Album of 2019: WHEN WE FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?
Billie Eilish has won 2019.
In 2018 my favourite album was LM5 by Little Mix, however this year is a completely different ball game. There are a few honourable mentions of this year, Lizzo came into her own with Cuz I Love You, Taylor Swift blew me away with Lover and Jonas Brothers made a comeback with Happiness Begins. Nonetheless seventeen year old Billie Eilish with her album WHEN WE FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? stole the year 2019 for me.
We're going to break down each song individually within the album but I want to discuss Eilish as an artist first. If you've read some of my articles before you'll know that I was really late to the Billie Eilish party and that I had felt like she didn't live up to the hype. After sitting down to properly listen to her music I can now truly appreciate her as a singer and moreso as a songwriter. As far as I'm aware Eilish writes her own music with her brother and for someone who is just a teenager she really is able to capture raw emotion within her lyrics which is extremely hard to do. This album was recorded by just the two of them in her brother's room and they hadn't expected to make such an impact. Furthermore Eilish has a voice that is in real contrast to the mega music stars of today, it's quieter, and understated and she is inherrent proof that you don't have to have the biggest voice in the world to make an impact. Let's move into the album shall we?
I love an album with a little intro, such as 'The National Manthem' in LM5, but this one is really intersting. It's Eilish stating that she's taking her invisalign out and this is the album before laughing. But in a way it really sets us up for the rest of the album and gives an insight into her personality. Billie Eilish in interviews is very endearing and seems like such a fun person but her music doesn't always reflect that side of her. Her brother Finneas can also be heard in the background which is nice considering how much imput into this album he had.
2. 'bad guy'
'bad guy' has the sickest beat of any song on this album, or maybe any album, and I am here for it. This song is a great opener for the album, upbeat (especially for Eilish who tends to stick to ballads) and it takes us into an almost synth pop/R and B fusion. Furthermore Eilish's voice really shines in this number. She's not doing anything particularly different but the harmonies layered on top of one another creates a really cool effect and are well executed. 'bad guy' is effectively only two notes and so the impact that it has is very impressive, the beat and pacing of the song work surprising well with Eilish's rather breathy tone. Lyrically this isn't the deepest song on the album however it wasn't designed to be, I believe it was written about people who take themselves too seriously. That drop at the end of the song is simply incredible and almost feels like a different song altogther making you question if you're listening to the same song but somehow still works in the context of the song. 'bad guy' has been one of the biggest songs of 2019 and the reason is that she's a fun little number with an excellent beat.
Favourite Lyric : You said she's scared of me? Well I don't see what she see's but maybe it's cause I'm wearing your colone.
In complete contrast to 'bad guy', 'xanny' begins with Eilish's voice and a quiet guitar which sounds glorious and really allows you to appreciate the effect before the beat drops and you question everything you ever knew. This song really showcases Eilish's vocal talent with those harmonies at play again. There's background noise that sounds to me like this is taking place within a bar or restaurant setting before that beat comes in. Eilish manages to mix genres so effortlessly that it's almost as if she's creating her own genre. The song is a song of two halves possibly in reference to her lyrics where she feels like she's two different people, the person she really in and the person she is with her friends. The accappella segmant towards the end of of the song is beyond beautiful and allows Eilish's voice to shine. Moving onto her lyrical content, on the surface this is a song about being the one sober person at a party however on a deeper level it seems to be a song about Eilish questioning the people she surrounds herself with. A song that mentions drinking and smoking, things we'd think Eilish was too young to understand, and how they're often used as an escape proves that Eilish ultimately understands the danger more than most adults. She also alludes to the possibility that she's been pressured to join in the drugs and alcohol. There's also reference to early graves that Eilish is unsure she wants to be a part of. 'xanny' is a clever number in the way it distorts our perception of genre and the structure of the song whilst delivering a hard-hitting message.
Favourite Lyric: 'I'm in their second hand smoke, still drinking canned coke'
4. 'you should see me in a crown'
A song that starts with the sound of metal against brick, 'you should see me in a crown' wouldn't be amiss as the theme song for a villian. Eilish has a habit of beginning her songs softly before taking us in a completely different direction with the beat. The change in the beat, lyrics and Eilish's tone when we hit the chorus is very jarring. The song itself plays sort of like a story of a Queen rising to power in my opinion. I'm not entirely sure whether the character Eilish is embracing is merely a strong, independent woman or if it moves further into the evil queen category. There are definite connotations that suggest both scenarios could be true. 'you should see me in a crown' is a song that takes us on a journey and I love that.
Favourite Lyric: 'Watch me make em bow, one by one.'
5. 'all the good girls go to hell'
Honestly just a really cleverly written song and my favourite song on the album. This distortion of the difference between heaven and hell, god and the devil, who even writes about this? The imagary this song conjures up is insanely clever using biblical references to write a song about climate change. This song suggests that even the good are going to hell because we're allowing the planet to be destroyed. It could be taken further and suggested that we've turned the planet into hell on earth and so even the good will be punished because this is our hell. Honestly it took me a few listens to this song to realise that the subject matter was concerning climate change but the few lyrics in there that refer to climate change are subtle and cleverly placed. The sick beat in this song is used to hide the true meaning of the lyrics, much like we spent years ignoring the effects of climate change. Ultimately 'all the good girls go to hell' has a very bleak outlook on the outcome of climate change, suggesting that we are too late to put a stop to it.
