‘When We All Fall Asleep:’ A Listening Guide

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‘When We All Fall Asleep:’ A Listening Guide

"When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?" is Billie Eilish's first studio album.

"When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?" is Billie Eilish's first studio album.

"When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?" is Billie Eilish's first studio album.

By MARINA VERGARA, Staff Writer

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Billie Eilish cannot be put in a box, and neither can her music. On March 29, the 17-year-old released her debut album, “WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?” It contains 14 tracks, all with their own unique sound, coming together to haunt your dreams (and your nightmares) in the most beautifully disturbing way.

Eilish’s aesthetic is not easily defined. The best way, in my opinion, to define her sound is “goth pop.” Her songs feature dark, edgy lyrics backed by synths and good rhythms. “WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?” has a song for everyone and every mood. Listen to “bad guy” when you want to feel like a bad girl, “i love you” after an emotional breakup and “my strange addiction” when you want to dance around your room. Eilish’s album isn’t your mother’s basic teenage pop. “WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?” is a gothic rendition of typical pop music that is brutally raw and unapologetically Eilish.

Open Spotify or Apple Music, get some headphones and listen along as I take you through this album and my thoughts on what could be a top-of-the-charts record.

Track 1: !!!!!!!

This 13-second track is quintessential Eilish — weird, unexpected and borderline gross. This song (if it can even be called that) features slurping noises of her removing her retainer. Only Eilish would open her debut album with a soundbite of her removing her Invisalign with the line “I have taken out my Invisalign and this is the album.”

Track 2: bad guy

The true opener of her album, “bad guy,” is an anthem of the strength of women. It is playful, cheeky and makes you feel like a femme fatale. Eilish’s bass-heavy, jazzy beat plays with the preconceived notions of gender norms while still being a complete bop. She challenges the female stereotypes of being weak or submissive as she taunts all the men listening; she is bold, brutal and really is the bad guy (duh).

Track 3: xanny

Eilish’s song “xanny” is unique in the modern music industry; it is counter to the popular culture of drug abuse in today’s teens. “xanny” is Eilish’s way of saying “don’t do drugs, kids,” but in her usual techno-growl and hauntingly ethereal voice. Her soft vocals juxtapose with the gritty subject matter — prescription drug abuse. When Eilish sings I can’t afford to love someone / Who isn’t dying by mistake in Silver Lake,” she acknowledges the multitude of young adults who have died due to accidental Xanax overdose.

Track 4: you should see me in a crown

The lead single, “you should see me in a crown,” is based off the BBC television series “Sherlock,” a favorite of Eilish’s. In the show, “bad guy” Jim Moriarty says the line “You should see me in a crown.” Eilish saw the line’s utter power and coolness and was inspired to write a song about it. In Eilish’s words, this song is all about being “jiggy as f—.”

Track 5: all the good girls go to hell

Here comes another song about being a badass girl. Eilish plays with Christian symbolism, biblical imagery and the duality of good and evil. She flips the script on religion; maybe the people in this world don’t all go to heaven, and the best ones go to hell. Eilish sings, “All the good girls go to hell / ‘Cause even God herself has enemies,” insinuating that God is not only a woman, but an imperfect, real woman.

Track 6: wish you were gay

At first I was not a huge fan of this song, “wish you were gay.” To be truthful, I still don’t love the selfish message — to which Eilish admits — that it is better for an uninterested lover to be gay, rather than just apathetic. It trivializes homosexuality and strips the agency from all those in the LGBTQ community; they determine their sexuality, not some other party. That being said, the song itself — the melodies, harmonies and instrumentals — is beautiful. Instead of getting mad at it, I’ve taken a lesson from Eilish’s book and flipped the script. For me, the song is about wishing a girl was gay (here we go lesbians) instead of using someone’s possible sexuality as a coping mechanism for being rejected.

