Coming in at the no. 1 spot of the US Billboard 200, it is simply put that Billie Eilish’s debut full-length, “WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?”, has been nothing short of a commercial and critical success. Weighing in with a Metacritic score of 81/100, the album is considered to have universal critical acclaim—and for a number of good reasons.
This album, clocking in at just over 42 minutes, defies pop genre standards. Much of the production was handled by her older brother, Finneas, 21, while Billie, 17, is noted with almost all of the composition credits on the record.
Admittedly, her brother has a strong history for writing hit music and has appeared in popular shows such as Fox’s “Glee” and ABC’s “Modern Family”. The family is no stranger to fame, which I believe stands a chance to corrupt the art.
But Finneas is only credited with writing two songs, those being “when the party’s over” and “my strange addiction”. The rest I am inclined to believe are spawned from Eilish’s own mind and talent.
This deep, dark-pop journey packs in stellar production and writing, which is often clever, poisonously self-aware, and at times surprisingly mature despite the youthful image Eilish has developed since she first appeared on the scene.
Some stand out tracks on the album are “bad guy” and “xanny”, as well as “all good girls go to hell”, “wish you were gay”, “my strange addiction”, and “bury a friend”. Front to back, “WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?” pitches a change of pace to the genre and demographic of popular music starting with Eilish’s musical direction and ending with the vulnerableness she exposes through her the words of her songs.
Much of the subject matter surrounding the album is about emotional trauma, the avoidance of substances, love, masochism, death, and the like.
Pop music that revolves around these topics are so often conflated with expectations and schemes to create something fairly manufactured-sounding. Where this album breaks what is typical of the pop genre is through the cleverness of the lyricism and the atypical effects and samples.
In an interview with The New York Times, Eilish reveals that she recorded the noises from one of her orthodontist appointments and used it in the track “bury a friend”.
The performances across the album also demonstrate Eilish’s range, in one moment singing across thundering bass and trance in “bad guy” to serendipitously stitching ballad-like melody in the next track, “xanny”.
Suffice to say, the album is a complete piece of work and succeeds in its delivery without a single bad track. My only concern is, how on earth does Eilish plan to top this resounding success?