I’m officially behind the curve, because the teen whose name I thought was a drugstore brand of fake eyelashes is actually a breakout pop star, taking over the nation with her surrealist lyrics, catchy beats and horror-inspired music video visuals.
Sharing the top charts with the coattails of Ariana Grande’s thank u, next success and that one horse song, Billie Eilish’s debut album, WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?, is an astounding feat of her young imagination. Sure, Shawn Mendes similarly climbed the charts when he was 16 with 2015’s Handwritten, but his squeaky-clean heartthrob image is more in tune with the expectations of what a pop prince(ss) should look like. Like Eilish herself said in an interview with BBC, “So many lyrics right now are just saying the same thing – ‘Oh, I love you but I'm sad because you don't love me and... blah.’ You can say that in a more interesting way.”
The 17-year-old definitely finds interesting ways to express sentiments both familiar and new. Her songs include references to everything from season 7 episode 17 of “The Office” (my strange addiction samples audio directly from Netflix) to Matthew 26:69 of the New Testament (all the good girls go to hell includes complex biblical imagery). Like all abstract art, Eilish opens her lyrics up to interpretation: One of her favorite fan theories is that all the good girls go to hell is about climate change and that humans have made such a mess of the planet that God and the Devil are forced to collaborate, according to her brother and producer Finneas O’Connell.
Apple Music describes her music as “lifting-yet-sinister,” perhaps a testament to the younger generation’s conflicting optimism and realism towards the problems it inherited from its predecessors. Her ridiculously clever turns of phrase seem personal and prophetic at the same time. Some personal favorites are “Shoulda taken a break, not an Oxford comma” from my strange addiction (which somehow feels especially pertinent to stressfully searching for an internship during spring quarter) and “Man is such a fool, why are we saving him?” from all the good girls go to hell (something I wonder every time I hear about plastic islands in the ocean). WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? dabbles in darkness, but it’s a darkness that is relatable to everyone.