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Music album review: “WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?”

Teenage musician Billie Eilish has dropped her first full-length album after the release of four successful singles.

March 30, 2019

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Music album review: “WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?”

Most of today’s teenagers are probably familiar with Billie Eilish, the 17-year-old alt-pop singer who rose to fame with her 2016 single “Ocean Eyes.” Co-written and produced by her brother, Finneas O’Connell, Eilish’s music often addresses dark subjects with atmospheric instrumentation and vocals. “WHEN WE ALL FALL SLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?,” released Friday, builds on her already-admirable body of work with 14 songs that display her maturation as an artist and songwriter.

Strongest three songs

“bad guy”

The driving bass from the very beginning of this song makes it by far the most attention-grabbing track on the album. Billie’s usual breathy vocals are contrasted against sharp rhythms to build tension through the verses and chorus until the drop of a catchy melody, which layers on top of the bass line. The track ends with a broken-down outro in which her vocals are front-and-center as she continues flaunting her confidence and “bad” nature. “bad guy” is stylistically different from the rest of the album, but that only emphasizes its unique, yet universal, musical appeal. The hook between the chorus and verse is one that is sure to be stuck in listeners’ heads, but the song is short enough that it does not overstay its welcome. This track would be a good intro to Billie Eilish’s work for those who aren’t necessarily prepared for her more alternative and experimental songs.

“wish you were gay”

This track is a prime example of Billie’s creative lyricism and lack of fear when it comes to expressing her emotions. The lyrics deal with her feelings after being broken up with, as she wishes that her ex’s reason for dumping her wasn’t a fault in her character but just that he was actually gay. She addresses the difficulty of losing a relationship in the verses as she subtly counts down from six to one, and then from twelve to six, to represent the common twelve-step system of addiction recovery. The lyrics of the first verse are coupled by soft acoustic guitar before a dramatic bass drop at the beginning of the chorus that emphasizes Billie’s frustration and sadness. Though the track addresses a very specific situation, her performance is still relatable in its raw emotion and vulnerability.

“bury a friend”

This single is certainly the darkest track Billie has ever released, with the pre-chorus refrain consisting of the words “I wanna end me.” While newcomers to her music may be taken aback by this tracks’s lyrics, long-time listeners won’t be too surprised considering previous songs such as “bellyache,” which is written from the perspective of a murderer. The haunting melody and instrumentation are deeply compelling as she explores the identity of the monster under her bed. The lyrics in the chorus reference the album’s title, “WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?,” a question of the nature of dreams and nightmares. While this track may be too intense for some, it’s worth a listen for its macabre atmosphere and artistic quality.

Weakest three songs

“xanny”

Sprinkled with distortion and insightful lyrics, “xanny” does have a lot going for it. However, the sleepy-sounding tune just isn’t as initially compelling as many of Billie’s other tracks. It’s not a song worth skipping, but one might have to put in a little more effort to appreciate the message she’s trying to send about the personal choice to either use or abstain from drugs.

“ilomilo”

This track also isn’t bad by any means, but it doesn’t quite match the quality of the rest of the album. Inspired by the 2010 video game Ilomilo, it incorporates instrumentation that sounds like it could be used in a darker version of the game. While the lyrics and the creative inspiration are interesting, the lack of musical differentiation between the verses and the choruses makes for a mundane listening experience. This song could have been much better had it included more variety in its rhythm and melody.

“i love you”

While this song certainly packs an emotional punch, the striking similarities between the melody of its chorus and that of the verses in Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” are so obvious as to be distracting. This may have only been a coincidence, but listeners familiar with Cohen’s classic song are sure to notice the similar melodic build. Unfortunately, this parallel causes Billie’s track to come off as less creative than her other work.

Final review

With “WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?,” Billie Eilish has managed to surpass the quality of her previous releases without sacrificing any of her unique style. Listeners should consider listening through this album from start to finish in order to notice all of its quirky touches, from the intro track, “!!!!!!!,” where she states “I have taken out my Invisalign, and this is the album,” to the sound bites from “The Office” in “my strange addiction.” While each song offers something unique to enjoy, the album is still a cohesive work of art from a musician willing to blaze her own trail.

 

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