Now Reading: ‘WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?:’ A Track-by-Track Analysis of Billie Eilish’s Debut Album


‘WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?:’ A Track-by-Track Analysis of Billie Eilish’s Debut Album

April 1, 201913 min read

Billie Eilish is a pop singer known for her breakout hit, “ocean eyes,” originally posted on Soundcloud. Eilish and her brother, Finneas, who helps co-write many of her songs, are a powerful duo. Eilish’s relatable lyrics and unique personality connect with many Gen-Z teens and young adults, especially with her debut album, WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?

Filled with anticipation, we listened to her debut album and reviewed each track.

“!!!!!!!” – The fourteen-second introductory track to Eilish’s debut album is lighthearted. It begins with strange noises that almost sound like a tape being rewound. The song is a conversation between Eilish and her brother Finneas. She starts the song with, “My Invisalign has—” and Finneas shouts, “I have taken out my Invisalign…” The pop star proudly echoes the sentiment, “I have taken out my Invisalign, and this is the album!” before laughing. This track is definitely the calm before the storm since the album is based on the dark subject of fears.

“bad guy” – This song sounds like a club mix of a song with its hard-hitting beat. It’s fast-paced and almost like a car chase in an action movie. To quote Eilish herself, “Phew! Shit smacks!” The percussion is one of the most interesting parts of the song. It starts with an upbeat bassline and EDM drum, two very catchy sounds. Eilish explains common characteristics of a bad guy, then sings “I’m the bad guy / Duh” Later on, Eilish’s percussion is aided by loud snaps. During the last minute of the song, it takes a complete 180 turn and has a breakdown of Billie speak-rapping with layered vocals reminiscent of “bury a friend.” It’s truly sinister sounding. Eilish is known for slow and emotional tunes, but”bad guy” is a standout because of its constant production and rhythm change throughout.

“xanny” – Eillish’s warm vocals start out the third song. The instrumental is much lower than her voice, pulling the listener into what’s she’s singing. Soft harmonies create a light, floaty feeling. It almost sounds like a private dinner conversation with crowded restaurant ambiance until the song pulls out piercing bass-boosted vocals calmly singing, “I don’t need a xanny to feel better.” The second part of the chorus has hi-hats with the distorted bass boosted vocals. This song frequently switches back and forth between the calm piano with soft vocals and the morphed bass boosted vocals during the chorus.

“you should see me in a crown” – This popular single opens up with a knife sharpening. Billie’s raspy vocals are demanding power and honestly? We’re here for it. The chorus is so hype and is another song on the album with piercing percussion that gets stuck in a listener’s head for ages.

“all the good girls go to hell” – The song opens up with church bells and more distorted vocals. It’s more upbeat and has a poppy church vibe to it. Simple percussion backed up with piano—which is what Eilish does best. The contrast of her vocals and the beautiful synthesizer sounds so great together. Harmonies are definitely shining through on this track, and it almost feels like an opening credits scene of a really good high school movie.

“wish you were gay” – The controversial hit is actually a banger. Not because of its lyrical content, but because of the simple production: acoustic guitar and synths. The production of the song is stellar – I’m always down for acoustic guitar and laugh tracks in songs. Most teenagers can relate to the general meaning of the song: Eilish is yearning for her crush, hoping that the reason that he doesn’t have feelings for her is that he’s gay. The bridge vividly describes the meaning of this song with, “To spare my pride /To give your lack of interest an explanation / Don’t say I’m not your type /Just say that I’m not your preferred sexual orientation” which is what put Eilish in hot water in the first place. Eilish also commented on the song, saying, “And guess what? He just came out to me like a couple weeks ago. So I wrote the song and made him f*** a dude. I’m fucking proud, bro! Except not really though because I was really into him, like so into him, he’s so hot oh my God, he’s so attractive.”

“when the party’s over” – Did I say I love this song? Just in case I haven’tI love this song! The “hmms” and helicopter whirring going behind Eilish’s lead vocals sound like heaven. I’m a sucker for harmonies and wide vocal ranges, which means this song is a perfect match for me. Eilish’s haunting background vocals add a beautiful layer to this heart-wrenching track that makes me enter #sadhours. Distorted vocals seem to be a common theme on this album, which works in Eilish’s favor. The distortion connects to the main theme of the project (fears) and compliments her distinct personality.

“8” – Do pitched vocals count as distorted vocals? If so–then this song also has some distortion! This song feels cozier and filled with summer vibes because of the ukulele. It’s definitely something you blast on your way to the beach. “8” puts me in a happy mood, contrasting its lyrics, “I guess I’m gonna go / I just never know how you feel.”

“my strange addiction” – Plucky synth comes through on this one. If this song was a person, it would be the stereotypical popular girl who everyone hates. I mean that in the best way. It’s definitely a song that represents the beginning stage of having a crush when you’re completely enamored by them. Eilish’s mantra, “You are my strange addiction” is surrounded by snippets from The Office. This is a memorable track from the album!

“bury a friend” – When I first heard this song, I was disappointed because I expected more from Eilish. Hearing it with the rest of the album, I still feel the same. While this song has a title reference, (my favorite type of references) it feels like she’s trying to prove that she’s not like other girls and super edgy. With lyrics like, “But we knew right from the start that you’d fall apart / ‘Cause I’m too expensive” and “Bury a friend / I wanna end me” I can’t take her seriously. The production is simple, cloudy drums and harmonized distortion on Eilish’s vocals (a Prisimizer effect). There are many sound effects in this track, from glass shattering to door creaks and monster noises.  Eilish’s friend Crooks also features vocals on the song.

“ilomilo” – The muffled percussion is an interesting choice, along with the high-pitch plucky synth. This song sounds like it would play in a thriller while someone is running away from the scene of a murder. More distorted vocals over Eilish singing. Its piano is spooky, laid on top of Stranger Things-esque synths. This track feels like “bury a friend’s” more experienced and mature older sibling.

“listen before i go” – This track is a classic ballad with sad piano and rich vocals, reminiscent of “idontwannabeyouanymore.” “listen before i go” and many other songs feature ambiance noise of weather and people laughing in the background. This song is definitely one of my favorite songs off the album because of its meaning and simplicity. This song references depression and alludes to suicide, and in the midst of distorted vocals, loud percussion and many, many synths, this slow song gives listeners a time to breathe and process.

“i love you” – I instantly fell in love with this song after I heard the steel string acoustic guitar in the first couple of seconds. It’s rare for me to be drawn in that quickly, but there’s something about this riff and Eilish’s desolate, echoed, vocals. The 9-1-1 call playing in the background, makes me want to cry. You can hear the pain in Eilish’s voice as she puts her heart and soul into every lyric. The bridge, “The smile that you gave me / Even when you felt like dying,” hit me the hardest. This song is the best track on the album, hands down.

“goodbye” – The final track is the most distorted. It feels like I’m entering a dream sequence, and gives me Imogen Heap vibes. Her vocals ripple after each other and the lyrics of this song include previous lyrics from the rest of the songs of the album. WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? ends on a dark note, reflecting the album’s theme of fears.

Billie Eilish’s debut album is a beautiful monster of its own. Its ups, downs, and ups again put the listener through an emotional rollercoaster, while loving every second of it. Eilish showcases her strong vocal range with songs like “when the party’s over” and shows how you don’t need more than two instruments to make a powerful song with “listen before i go.”

“WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?” is out now on all platforms.

Feature image courtesy of Billie Eilish’s Twitter.

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Daryl Perry

Daryl is a 19-year-old filmmaker, journalist, and photography enthusiast. He also writes for the University of Maryland's The Diamondback and The Campus Trainer.