Billie Eilish’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

By Elizabeth Donohue

Published by Blush

April 2019

It’s been over a week since Billie Eilish released her debut album, WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?, and since then, she’s had the second largest sales week in 2019 (albeit Ariana Grande’s thank you, next), she is the first artist born in the 2000’s to have a number one album on the Billboard 200 chart, and has broken the record for most simultaneously charted Hot 100 titles among women, with a total of 14 tracks.

Eilish made her debut on Soundcloud three years ago, with her song, “Ocean Eyes,” written and produced with her brother, Finneas O’Connell in their childhood bedrooms. Since then, she has honed her signature breathy vocals, moody lyrics, and dark beats to become the ultimate Anti-Popstar, clad in baggy designer tracksuits and t-shirts.

A child of the internet, Eilish is attuned to social media, and the desires and emotions of fellow Gen Z-ers, who can no longer relate to the PR-groomed, polished, mega-pop stars that we’ve seen in dominate the charts in the past decade. She doesn’t pretend to play innocent, proper, or hyper-feminine. Instead, she is moody, obstinate, brusque, and mischievous. Her album reads like an old paperback copy of Scaries Stories to Tell in The Dark– a live tarantula crawls out of her mouth in “you should see me in a crown,” she cries black tears in, “when the party’s over,” and she’s the monster under your bed in, “bury a friend.”

Despite first hearing the album in my New York City dorm room, WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, immediately brings me back to late nights in high school, driving around my suburban hometown, the same way that I used to listen to Lorde’s, Pure Heroine. “Royals,” released in 2013, dominated the charts with dark, melancholic bravado, draws a clear parallel to Eilish’s first album single release, “you should see me in a crown.” Themes of power, mythology, and anarchy compare the the suburban high school experience to a dystopian Game of Thrones, survival of the fittest scenario. Considering the current school environment the American youth faces- the growing threat of gun violence, race, gender, and sexual discrimination, the growing education gap (not to mention the infamous College Admissions Scandal)-the vision of an anarchic, dystopian, technology-ridden world, feels quite fitting.

Eilish mixes barred down acoustic instruments with irregular pauses, dubstep and trap beats, creepy melodies sung in unison, as well as sampling from unexpected places, like her favorite cult show, The Office. Billie’s lyrics reflect her many moods, which often contradict and question themselves. “I do what I want when I’m wanting to / My soul? So cynical,” she boldly declares in “bad guy,” while she bears her heart to another person on, “8,” where she whispers, “I came committed, guess I overdid it / Wore my heart out on a chain / Around my neck but now it’s missing.” She fixates on drugs and addiction (see, “my strange addiction”), yet in “xanny,” she sings about her contempt for the anti-anxiety drug which has infiltrated her peers, making them, “Nothing but unstable,” and, “Too intoxicated to be scared.”

There’s something so enigmatic about Eilish. Her voice haunts you, submerges you into her underworld of glorified hallucinations, horror, and deranged dreams. She’s somehow able to reach the dark depths of the human imagination, with songs about suicide, sadness, murder, unrequited love, and yet still maintain an apathetic, carefree, “cool-girl” semblance (just check out her Instagram). Consequently, she has forged a sound and a persona unlike anything seen in the music industry before, and is at the forefront of a generation that is tired of pretending things are ok.