Billie Eilish: The Light and The Darkness
- ocean eyes
- bad guy
- all the good girls go to hell
- my future
- No Time To Die
- Not My Responsibility
- Getting Older
(A playlist curated to show the diversity of Billie Eilish throughout her career)
Born on December 18, 2001, Billie Eilish Pirate Baird O’Connell came into the world as a musical force to be reckoned with. Growing up in Los Angeles with two artistic parents that believed children should have the ability to spend time doing what they love, Billie followed her passions. Whether it was choreographing dances or writing music with her producer/songwriter older brother, she cultivated her art in several forms. While her life may seem effortless and fun, Billie struggles with severe, debilitating mental health problems like depression, anxiety, and OCD, as well as being medically diagnosed with Tourettes. Billie Eilish’s music can be described as dark pop as many of her songs are about “heavy” topics and showcase raw emotions of depression and angst. She loves to use electronics, heavy bass, keyboard, drums, and of course, her famous soft vocals. She has released an EP and two albums within her 4 year career. In the beginning of her career, Billie’s music focused on her struggles with depression and included a lot of dark topics that could be concerning to listeners. In her most recent album, she brightens her tone and sings about love, growing up, and coming to terms with herself, her body and her life that she proves through her music, she is fortunate to have and would not want it any other way.
Something worth mentioning and that is very unique to Billie’s music is that all of it is written and recorded in her brothers room in their childhood home. Billie prides herself of the fact that she and her brother do everything to make her music what it is. They do all of the vocals and instrumentation, as well as production.
My love for Billie Eilish began in early 2018, right after she released her first EP. Because I discovered her music so early on, I have felt several emotions as I have watched her grow, become more accomplished and untouchably famous. While I am extremely proud of her success, it is bittersweet as I’ve gone from seeing her in a 400 person concert venue, to over 25,000 and from 16k followers to over 90 million on several social media platforms. While I miss the intimate relationship she had with her fans, her music still touches me nonetheless and would cause anyone who has gone through mental health struggles, heartbreak, or even extreme happiness to feel and relate to her music.
Because Billie has grown exponentially in the past three years, she has experienced more than the average 19 year old. From recording music in her brothers tiny childhood bedroom to winning 7 Grammys, going on a world tour, performing at Coachella, Lollapalooza, and having a documentary released about her life, she has done it all.
1st Album: don’t smile at me
From the album cover of Billie sitting underneath a ladder (often symbolized as bad luck), one could assume Billie’s songs would be “dark” or heavy… and she did not disappoint! This album is all about Billie’s struggles with mental health, body dysmorphia, imposter syndrome, and the anxiety of growing up, falling in love, and heartbreak.
Track 1: ocean eyes
Billie’s first ever hit single titled, “ocean eyes” was the song that set her musical career in fast-forward motion. Originally written for her dance studio to use during one of their recital showcases, 13 year old Eilish never intended for her song to go “viral”. Written in her older brother, Finneas’ room, Eilish experimented with bass, light vocals and clarinet/saxophone instrumental solos. The song follows a young girls experience with her first love, and how infatuation can be such a strong feeling. The song skyrocketed her to fame because it was used in a movie trailer, as well as the Netflix show, “13 Reasons Why”.
Some lyrics include:
No fair / You really know how to make me cry when you give me those ocean eyes
Im scared / I’ve never fallen from quite this high
Into your ocean eyes
The song also shows how a first love can leave a person with a fear of being devastatingly heartbroken, and opening yourself up to that vulnerability can be extremely difficult, especially for a teenager.
Track 2: idontwannabeyouanymore
One of her most ever streamed songs, “idontwannabeyouanymore” tells the story of a young woman who is extremely dissatisfied with herself, her body and who she is becoming. A story of someone who feels like they will never be good enough, and someone who wants to hide away from the unrealistic expectations of society. A story that resembles exactly the type of imposter syndrome Eilish felt as she moved into the public eye. Carried by beautiful piano solos and soft vocals, Billie sings with more emotion than the prior, every verse. Each verse floating away as the next piano solo begins.
Honorable lyrics include:
If teardrops could be bottled / There’d be swimming pools filled by models
Tell the mirror what you know she’s heard before
I don’t wanna be you / I don’t wanna be you anymore
2nd Album: WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?