Track 7: when the party’s over

“when the party’s over” is beautiful, haunting and raw. EIlish is painfully honest as she tells the story of a toxic relationship from which she is trying to distance herself. You feel the angst with her words, “Tore my shirt to stop you bleedin’ / But nothin’ ever stops you leavin.” She gives her all for this person who does nothing in return, and yet a small part of her wants to stay, wants to lie and say I like it like that.” Eilish has created the perfect breakup song to cry to alone in your bed. Trust me, I’ve done it.

Track 8: 8

I know this will sound strange, but hear me out. This song is on the soundtrack at an emo luau, if such a thing exists. The soft strum of the ukulele is accompanied by Eilish’s quivering voice, singing lyrics about a lover who makes her feel inadequate and invisible. You want to sway and cry at the same time as Eilish sings, “I never really know how to please you / You’re lookin’ at me like I’m see-through.” It’s a song about heartbreak with a happy beat and melancholy lyrics — perfect for an emo luau.  

Track 9: my strange addiction

My favorite song off the album, “my strange addiction,” is a sultry-sweet, taunting song about star-crossed lovers with a dark side. Named after the TLC show “My Strange Addiction,” it features clips from “The Office” because, well, why the hell not? Eilish loves “The Office,” and if you like something, might as well show it. The lyrics are cheeky, teasing and witty and I love it. For instance, Eilish reflects that her and her lover “shoulda taken a break not an Oxford comma,” but her and this same lover are still passionate: I’m the powder, you’re the fuse / Just add some friction.”

Track 10: bury a friend

Creepy in all the best ways, “bury a friend” is written from the perspective of the monster under Eilish’s bed. As the song progresses, the separation of Eilish and the monster becomes more and more blurred. The song has the mood of a horror film with the beat of a pop song. With lyrics like “Step on the glass, staple your tongue,and “Honestly I thought that I would be dead by now” it’s hard not to be at least a little scared.

Track 11: ilomilo

“ilomilo” is a song about losing a lover told through the metaphor of a child’s board game. The puzzle game by the same name features two characters, Ilo and Milo, that have to be reunited through teamwork. Eilish uses this game as a symbol for her relationship. She is afraid of losing another person in her life; she just wants to find safety and security.

Track 12: listen before i go

The opening lines to this song immediately give me chills. As someone who has struggled with depression for years, I understand and empathize with this song. As Eilish’s voice softly sings, “Take me to the rooftop / I want to see the world when I stop breathing,then “Taste me, the salty tears on my cheek / That’s what a year-long headache does to you,” my eyes fill up with tears because in her words, Eilish captures the feelings I am unable to explain.

Track 13: i love you

This is another one of my favorites from the album. “i love you” is a soft acoustic song where Eilish shares her raw feelings in a complicated relationship; she’s in love but she doesn’t want to be. I get chills every time I hear the guitar chords behind Eilish’s angel-like voice in the opening lyrics: “It’s not true / Tell me I’ve been lied to / Crying isn’t like you.”

Track 14: goodbye

The final track on the album, “goodbye,” is a perfect conclusion to the record. The verse takes a lyric from each of the songs in the album, and arranges them in reverse order. Starting with “It’s not true” from “i love you” and ending with “I’m the bad guy” from “bad guy,” this final song beautifully summarizes Eilish’s debut album.  

“WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?” is Billie Eilish’s way of telling the world that she is here and it is time to listen up. This album is a spectacular debut; it pushes the boundaries of pop while still saying true to who Eilish is. Not only are Eilish’s vocals something to awe over, but the lyricism, instrumentation and musical production — aided by her brother Finneas — are quirky and cool as well. Finneas, a musician himself, produces and co-writes the majority if not all of Eilish’s music, and has mastered the art of making the music pair seamlessly with Eilish’s ethereal voice, regardless of the song as shown on this album. Together this album tells a story — a story of heartbreak, of self-confidence, of depression, of longing — a story everyone can relate to. It’s beautifully cyclical; it starts and ends with a powerful message of badassery, a message we all should listen to. Just like this album.