Billie Eilish proves herself on ‘WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO’

Henry Netherland

Courtesy of iTunes.

It’s finally here. Billie Eilish’s debut album, “WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?” has finally been released.

The anticipation for the release of this record has been a roller coaster. Going from being universally accepted into multiple pockets of the music industry to facing accusations of being an industry plant, Eilish easily dropped one of the most hyped albums of 2019.

Ad

Previously, I’ve been pretty lukewarm on Eilish’s singles. I saw her as having a lot of artistic potential as well as personality in public appearances, but I felt her voice lacked dynamic and her instrumentals were boring. On the internet, I saw someone refer to her as being “post-Lorde,” a term I felt was more than applicable at the time. In her defense, one thing I could say about her was that she definitely came off as way more down to earth and artistically legitimate than Halsey, whose continuous descent into blandness never ceases to amaze me. 

There’s almost an ASMR quality to her overall sound. Her soft, often breathy voice sounds like it’s whispering right into your ear creating this very personal and intimate feeling. The sharp and clacky beats aid in this effect.

Sober listening

The introduction “!!!!!!!” is a simple opener with Eilish saying, “I have taken out my Invisalign and this is the album” while laughing. As silly as this opener is, it acts as the perfect testament to her goofball personality. For a debut album, it says a lot about how she wants to have fun with the creation of her art.

The single, “wish you were gay” is what really changed my mind about Eilish. This is where I found myself genuinely interested in the direction she was heading in. According to Eilish in an Instagram story, the message is essentially wishing a boy “was gay so that he didn’t like (her) for an actual reason, instead of the fact that he didn’t like [her].” This is a unique perspective not really seen in pop albums and only one that could be seen in the 21st century. The pounding piano keys with the contemporary electronic production blend surprisingly well together. She also incorporates sound effects that add a surreal, performance element to the experience.

I first saw the single, “bury a friend” as a rehash of Kanye West’s “Black Skinhead,” but within the context of the record, I can compliment it for continuing the uniquely eerie vibe the first half of the album contains.

Eilish’s childlike voice in combination with a pitch-shifted effect is actually a perfect fit for “8.” I usually feel her ukulele centered songs tend to be her most generic, but even while the chords aren’t mindblowing, the production is incredibly forward-thinking and the melody is sweet.

One smoke session later …

“xanny” is one of the quietest songs on the album, but the droney bass adds a lot to her harmonized melodic singing. It creates this distortion effect that makes the tone off putting, in a good way.

Ad

“you should see me in a crown” is another “banger” based on Eilish standards. The beat is very meaty and somewhat compensates for her apathetic delivery.

The single, “when the party’s over” continues to be just as boring as I remembered at the time of its release. This is disappointing considering how visually interesting the music video for it is. I can enjoy minimalist aspects in certain contexts, but here there’s almost nothing to digest.

I’m in love with the plunky keys on “ilomilo.” They’re playful yet melancholic.

“listen before i go” is a very slow, but beautiful piano ballad. Here she manages to carve out some of the most heartbreaking melodies on the album. The usage of sound effects like thunderstorms and children playing is very effective in emphasizing the depressing tone of the song.

“goodbye” wraps the album up by being the slowest song on it. The structure has a line from each song on the album in reverse order. It works surprisingly well as each melody transitions perfectly into one another.

Overall, “WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?” is a massive success for Eilish both commercially and artistically. With each additional listen, I found myself more and more entranced with the structure and delivery of the album. Even though it has its misses, it’s at least managed to carve out a niche sound for her. Now she can finally be seen as her own artist rather than simply an offshoot of her contemporaries like Lorde or Halsey. Hopefully, she’ll show more vocal versatility in future projects. I also hope her brother, Finneas O’Connell will be given more credit than he is receiving since so much of the enjoyability of the record is based on his contributions.

Overall: 8/10

Favorite songs: “listen before i go,” “wish you were gay,” “8,” “ilomilo,” “bad guy,” “goodbye,” “bury a friend,” “xanny,” “you should see me in a crown” and “i love you”

Least favorite song: “when the party’s over”

Henry Netherland can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @NetherlandHenry.