A look at the debut album from anti-pop’s Billie Eilish
When we all fall asleep, where do we go? It’s a good question and its one I find asking myself on a day to day basis. Where ever it is, it certainly doesn’t seem that great of a place, at least that’s the vibe I get from Billie Eilish’s brand of haunting, anti-pop music. Interestingly Billie is only 17 and has already had a pretty stellar career for the short time she has been active in the music scene. That means in 4 short years she has managed to achieve more than I’ll ever achieve in the entire history of my life (past, present and future). That makes me mildly depressed. It also means that at the age of 13 she was beginning her musical career, whilst at that age I was concerned about how the American McDonald’s breakfast menu differed to ours (a question I still ponder today). In 4 years she has managed to release countless, successful singles, a stellar EP and now a full length LP that clocks in at 42 minutes in length and has been critically applauded from all across the spectrum. The question is therefore, do I like it? This is the opinion that really matters, that has the potential to make or break her career.
Before we get fully into the review, Billie has somewhat come under fire recently for being a supposed ‘industry plant’. This is probably true, but, at the end of the day does it really matter? No. As long as they are making good music and Billie makes good music. So there you have it. Now I will begin by saying that this is a good album and I do like it. Quite a bit in fact. The opener “!!!!!!!” is nothing more than a mere 14 second skit used as an intro, but, that brief 14 seconds actually tells us a lot about the record and how it was crafted. If we look at the albums writing credits the whole album was produced and written by two people. Those being Billie and her brother, this is really a testament to her talent. This is also markably unusual for a pop album where tracks would usually have a different army of songwriters and producers for each track. Already this is a standout and worthy of high praise.
The real opening track “Bad Guy” is great way to show off what’s in store. It has some great instrumentation, yet, it’s one of the more poppier cuts on the record (this isn’t a bad thing). It’s a bit more faster in pace than what we’re typically use to. There’s a nice little synthy key board or flute? (I don’t know) section that reminds of Wii music and that’s no bad thing. The chorus is catchy and the overall the songs production sounds great. The track transforms from this upbeat instrumentation into finishing with a slick trap beat, it’s a nice, unexpected change of pace to what started off quite upbeat. Despite the nice instrumentation the lyrics aren’t quite as competent as compared to some of her other more thought provoking tracks. . It’s a shame because underneath that lies a great musical foundation. Despite this though it’s still a great cut and it’s easily got the catchiest beat and groove on the entire record.
Next we get into “Xanny”, this has a bit more of a slower pace, that goes from slow paced balladry to having these massive bassy drops. The only way I can describe these bass drops is that they remind me of the sound of a seismic bomb from Star Wars. I like that a lot. All jokes aside its an incessantly dark track that discusses her anxieties and is full of self aware lyricism, it’s quite hard hitting and its extremely sentimental in delivery. In fact her delivery on most of the themes throughout this album are gut wrenching such as on the track “listen before i go” which discusses suicidal thoughts. It’s powerful lyrically – songwriting is certainly one of Billie’s strengths. Next we get treated to a single that was released last year, “You should see me in a crown”. Which is almost definitely one of the most exciting bangers of 2019, with this almost explosive chorus. Not that her vocal performance changes in this instance it’s more in terms of the production on the track. The thing you’ll notice throughout is that Billie’s vocal performance doesn’t change or shift in tone or pitch throughout almost the whole record. Upon first glance you might consider this to be boring, but, it’s actually quite a daring feat and it pays off.
Another early release was “Bury a Friend”, another one of my favourites from the album. This truly is an excellent track ticking all the right boxes on what makes a great anti-pop song. You can hear all of her influences from Tyler, The Creator jazzy, laid back aura to Lorde’s gothic pop underpinnings, it’s also has a spooky vibe making it unique. The music video is quite exquisite too and well worth a peep. Other stand out tracks include “wish you were gay” which I enjoy quite a lot and was another track released as a single. In this one we see more of Billie’s excellent vocal melodies and I’m going to repeat myself here, superb instrumentation yet again. The production on this LP really is creative, for something that seems so barebones upon first listen, you gradually begin to unpack all of it’s layers and influences upon repeat listens.
Unfortunately some of the other slower cuts that throwback to her routes don’t quite reach the same heights. A lot of them end up being fairly indistinguishable and kinda one note. Some of her best early work came from her slow balladry such as on the track “idontwanttobeyouanymore”. For example cuts on the record like “When the parties over” whilst one of her most streamed tracks on Spotify doesn’t quiet tick all the right boxes for me. Whilst I respect her for trying to keep in touch with what made her so successful in the first place, some of the slower cuts fall flat for me. It’s a shame because as a whole it really is a good album and for a debut record from someone so young is truly remarkable. In some places it doesn’t quite reach the heights as some of her earlier work, yet, in many to most places it exceeds those heights.
Overall, the album is daring in it’s themes, it’s creative in style and whilst it does fall flat in some places I feel it’s helping to move pop music forward as a genre. Hopefully next time Billie explores outside of her niche and explore some more varied sounds whilst maintaining what makes her so good. What’s great is that Billie is still so young and is already at a point in her career that many musicians never reach. She has so much time to improve and learn on the excellent foundations she has built for herself and I’m extremely excited to see what comes next.
RATING – 8/10