Imagine sitting in a dark, cold room, surrounded by all your deepest fears and darkest thoughts. Now imagine those things set to heavy bass and feathery vocals, and you have Billie Eilish’s debut album, “WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?” (“WWAFAWDWG”).
Eilish and her older brother Finneas O’Connell, who produces their music and also co-songwrites, perform together and skillfully incorporate their individual talents into this eerie album. His solo career is quite different from the music he creates with Eilish, but she has him to thank for writing the song which brought her to fame at the age of 14; “ocean eyes” was originally written for his band. Eilish hearkens back to these roots in “you should see me in a crown” with the line leading up to the chorus: “fell for these ocean eyes.”
Eilish has never failed to release tracks about very mature topics. This album is no different; at age 17, Eilish’s light, airy voice narrates stories about Xanax, suicide and seducing your dad.
The subject matter of “WWAFAWDWG” is not the only thing that makes the album unique; the songs are characterized by a slew of odd sound effects and samples. An incomplete list of these includes samples from the television show “The Office,” sound effects from a video game, police sirens and what sounds like straight up screaming. Eilish even starts the album with a 14-second long song entitled “!!!!!!!” where she states that “I have taken out my Invisalign and… this is the album!”
We both agree that “8” is going to be an underrated track from this album. The song begins with Eilish’s voice pitch-shifted to a higher octave than normal, and continually shifts between her natural voice and other pitches. This is one of the least heavy songs on the album in terms of the instrumentals, but the lyrics are no less heavy than any other Billie Eilish song. While neither of us are quite sure what the song means—in fact, we had to look up the lyrics to understand them—we agree that the song feels very honest. In the chorus, she states, “I think I better go/I never really know how to please you/you’re lookin’ at me like I’m see-through,” and I really felt that.
Polina’s favorite song from the album is “bad guy,” one of the rare upbeat songs on the album. Its rhythmic and staccato beat is paired with Eilish’s characteristic voice layering and harmonizing. If you haven’t seen the music video yet, it’s an experience you have to have. From sped up rolling on a multi-colored carpet, to an array of beer bellies, it is stuffed with every ounce of Eilish’s quirkiness and charm. While she may sing that she’s “only good at being bad,” Eilish is unapologetically herself, on all accounts.
Another standout on the album is “xanny,” in which Eilish delves into the world of party culture and the use of drugs within it, specifically Xanax. She makes her stance on this topic very clear; the opening lines of the song are “What is it about them/I must be missing something/they just keep doing nothing/too intoxicated to be scared.” As the song progresses, Eilish continues to speak over quiet, simple instrumentals about how she does not understand the use of drugs, especially amongst her friends. She drives this point home in the chorus, where the song switches starkly over to what Eilish, in an interview with MTV, referred to as “crazy, distorted, broken-sounding bass.” In the same interview, she states, “I just wanted it to sound the way that it feels to breathe in recycled breath. Recycled, poisonous breath, I may add. I just wanted it to feel miserable.” And, that it does; Polina has tried to listen to it, and it hurts her ears. However, she appreciates the unique audible experience that it offers and the use of the bass to disorient and leave listeners in a daze.
The final three songs on the album, “listen before i go,” “i love you” and “goodbye” are what Jennifer considers some of the most haunting songs on the album. “listen before i go” opens and closes with the sound of sirens, and throughout the song Eilish puts herself in the shoes of a person telling someone their final words. Frankly, this track is heartbreaking, and the next song is not any happier. “I love you” is set to a soft acoustic guitar, where Eilish pines over a someone who she wishes would take back those three words. While tragic, the harmonies between Eilish and O’Connell’s voices on this song are beautiful. If these two songs were not sad enough, “goodbye” drove me to tears. Stripped down to almost only Eilish’s vocals, she begs the listener, “please/please don’t leave me be.” The rest of the lines are drawn from previous songs on the album, moving backwards through the tracks until it eventually fades out, drawing the album to a close.
If the musical experience wasn’t enough, Spotify teamed up with Eilish to create an immersive experience in downtown Los Angeles in which visitors can walk through 14 rooms—one for each song on the album—and interact with it. Some rooms featured LED lights, a foam pit, puppies and a bubble machine. While the interactive experience has now closed, the music affects each listener in a similarly strong way. Foam pit or not, this album will hit you hard and stay with you long after the party’s over.