Album Review: When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?

In many ways, Billie Eilish is a normal 17-year-old. She wears Invisalign braces, just got her driver’s license and spends her time binging The Office on Netflix. She also has 16 million Instagram followers, is headlining a nationwide tour and has the number one album on Apple Music. Released in 2017, her debut project, don’t smile at me, felt at times like the work of a 15-year-old. At many times on this project, she sounded all too much like every other female pop artist at the time. She clearly had talent, but there wasn’t enough from this album to convince me of her stardom.

The opposite couldn’t be more true of When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? Eilish has absolutely found her voice. Almost every track offers something completely different from the previous one. The slightness of her voice gives a very eerie tone to the entirety of the album. On “bad guy,” she uses her voice to sound extremely intimidating, but then just a few tracks later, she is extremely vulnerable on “wish you were gay.”

The versatility Eilish shows on this record is tremendous and is what really sets her apart. The album still flows very well despite the different versions of Billie Eilish that we see. Nothing seems out of place throughout the project.

The production of When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? is easily one of the most impressive elements of the album. Eilish’s brother, Finneas O’Connell, is credited as the primary producer on every track and his performance was exceptional. Throughout the album, Eilish uses her voice very quietly which can usually make for a boring and tiresome record. However, O’Connell incorporates it perfectly in his production; the tranquility of her voice is easy to manipulate in production. For example, O’Connell truly brings the track, “xanny,” to life with brief injections of intense base during the chorus.

Another area where the album excels is in its lyricism. All of the tracks were written by the brother-sister duo, which shows. At various points in the album, the lyrics get very intimate and it makes sense that they came from a pair of siblings that clearly have a lot of trust in each other. For example, there is the very heartbreaking suicidal track, “listen before i go,” in which Eilish claims that she is “leaving soon” and that “sorry can’t save me now.” This was the most emotional song I have heard in a long time and something we don’t see very much in today’s music landscape; you can truly feel the potency of the words as you hear them. There are other points on the album where the lyricism is simply ingenious. For instance, on “wish you were gay,” Eilish brilliantly counts down from six in one verse:

"Baby, I don't feel so good,” six words you never understood

"I'll never let you go," five words you'll never say (Aww)

I laugh along like nothing's wrong, four days has never felt so long

If three's a crowd and two was us, one slipped away”

She does it again two verses later, just this time from twelve to six:

“Is there a 12 step just for you?

Our conversation's all in blue

11 "heys" (Hey, hey, hey, hey)

Ten fingers tearin' out my hair

Nine times you never made it there

I ate alone at 7, you were six minutes away”

It’s the small details like this that make the album so enjoyable from cover to cover.

           As far as debut albums go, When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? is phenomenal. Eilish does a lot of things that I was not expecting following her modest first project. Her songwriting is absolutely incredible for a 17-year-old and will definitely be her forte going forward. The production is extremely well-rounded and at times genius. Billie Eilish is on her way to becoming the next big thing in music if she isn’t there already.

Max SmithComment