Billie Eilish’s album When We All Fall Asleep Where Do We Go? features a variety of songs that are unique in their sound and mature in their content matter. While it is impossible to assign absolute meanings to these pieces because art is subjective, I will offer a short analysis to what story I hear when listening to them. I did research the real meaning behind a few songs such as “ilomilo” and “wish you were gay” because those ones had a specific meaning I couldn’t pin down myself. The most wonderful thing about art is that it can be interpreted a new way by each person.
bad guy: Bloody noses and blue-knees, this song is about rough relationships. The cause? Eilish herself. She refers to the subject as the one who thinks he is in charge but he is not—she is. He may want to watch out for her because she is unpredictable. He may think that he is tough but she is the one to look out for. She is the bad guy.
xanny: A refreshing song by a prominent artist not promoting the use of Xanax. Eilish comments on the drug use around her. Calling those who use it “too inebriated” and “too intoxicated” to participate in real life. Even mentioning the next day when the high wears off they are in pain. This song wipes away the feigned glitz and glamour of using Xanax irresponsibly.
you should see me in a crown: This song is about power. With metaphors of wearing a crown and having people bow down, Eilish is commanding her ability to rule over others with her music. A fierce ruler, other bow down to Eilish as she tops the charts with her music. In the song, there are clear sounds of swords being drawn as if to simulate the beginning of a battle. “Your silence is my favorite sound.” With the phrase, Eilish is commenting on how others are so awed by her success that they have no words.
all the good girls go to hell: Nobody’s perfect. Enemies exist for everyone. While most make an effort to be good, Eilish is declaring that people are natural sinners and when they’re faced with difficult choices—they’ll chose the one that benefits them the most. “And when heaven’s out of sight…she’ll want the devil on her team.” This claws down to the nature of self preservation that exists in every person.
wish you were gay: Unrequited love makes its way into the album with the 5th song on this track. Eilish deals with the pains of having someone turn away her love. Such a hard situation to deal with that she wants the reason to be anything but “I just don’t like you.” She just wants to shake off the humiliation with a joke. “To spare my pride. To give your lack of interest an explanation. Don’t say I’m not your type. Just say that I’m not your preferred sexual orientation.”
when the party’s over: This song is about heartbreak and loneliness. It’s about coming home without something or someone you really need. Even though that is not making Eilish happy, this is the way it has to be. She drops hints that she will be the one to cause hurt and she doesn’t want that. This song takes place in the lull after a fun night when there’s nothing left to distract her from her sadness. Now that the party is over there are no more people to fill the empty hole. That is when she has to let them go.
8: Another song about going separate ways from someone who you can no longer be with. Like most of her break-up worthy songs, this storyline tells the tale of a messy end where feelings were not respected. Although, she usually tries to blame herself—this time she is the one who is hurt. She admits that she really tried.
my strange addiction: This is a relationship that is not safe, when the two of them are together the response is chemical. Eilish refers to herself as the powder and the subject as a fuse. When those two combine this is a layout for an explosion. This is not good for either of them but like an addiction—she cannot stay away. She’s referring to it as strange because she should stay away but cannot.
bury a friend: This is Eilish’s transformation into the new version of herself. This song was released as the single introducing her second album. There is a lyric including the title of the album which was not an accident. Eilish is not burying her friend, she is burying the person she was before When We All Fall Asleep Where Do We Go? She is rewriting herself. “Bury a friend…I want to end me.” She wants to end who she was and become someone new.
ilomilo: This song is directly tied to “bury a friend,” not only by being the next song on the album but the instrumentals can be heard at the end of the previous song. While “bury a friend” was about getting rid of someone “ilomilo” is about trying to find them again. This song was inspired by a puzzle game where the goal is to bring two characters together. This song is about wanting to reunite. Wanting to not be worried.
listen before I go: (C/W suicide) This song heavily revolves around the topic of suicide. If you or anyone you know needs help the Nation Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.
i love you: A gentle song about being in love but being afraid of being in love. Although, she didn’t want these feelings, they are there. “I can’t escape the way I love you. I don’t want to, but I love you.” After all of the fighting she has done with her emotions, they win—she is in love.
goodbye: The final song of the album is a mash up of a lyric from every other song on When We All Fall Asleep Where Do We Go? Each lyric is from each song but backwards showing how important each song is to the other. This album isn’t just a collection of songs—it is a story.