightmare: When We All Fall Asleep Where Do We Go
Billie Eilish, the 17 year old LA Native released her debut studio album, WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP WHERE DO WE GO on March 29, 2019. Eilish is notorious for her striking badass aesthetic and idgaf attitude. Her debut record accentuates her raw and intimate vocal abilities- there is nothing overdone about the way that Billie’s voice trails and swells over her deeply personal and inquisitive lyrics.
Eilish’s every catch, trill, vibrato and breath rings clearly over window-shaking bass– the contrast of such texturally detailed and devoid sounds culminates in a pleasing, repeat-button-worthy aural experience. Eilish utilizes empty space and musical breaks to perfect the balance within each song and innovatively redirect focus within strong structure.
Fourteen tracks long, this album could have been a bit more diverse and explorative. Predominant themes include depression, terror, love, rejection, loneliness and suicide, Eilish digs deep and isn’t afraid to get her nails dirty in the process-this is what discerns her from her peers.
The album begins with ‘!!!!!!!,’ an aptly named recording of Eilish removing her invisalign- throwing down a gauntlet of modern dental magic. The into transitions directly into “bad guy,” a thumping anthem proclaiming Billie’s status as a ‘make your mama sad, make your girlfriend mad, might seduce your dad’ type. Layered vocal harmonies are kept in time by crisp snaps, embellished by practically reptilian vocal effects. The song boasts spaciousness which emphasizes the complex and catchy nature of the existing melodies and rhythms. A steamy whispered breakdown in nearly ¼ of the song’s tempo closes this banger out.
“xanny” is a trip in and of itself. This ballad questions prescription drug-abuse and its popularity amongst Billie’s peers. Underlaid by soundbytes taken from a party, Billie’s gentle and quavering voice describes the folly of Xanax-users. I for one, am proud of Eilish for such a fresh take on a massive cultural issue that affects people her and my own age. “you should see me in a crown” seems to be a crowd favorite already. Sharp industrial samples, distant alarms and meteoric synth form a steady rhythm through the dominant and proud chorus. All hail Queen Billie!
“all the good girls go to hell” is a tribute to the classic Christian conflict of devil and god, Heaven and Hell. A strummed vinyl-bassline, keyboard, theremin-esque synth and spooky choral oo’s transports listeners to an inferno ruled by LA’s grooviest demon. “wish you were gay” is a topsy-turvy love song in which Eilish sheepishly admits that she would rather her crush be homosexual than face the sting of rejection. Sitcom laughter and toddler cheers melt into the numeric ballad. For a song penned by a 14 year old (at the time of its conception) it’s kind of terrifying how relatable wywg is.
“when the party’s over” is a personal favorite. An ocean of ambient vocal harmony fills the track, its peaks and drops edited against the beat of helicopter wings. The undulating tumult of human voice and breath is juxtaposed solely by a piano accompaniment. Listeners are incinerated by scorching verses only to drown in the cold quietness of Eilish’s chorus. The second verse ascends to a skin-prickling apex in which the wispy line “Call me friend but keep me closer,” is succeeded by the filtered and subaqueous “Call me back.”
The whimsical and bitter-sweet ukulele-laden “8” is cloudy day in 2 minutes and 53 seconds. The Office episode “Threat Level Midnight” is sampled throughout “my strange addiction;” Eilish does not shy away from pop-culture references throughout the entire album, this snappy bop is the acme of which.
The record’s zenith and third single, “bury a friend,” is a prolific introduction of horror to the mainstream pop-world. The song is marked by screeching violins, whirring metallic samples, creepy octaves featuring british rapper, Crooks, background distortion and a tip-toe bassline. From the perspective of Eilish’s own monster-under-the bed, this track breathes life into tired subjects of identity, mental illness and fear. Not to mention, she released a killer music video directed by Michael Chaves for the single in January. Billie’s distinct personality shines through in every second of this one.
Inspired by Eilish’s favorite childhood video game of the same name, “ilomilo” is a xylophone-dream in which two estranged soulmates try to find their way back into each other’s arms. Imagine the precipice of a distant rooftop, alone amongst a restless city and you’re smack dab in the middle of “listen before i go.” A despondent suicide note, this lonely number bleeds honesty, it battles with feeling sorry or not- for oneself, for loved ones, for the inevitability of it all. It hurts.
“i love you” is equally as searing and at this point I’m angry that Eilish has made the conscious decision to group her most heart-wrenching work at the album’s close. Too many feelings. Ouch. The ethereal acoustic lays bare Eilish’s innermost thoughts about an admission of love she receives from someone she feels the same for against her own will. Finally, ‘goodbye’ collages the most inflammable line from each track into a two minute serenade. Eilish’s gentle and skillful WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP WHERE DO WE GO is a stimulating and emotional journey, far removed from any twenty-tens pop thus far. We at Band Over Fist eagerly anticipate further releases from this empowering, young, female icon.
*Disclaimer: I do not claim ownership of the album cover photo, quoted lyrics or song titles, all rights belong to the respective owners*