Calculatedly creepy, distorted, and dissonant, Billie Eilish’s latest single, “bury a friend,” draws from phobias and twisted thoughts. A horror film in itself, the music video accompanying the song alludes to the demonic: Eilish is pushed and pulled through a dark hallway in jerky movements by bodiless hands, staring into the camera with glossy black eyes. The heavy, percussive bass and staticky synth sounds, along with lyrics like “step on the glass, staple your tongue” and “I wanna end me,” evoke feelings of discomfort and tension, which is exactly the rising artist's objective. “People are terrified of me, and I want them to be,” she said to W Magazine.
Outfitted in silver chains and all-white clothes, Eilish’s character is evocative of the monster under your bed. Looking deeper, this fabrication of the mind reflects the masochistic and the sadistic. Billie Eilish is fighting her own internal demons, but she is also representative of that which is subversive and against the grain. This character is seen in the video for the single “you should see me in a crown,” in which spiders crawl across her face and out of her mouth. Her blank stares imply fearlessness, which seems appropriate for someone so nonconforming and unorthodox. Again, this character is seen in “when the party’s over,” albeit in a much more melancholic state; she cries black tears, pulling at her now-stained shirt as if in agonizing pain. The song’s lyrics, “Don’t you know I’m no good for you?” and “Nothing ever stops you leaving,” illuminate insecurities and anger in her relationships.
Often characterized as “avant-garde” or “emo-pop,” Eilish’s style clearly strays from past standards of popular music. The 17-year old star represents a new wave of popular music: one with an exploration into nihilism and sadism on the surface, with raw emotion at its very core. Her minor harmonic progressions, use of synthesizers, and heavily manipulated sounds are quite characteristic of popular music. It’s her nuanced, unique twist on popular music that both appeals to the listener and conveys these ideas in her own dark way. She continues to top popular music charts, with “bury a friend” peaking at #14 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, as well as reaching #1 on Billboard’s Alternative Digital Song Sales chart.
Depression, guilt, lies, and heartbreak inspired her first EP don’t smile at me and are more angrily evoked in these three singles from her upcoming LP, to be released on March 29. Entitled WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?, after the final line in “bury a friend,” her premier album seems to be a deeper exposition of her character’s conflicts between empowerment and insecurity. After writing, recording, and producing the entire album with her brother and musical partner in crime, Finneas O’Connell, Eilish has expressed how impactful “bury a friend” was to the creative process. “When we made ‘bury a friend,’ the whole album clicked in my head," she says. "I immediately knew what it was going to be about, what the visuals were going to be, and everything in terms of how I wanted it to be perceived.”
The track listings of Eilish's highly-anticipated album are below:
- bad guy
- you should see me in a crown
- all the good girls go to hell
- wish you were gay
- when the party’s over
- my strange addiction
- bury a friend
- listen before I go
- i love you