Billie Eilish 

When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?

The debut album from 17 year-old singer-songwriter, Billie Eilish links Lana Del Ray dreaminess with a savvy, hip hop-inspired sound, finds Lucy O'Brien

When she first emerged in 2016 with her viral Soundcloud hit ‘Ocean Eyes’, the moody, silver-haired Eilish seemed like just another dreamy teenage LA singer/songwriter. The trickle of songs that led to her follow-up EP Don’t Smile At Me, however, proved that Eilish was made of darker stuff. Combining text and Instagram word-speak with bold electropop, she was busily crafting a girl-positive emotional world for the Netflix generation, and she has slowly become an alternative icon.

Recent shows at London Shepherds Bush O2 bore this out, with a raucous mosh-pit of teenage girls and Eilish in a baggy T shirt, huge shorts, and DMs, egging them on with sardonic anthems and mad dancing. For her long-awaited debut album 17 year-old Eilish has gone deeper into the weirdo-pop trench. Together with co-collaborator brother and producer Finneas O’Connell, she has drawn on trap and industrial pop to create a darkly humorous record about romance, rejection and addiction.

Raised by a family of actor/musicians, Eilish and her brother lace the songs with pop culture references and a sense of drama. ‘Xanny’, for instance, reprises Bacharach’s ‘Alfie’, in a soporific, distorted showtune, while ‘Wish You Were Gay’ links Joan Jett-style glam footstomping to a delicate chorus. “To spare my pride/Don’t say I’m not your type/Just not your preferred sexual orientation,” Eilish sings, with mournful deliberation. ‘Bury A Friend’, the album’s stand-out track, develops the theme of darkly, dysfunctional friendship, with her vocodered voice looped through effects and filters.

Just when you think that the clever, lugubrious tone is getting slightly wearisome (‘Listen Before I Go’), Eilish breaks out into a track of clear, melodic beauty with ‘I Love You’. Here she links the Lana Del Rey dreaminess of her early songs with the savvy, hip-hop inspired artist that she has become. And this is just the start.

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