Billie’s 2nd album carries the themes of darkness and subjects with stigmatism, but this album was an important milestone for Eilish because it was the one that got her nominated for multiple awards. While it carries the same themes as her prior album, by the time she released this one, she was followed by over 50 million more people and had the world watching her every move. In this album, Eilish focuses more on drug addiction, religious beliefs, sexual topics, and suicide. While Billie does like to shock her audience, her main focus in talking about these things is to bring awareness to it and to help those that are struggling by using her platform to educate.
Track 3: xanny
If you thought Eilish’s EP “don’t smile at me” had a somber tone, meet her debut album, “WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?” Featuring songs about suicide, death by drug usage, and how addiction can ruin the lives of you and those around you, this album brings up arguably taboo topics that are worth discussing. In her song “xanny”, Eilish showcases her relationship with her friends and higher ups in Hollywood and their drug addictions. As Eilish has preached before, she is against drug usage and alcohol use.
Memorable lyrics include:
I’m in their second-hand smoke / Still just drinking canned coke
I don’t need a xanny to feel better / On designated drive homes
Only one who’s not stoned / Don’t give me a xanny
Now or ever / To feel better
Written at 17 years old, Billie uses her soft tones to try and spread the message about how drugs can “fog” the relationships around you. With steady drum beats, it is clear to hear the message through her poetic and hypocritical lyrics of how drug use can look fun and be romanticized, but the realities of it are devastating.
Track 4: bad guy
The song that skyrocketed Billie to world fame, and on to win four Grammys at the 2020 awards show, “bad guy” shocks listeners with its upbeat electronic and experimental instrumental sounds. Still including Billie’s famous “whisper tone”, she also includes a more fun, almost jokingly sound that leaves the listener feeling empowered rather than sad.
I’m only good at being bad / I like when you get mad
I guess I’m pretty glad that you’re alone
You say she’s scared of me? / I mean.. I don’t see she sees but maybe its cause
Im wearing your cologne / I’m the bad guy
The song encompasses an individual that is finding their footing in the world around them, finally feeling empowered in an almost sort of dominant way. Proving to society that they are in charge of the direction their life goes in, and that everyone should be intimidated because “I am coming up.”
Track 5: all the good girls go to hell
Arguably her most controversial song on the entire album, “all the good girls go to hell” shocked audiences as it made religiously offensive comments and made references to how hell and the devil would be a better option than God and heaven. With an upbeat sound and old organ/vampire sounding keyboard, this song gives the listener a sense of haunt and evil.
Man is such a fool, why are we saving him?
Poisoning themselves now / begging for our help, wow
Hills burn in California / don’t say I didn’t warn ya
Once the water starts to rise and heavens out of sight
Shell want the devil on her team
My Lucifer is lonely / My God is gonna owe me
The song is loosely about how society has become so corrupt. How people have started treated others and the world around them is dying. Billie has been a vegan her entire life and she touches on how all of these people that claim to be so “godly” and commit no sin, are the ones who are destroying the earth and excluding groups of people based off of romantic differences and racial differences. Billie is a very big ally in the LGBTQ+ community as well as led protests for BLM and has even performed at the Democratic Convention.
Track 6: my future
Between her second and third album, Billie released the song, “my future” in the middle of quarantine. After coming down from what was going to be the most exciting year of her life, having won 7 Grammys in January 2020 and preparing for a world tour starting in March 2020, Billie Eilish’s career came to a stand still when the pandemic ravaged from country to country. She also admittedly fell back into a depression as she broke up with her boyfriend (who was obviously using her for fame and to advertise his rap career).
In the song, “my future” Billie assures not only herself through her lyrics, but the listener that they will be okay, and even if you are alone, you do not have to see this as a negative thing. Use the solitude to grow and become a more positive person, as well as more confident with yourself and remember that it is all a part of your own individual journey. Instrumentation includes piano, soft vocals, light bass and drums.
I’m in love with my future / And you don’t know her / Can’t wait to meet
Just wanna get to know myself
I’m in love / but not with anybody here
Know I’m supposed to be unhappy without someone / but aren’t I someone?
