There is this idea that Billie Eilish is the first bona fide pop star born of the internet age. Created with the confidence and anxiety of having the world's answers a keystroke away, she's a savvy manifestation of our digital connection. Her music is not the memes and vitriol of it all, but a stylish and vulnerable product of a life completely connected from day one. This is a post-millennial guide to getting through it.
WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? is Eilish's official debut. It arrives with impressively high expectations for a 17-year-old singer, but they are well earned after early examples from the "you should see me in a crown" star. Each new look into Billie's world has offered something achingly authentic and uniquely her own, and that experience is maximized as an album. Often dark without being aggressive, her spooky soundscapes still manage to find their pleasing center. In other places Eilish is sparse and effective, opening herself like a diary, spilling secrets and emotions in a haunting and touching way. The fact that it all feels so true is likely why Eilish has resonated so quickly.
A lot of her debut lives on the low end. Rattling bass and confessional whispers take listeners by the hand into this uneasy dream. Sometimes it's a restrained trash like a night terror, elsewhere it's with lulling softness coaxing you to follow her. On "bad guy" she stands commanding as the track thumps and twinkles around her. On the single "when the party's over" that bass bubbles and rolls underneath Eilish as she agonizes alongside piano. It's all very rich but not decadent, thriving with emotion and terror near each turn.
If Billie Eilish had arrived 15 years ago, it would be with cake-white makeup and a strong goth aesthetic. The image would be carefully curated to evoke danger and mystery. The expressions in her music would never allow us to watch her eat hot wings or laugh along with reaction videos. Thankfully today she gets to sing and scare and emote as herself, an unconcerned teenager who is unflinchingly honest and cool. Billie is born of an era that allows us to be all things, as long as it's real. WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? is a statement and a healthy mix of that confidence and anxiety. A dream and a diagram at the same time.