Favourite Lyric: 'Hills burn in California, my turn to ignore ya, don't say I didn't warn ya'
6. 'wish you were gay'
This song begins with only Eilish and an acoustic guitar before the chorus gives us the beat, the verses throughout the song remain stripped back allowing her vocals to shine. I wasn't sure about this song the first few times I heard it and have come to the conclusion that it's not a bad song it's just a grower, most albums have a grower. This song was controversial and it was questioned if this song was offensive towards the LGBT+ community however I think it's a song that's maybe been percieved in the wrong way. It's a defense that's used (often by men) to claim 'they must be gay' when they've been rejected in order to save their pride, not that this is an okay thing to do. It's more that I feel Eilish is making fun of this and she doesn't state that the person she's pining after is gay just that she wished they were so she wouldn't feel so bad about being rejected. This song is all about the way you as an individual recieve it.
Favourite Lyric: 'How am I supposed to make you feel okay when all you do is walk the other way?;
7. 'when the party's over'
The best description of this song is hauntingly beautiful, Eilish's soft voice is well suited to this type of song and with that layering effect the song only gets more gorgeous. The stripped back nature of this song only increases the emotions you feel when you listen to it. This is one of my favourite song on the album for many reasons. This really encaptures what I think Eilish is really about as an artist which is harrowing lyrics, stripping back music and focusing on lyrical content. This song showcases exactly why Eilish is one of the biggest and best artists in the industry at the moment. Music is often used as an emotional tool and Eilish has a great understanding of how to wield that tool and create something raw and brilliant. Lyrically this song to me refers to the period of time after a break up when the pain is still fresh. 'Quiet when I'm coming home and I'm on my own'. This song is about heartbreak but manages to avoid the pitfalls and cliches that we often hate about love songs.
Favourite lyric: 'Tore my shirt to stop the bleeding, but nothing ever stops you leaving.'
This song I find rather creepy as it begins with Eilish singing as if she were a young child with only the ukulele to accompany her (this could be a throwback to her childhood where she would write songs on the ukulele at a very young age). Her voice going from child like to her normal voice suggests that her perspective has changed as she's grown older. Ultimately I think this may be the weakest song on the album nontheless it once again proves that lyrically Eilish is one of the best in the industry at the moment, even outshining Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran who are known for their songwriting talent.
Favourite Lyric: 'Cause who am I to be in love when your love was never for me.'
9. 'my strange addiction'
This is a super weird song, even by Eilish's standards. It has a good beat and is definitely something you could dance to, maybe. The song is about the person she considers her strange addiction but also references another strange addition of hers, The Office. The song even includes extracts from the show. Ultimately this is a song that I'm still trying to understand because at the moment I know that I don't have a full understanding of the song.
Favourite Lyric: 'Don't ask questions you don't wanna know'
10. 'bury a friend'
A song that Eilish has stated is about her long suffering fight with nightmares and sleep paralysis so much so that it led her to contemplate suicide hence the lyric 'I wanna end me'. The song itself is pretty basic however it's entirely creepy making it very effective. Even though it's not a song that should, it still manages to showcase Eilish's voice. I love the fact that the opening questions repeat themselves to mirror a recurring nightmare, very cleverly done. If you want the full effect of this song you have to watch it with the music video as it plays out almost as a short horror film.
Favourite Lyric: 'When we all fall asleep where do we go?'
This song makes some weird stylistic choices in structure and sound but at this point in the album I've come to expect that from Eilish, the girl is super weird. One thing that I truly appreciate about Eilish is that her music is unique. I never listen to one of her songs and think this reminds me of another song or another artist which is rare. Eilish brings something really different to the industry at the moment that pleases the mainstream audience but at the same time is weird enough to be considered unique - much like P!NK's early career.
Favourite Lyric: 'The friends I've had to bury, they keep me up at night.'
12. listen before i go
Another beautiful ballad dealing with this idea of not being good enough or worthy of love that seems to be a theme in Eilish's songs. She tends to believe she isn't worthy of love and that's evident in a lot of her music, this idea that she can't stay. Once again we get to hear the emotion of that soft and breathy voice that Eilish wields so well. On a deeper level this song is also about contemplating suicide which we know from 'bury a friend' Eilish has struggled with. The sirens at the end of the song suggest that this is a version of events where things ended very differently.
Favourite Lyric: 'I'm not okay, I feel so scattered, don't say I'm the only thing that matters'
13. i love you
Again this unworthiness of love is a prominent theme within this song. It seems within the context of this song Eilish isn't expecting to be told 'i love you' and feels she isn't ready to say it back. I really enjoy the stripped back nature of this song, it compliments the lyrics and Eilish's delivery of them. The build up of the chorus is simply devine. This song is about coming to terms with your feelings, she didn't want to fall in love but found herself there anyway and now is struggling to come to terms with that reality.
Favourite Lyric: 'I can't escape the way I love you, I don't want to, but I love you.'
A nice way to end an excellent album and really let's Eilish's vocal talent take the lead. It's an amalgamation of all the previous songs on the album showing how they're all intertwined with one another to make one cohesive album. A great song for closure, for both the audience and Eilish.
Favourite Lyric: 'Bite my tongue bide my time'
This album has cemented Eilish's future in the music industry, proven her to be a brilliant lyrical written and a bright young talent. It truly is incredible what you can make in your own home with just determination and talent.