3rd Album: Happier than Ever
Billie’s most recent album is much lighter and has more topics of love, gratitude and fantasy. While she does still sing about abuse, heartbreak and the difficult struggles with being a celebrity, she does so in a light-hearted manner and all of her music includes higher notes and more angelic chords. This was one of my favorite albums of hers because it symbolizes someone growing up and learning to appreciate the life they have been given, as well as learning to love yourself and not need validation from anyone else.
Track 7: Your Power
The track, “Your Power” encompasses the very familiar story of sexual, emotional and physical abuse as well as grooming. Eilish was in an intimate relationship with a man who was 24 when she was 16, although she was not public about it due to it being illegal. But in her mind, he was her first love and she was blinded by his genuine motives (to further his musical career at her emotional expense). The song gives other individuals who have been in similar abusive relationships or any sort of unequal relationship that used power to control. Billie wants this song to be used as an outlet to release resentment, and calls out abusers because they “know better”. She hopes it be used for people to find the confidence to speak out about their abuse and seek help.
Some lyrics include:
Try not to abuse your power / You might not want to lose your power
She said you were a hero / You played the part but you ruined her in a year
And you swear you didn’t know / no wonder why you didn’t ask
She was sleeping in your clothes but now she’s got to get to class / How dare you
The music video for this song shows Billie being strangled by a python snake, resembling how she felt trapped and suffocated by the abuse she endured.
Track 8: Not My Responsibility
The track titled, “Not My Responsibility” is the only song of Eilish’s that is spoken word. In this heavy-emotional felt monologue, Billie expresses the hypocrisy of societal expectations. One of Billie’s trademarks in her career is the fact that she wears baggy clothes that do not let the audience see what her body could look like, and she does this because she does not want it to be about her or her body; she wants her career to be about her music, but nevertheless, people still find other things to criticize and ridicule her for.
Honorable lyrics include:
Do you know me? / Really know me
You have opinions about my opinions / about my music / about my clothes / about my body
If I wear what is comfortable, I am not a woman / If I shed the layers, I’m a slut
Is my value based only on your perception? / Or is your opinion of me
Not my responsibility
This is one of my favorite songs on this album because as a woman, I am always told to dress a certain way by society, but it is so evident that you cannot please everyone and somebody will always have something to say, which is frustrating but I feel like Billie explains this feeling perfectly.
Track 9: NDA
One of the first songs Eilish released on her album was “NDA”. “NDA” tells the hush-hush side of what being a celebrity actually entails. The stalkers, the fake friends, the social climbers and just how challenging it is to make genuine connections with the people around you because you are constantly in fear of them blackmailing you or ruining your career. Eilish talks about these tough struggles through the analogy of what an NDA is (a nondisclosure agreement) which is very common in Hollywood so that people can protect themselves against defamation and career-ending scandals.
Some lyrics include:
Did you think I’d show up in a limousine? No
Had to save my money for security / have a stalker walking up and down the street
Had a pretty boy over but he couldn’t stay / on his way out
Made him sign an NDA
The song include a snippet from the popular online game “Among Us”, which is all about imposters.
Track 10: Getting Older
Opening her third and most recent album released in the summer of 2021, Billie Eilish’s, “Happier than Ever” is a romanticized story of heartbreak, trauma and moving on. In her opening song, “Getting Older”, Eilish starts the album off with a bittersweet song about aging not only chronologically, but in emotional intelligence as well as maturity. She tells her story as she navigates the world around her and the awkward time in between when you are allowed to be a kid, but have to act like an adult.
Some lyrics include:
I’m getting older / I think I’m aging well
I wish someone had told me I’d be doing this by myself
Things I once enjoyed / just keep me employed now
I promise I’ll be fine
The song has bass, keyboard, soft vocals and different tones from Eilish. This song is also very relatable for college students in my opinion because it highlights how difficult it is to truly find yourself, plan your future, and learn to love yourself. Especially in the advent of social media, learning to love yourself while also not comparing yourself to others every time you check your phone is challenging.
Over all, Billie Eilish and her music have changed my life. She has been an inspiration as a person and as an artist and while it is definitely bittersweet, I am excited to continue to watch her grow and progress in her music career.
Revisions: added a conclusion and links to her songs on my (E)Portfolio blog post.