Billie Eilish has had a lot of hype. When we say a lot, we mean an absolutely huge mega-fuck-ton of hype, including a certain Dave Grohl comparing her to Kurt Cobain. She has her own fashion line, 15.3 million Instagram followers and is, without doubt, a child of the times, an heir to the ‘it girl’ crown. But this kind of unwanted crown is a very heavy thing to wear and debut LP When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? proves that it’s normally a ‘grower’.
Released today, Eilish’s album was promised as an undefinable and undeniable triumph of youthful energy and creativity. While in parts this rings true, for the most, the album falls a little short of the meteoric highs we promised ourselves and instead shows a pop princess still finding her kingdom.
At 17 years old, to expect Eilish to be a fully-formed and comprehensive artist is unfair. Her smattering of releases so far have shown an incredible vigour and hunger for something new, but the album falls short of setting the world on fire and instead lands with a bit of whimper.
There are moments of brilliance, ‘bad guy’ for example hits us like a steam train with an unfathomable vibe accentuated by exuberance. ‘Xanny’ offers a similar bop and ‘wish you were a gay’ provides a viewpoint we’ve yet to hear. She manages to motivate the sound with little vocal strain and relies on the beat to make her points.
Eilish is undoubtedly talented, her vocal is a soft and warming blanket even when discussing the most distressing of subjects, while the production of the album is way up in the upper echelons. But while her ability to channel adolescence through a synth and vocoder can feel energising and exciting at points, as the album rolls on it dwindles down to something a bit plainer, less challenging and something more similar to the Dua Lipa and Mo’s of the world. While that’s no bad place to be it doesn’t quite feel the booming, brashy, and unabashed sound we’re in need of.
A simple way to sum this album up? If Grimes and Bon Iver had a music baby it would sound something like Billie Eilish. At points aggressive and agitating and at others lulling and simplistic, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? falls short of the dream scene we were hoping for.