WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP WHERE DO WE GO is the debut album from Billie Eilish.
I discovered her on the youtube trending tab with her video for bury a friend. The song and video intrigued me.
The video reminded me of Michael Jackson’s Thriller. The song reminded me of a more chill, softly spoken version of Kanye West’s Black Skinhead. The driving bass and use of distortion gave it thrust. A drill sound in the background is subconsciously putting you on edge.
In short, the song intrigued me, I played it to death and was looking forward to hearing what the album sounded like.
A brief history on my love of the pop princess
First a little about me. If you know me in real life, you know that I love pop. In particular female solo pop artists. There is a lineage that I have followed that spanned from Madonna (Ray of Light is her magnum opus). This was followed by the resurgence of Kylie Minogue. (Spinning Around marked her comeback but don’t forget her experimental period with tracks like Confide in Me)
Actually a brief digression into mid 90’s Aussie songstresses. Dani was the better singer but didn’t have the songs. Natalie Imbruglia’s Torn is a top track even today. Listen to her underappreciated gem is Big Mistake.
Where was I?
From Minogue I went to my first big love, that was Robyn. Her songs can be summed up as “My boyfriend kissed another girl at the club”. It was this simplicity and exploration of all areas within this subject is what I loved about her. She went a bit too experimental, and I lost track.
By that stage, Sia had come along pumping out tune after tune.
Along the way, there were brief flirtations with Lorde, Charlie XCX and Dua Lipa.
What is the point of me telling you all this I hear you wonder?
The point that I’m trying to make is that I love pop. I, in particular, have a bias towards solo pop artists. Whether they are manufactured or homegrown, I will always have an ear open for what they have on offer.
How become pop?
You might ask what is it about pop that I love so much. Let me tell you.
Pop is the Irish whiskey to the rest of music’s bourbon.
Pop music takes what is popular and condenses it down for a pleb like myself. Makes it more digestible.
It’s a summarised version of all that has come before. It’s skipping ahead to the conclusion to prepare yourself better. You can take the meaning and move on, or if you want to dig deeper, then you can look around.
If there’s something that a pop song does that tickles my fancy then I can find out the influence and look them up.
That’s why I like pop music.
While we’re it I prefer females because they can make themselves more vulnerable than men.
Male pop stars seem to either sing about how it’s their fault, and they should be given another chance. Women can get vitriolic and sing about how they have been wronged. That probably says more about me than them.
When we all fall asleep where do we go
Let us discuss the album at some point, shall we?
How much you’ll enjoy the album depends on how much you enjoy the opening track, bad guy.
This is a beautiful tone-setter. The opening action scene of a James Bond film. Tells you what it is. If you don’t like it, then stop listening.
bad guy is more about attitude than anything.
Whispered, almost spoken word underscored by a thumping bassline. Edgy teen angst lyrics (Make your girlfriend mad tye/might seduce your dad type).
The finger clicks make you feel like you are being surrounded too.
The track ends with a segway into an unsettling soundscape. Brutal and brief is how I’d sum it up. bad guy is the album in a track. I love it.
If you like bad guy, keep listening.
Rest of WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP
Let me be clear that I’m not going to go through all the tracks on WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP. I’m going to tell you what to listen out for.
xanny follows bad guy. As in James Bond, this is the “back in London” track. It’s an anti-drug track that works on more than one level. Lyrics deal with her friends being drugged up on prescription pills. Billie steers clear, but she sings in a despondent and disconnected style. It’s smart and subversive.
wish you were gay is an unnecessarily excellent track. The lyrics bring it up to the next level. A girl who feels so rejected that she hopes her unrequited love was a homosexual to shield her ego. Has it been done before? The premise alone makes this unique. Throw in the embedded use of countdowns in the verse, and this makes it something extra special.
when the party’s over is a more traditional track. I get strong Imogen Heap Hide and Seek vibes off this one especially at the “call me back” part. Minimalist with some piano. This one has grown on me.
8 is the only dud on the album. It has ukelele and Billie’s voice is modified to sound like a baby, skip.
strange addiction is catchy. The added nostalgia factor of using sound clips from The Office US brings a smile to my face.
Already talked about bury a friend.
listen before I go captures that depressed, self-pity. Wondering around a rainy city at night atmosphere. This would have been a better album closer. It feels like there is a degree of finality to the track.
i love you is OK. It feels like you’ve heard it before.
goodbye is the final track on the album. Not really a song but like how bad guy is the album in a track this is a summary of the album. goodbye uses lyrics from each track in reverse ending on “I’m the bad guy” with what sounds like Billie being powered down. Feels like there is a deeper meaning but as it stands, it is a cool way to bring the album full circle.
I love WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP WHERE DO WE GO I hope that you don’t hesitate to give it a listen at some point. It’s a fast 42 minutes. You won’t like everything, but you will love at least one track.
If there is a better pop album in 2019, then it is a terrific year for pop music.
If you liked this consider reading my Top Books of 2018 ( I don’t review that often)