Billie Eilish creates a subtle sonic nightmare with her wildly successful freshman release. You’ll see her in her crown.
Unless you’ve been living under a Dwayne Johnson for the last few months, you’ll have heard of Billie. She’s the oversized streetwear-wearing edgy, detached, apathetic, yet, somehow charming 17-year old singer. She’s blown up thanks to a string of counter culture singles, with terrifying and dark music videos, a stunning appearance on COLORS, and her minimalist sound paired with a soft, often soulful soprano. Eilish’s music so far has fallen broadly across the spectrum of anti-pop; fans and naysayers alike have been waiting for her first full-length release (entirely produced by her brother) to see what she is capable of.
If the Spotify charts and statistics are anything to go by, her hungry fans have been feasting. She’s not old enough to have a beer, but she’s the sixth most listened to artist in the entire world right now, with over 1.4 billion plays on her top 5 Spotify songs and a number 2 spot on the Billboard Top 200.
It ends with an out-of-control cackling laugh that drops off the edge into a thumping kick and sinister bassline in the first track and single, ‘Bad Guy’
Even the opening skit on this album is scary, somehow; almost creepier than the album art, which makes her look like a doll from a paranormal horror movie. It ends with an out-of-control cackling laugh that drops off the edge into a thumping kick and sinister bassline in the first track and single, ‘Bad Guy’. Across the entire record, Billie appears to be doing something unusual. Her vocals are almost always layered and are melodically very similar to the musical melody of each of the songs. This does two things: it creates an illusion that the vocals are what make up the melody entirely, and equally, makes the vocals the main instrument – the rest of the instrumental is so bare, yet so filling that it doesn’t need anything else.
On ‘xanny’, Eilish sounds like she’s singing through a desk fan in a lethargic, sultry drawl of a song that falls in line with the record’s theme but is somehow still overwhelmingly boring.
‘You should see me in a crown’ picks up the pace up slightly, with abrasive 808s and fast snares that pair a rapid tempo with a darker subtlety that lies underneath (by the way, watch the music video to this one, it’s freakishly inventive). ‘When the party’s over‘ really threw me back to Kanye’s The College Dropout with its use of layered vocals and a choral effect, and ‘8’ is an equally bizarre song with its use of a horror movie type of childlike voice manipulation on Billie’s voice in the opening verse.
There are a lot of different styles, effects, tempos, and musical components on this record that all somehow remain in the same genre and create the same mood. It’s remarkable. I’m simultaneously uneasy and appreciative of the musical IQ required to create so many different sounds that are all still…the same?
It’s a great example of stellar production and showcases an impressive range of sound with an underlying energy that makes you want to relax
‘Bury a friend‘ makes me realise that O’Connor has made a conscious decision to dampen the instrumentals on Billie’s tracks and let her voice shine through the muddy drums as the loudest and most pronounced instrument; and ‘I love you‘ is a weird change of pace: this song sounds almost tender, delicate and precious. A positively heartfelt track on what is an otherwise dark album.
This album has honestly stumped me. It’s a great example of stellar production and showcases an impressive range of sound with underlying energy that makes you want to relax, but in an uneasy way. Almost encouraging you to become apathetic, or dance slowly, around and around in the dark (shout-out Joji). It’s not something I’d ever listen to voluntarily, but it has caught my attention as one of the most eclectically enjoyable and perplexing albums of this year so far.