Billie Eilish: When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? review – thrilling Gen Z terror-pop


Old people (in this case, anyone over about 23) may be quick to cite Billie Eilish’s obvious influences as evidence of the 17-year-old’s unoriginality: Lana Del Rey’s broken balladry, Lorde’s hip-hop-adjacent pop minimalism and witch house’s lo-fi spookiness all seethe through her debut. Eilish doesn’t hide the fact that she is a product of an online adolescence, steeped in a pop cultural morass with no beginning or end. But what she does with those influences is unique.

Billie Eilish: When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? album artwork
Billie Eilish: When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? album artwork Photograph: PR

Like a horror auteur, Eilish uses intimacy to amplify scares. She sings in a discomfitingly close gasp, like an ASMR actor having a panic attack. Her well turned melodies often unfold like haunted music box ditties or ghostly show tunes, and suddenly snatch away to expose an annihilating lyric: “The way I’m drinking you down / Like I wanna drown / Like I wanna end me,” she admits, coolly, on standout Bury a Friend. Her eerie softness contrasts with her brother Finneas’s compellingly nasty production, laced with menacing bass (Bad Guy) chilling foley (the scraped swords that open You Should See Me in a Crown) and unsettling textural detonations that match anything produced by PC Music.

The highs are thrilling, and despite their obvious pedigree, arranged unlike anything else in contemporary pop. They also reveal the lows more starkly: the saccharine, coyly suggestive 8, played on a ukulele, and I Love You, which sounds suspiciously like Hallelujah, are better off left to YouTube ingenues than an artist of Eilish’s otherwise clear vision.


Laura Snapes

The GuardianTramp

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