WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? is the debut studio album by American alternative pop singer-songwriter Billie Eilish, released in 2019 through the Darkroom and Interscope Records, and her first collection since the 2017 EP, dont smile at me. The album’s sound is an eclectic blend of dreamlike Indie Pop, Synth-Pop, and contemporary blues, with a lyrical focus on the dark and esoteric.
Co-written by Eilish and her brother Finneas O'Connell and produced by O'Connell, the album was promoted by five singles, starting in July 2018, and leading up to its release in March 2019: “you should see me in the crown”, “when the party’s over”, “bury a friend”, “wish you were gay”, and “bad guy”. It set the record for most pre-ordered album in Apple Music history and debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200, making her the first artist born in the 21st century to reach that slot.
The album swept the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards, winning Album of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Album, "bad guy" winning both Song and Record of the Year, Eilish herself winning Best New Artist, and Finneas individually receiving Producer of the Year and Best Engineered Album (both non-classical). With these wins, Eilish became the second-ever (and the youngest ever, and the first female) artist in Grammy history to win all 4 major awards at once.
- "!!!!!!!" (0:14)
- "bad guy" (3:14)
- "xanny" (4:04)
- "you should see me in a crown" (3:01)
- "all the good girls go to hell" (2:49)
- "wish you were gay" (3:42)
- "when the party's over" (3:16)
- "8" (2:53)
- "my strange addiction" (3:00)
- "bury a friend" (3:13)
- "ilomilo" (2:36)
- "listen before i go" (4:03)
- "i love you" (4:52)
- "goodbye" (1:59)
Tropes appearing in this album:
- Album Closure: The record ends with "goodbye," a short, slow song comprised of one lyric from each of the album's previous songs.
- Album Intro Track: “!!!!!!!” is 14 seconds of Studio Chatter between Billie and Finneas, with Billie announcing the removal of her Invisalign before the two burst into laughter.
- Album Title Drop: Appears in the chorus of "bury a friend".Why aren't you scared of me?
Why do you care for me?
When we all fall asleep,
where do we go?
- all lowercase letters: every track on the album is stylized this way in the official release, perhaps making up for its all-caps title.
- Aggressive Submissive: The singer in "bad guy", who warns "the men I know" to be scared of her even though the verses imply she is submissive in the bedroom.
- Animal Motifs: Spiders in "you should see me in a crown".
- The "vertical video" features various spider species climbing all over Billie and her crown—including a tarantula emerging from her mouth. The promotional art for the single is an image from this video of the crown covered with orb weavers.
- In the Animated Music Video, Billie's character eventually transforms into a massive demonic spider creature looming over a city.
- Animated Music Video: One was created for "you should see me in a crown".
- Badass Boast: Most of "you should see me in a crown" is one.You should see me in a crown
I'm gonna run this nothing town
Watch me make 'em bow
One by one by one
- Bad Girl Song: "bad guy".
- Black Eyes of Evil:
- Monster-under-the-bed Billie has these in the "bury a friend" music video.
- Inverted on the album cover, where her eyes appear entirely white.
- Blues: The genre's influence is most audible in "xanny" and "wish you were gay".
- Break Up Song: "when the party's over".
- Concept Album: The Central Theme is death and darkness. According to Billie, the album is meant to feel like an extended dream.
- Concept Video: "when the party's over", where Billie drinks a glass of dark liquid that then comes streaming out of her eyes like black tears.
- Compound Title: The titles of the last three songs on the album, "listen before i go", "i love you", and "goodbye", are meant to be read as a single message.
- Continuity Nod:
- In "my strange addiction", Billie mentions, "I don't self-medicate", in a nod to the earlier track "xanny".I don't need a xanny to feel better
- "bury a friend" mentions "the way I'm drinking you down", evoking the "when the party's over" video. It's also a possible reference to "my strange addiction", which features what sounds like someone drinking a liquid in its instrumental.
- "ilomilo", the next song after "bury a friend", says:The friends I've had to bury
They keep me up at night
- The video for "bury a friend" includes a scene where Billie is stabbed with multiple syringes. In “all the good girls go to hell”, whatever is in those syringes causes her to grow wings.
- In addition to using a lyric from every song that preceded it, the backing vocals for "goodbye" are reused from the bridge of "xanny".
- In "my strange addiction", Billie mentions, "I don't self-medicate", in a nod to the earlier track "xanny".
- Cool Crown: You should see her in it.
- Darker and Edgier: WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP is noticeably darker, sinister and somber in lyrics and mood in comparison to her earlier work.
- Death Seeker: The words "I wanna end me" is a recurring phrase in "Bury a Friend".
- Death Song: "listen before i go" is sung by a person planning to commit suicide.
- Double Entendre: "my strange addiction":I'm the powder; you're the fuse
Just add some friction
- Driven to Suicide: "listen before i go":Take me to the rooftop
I wanna see the world when I stop breathing
- Driving Question: The album's title, according to Eilish.
- Drone of Dread: The chorus of "bury a friend" is immediately followed by what can only be described as the sound your head makes when you hold your eyes shut too hard.
- Drugs Are Bad: The topic of "xanny", which is about Billie going to a party and deciding NOT to take xanny there. It's more nuanced than the usual anti-drug aesop as she specifically questions the idea of doing drugs to feel cool, and the song is less about condemning them and more about staying safe.
- Emo: The album for a new generation of disillusioned teens.
- Everything Is an Instrument: Strange samples and background noises pervade the album, adding to its creepy atmosphere. "bury a friend" literally features the sound of Billie's Invisalign attachments being shaved off at the orthodontist.
- Fading into the Next Song: The fade-in of "ilomilo" is tacked onto the end of "bury a friend".
- Green Aesop: While Billie specifies that "all the good girls go to hell" isn't solely about it, she also expresses how its reflection on the folly of mankind comes from an environmental perspective. The music video also alludes to this, featuring an angel violently falling to Earth, covered in oil and eventually flames.
- Good Wings, Evil Wings: Billie's wings at the start of “all the good girls go to hell” are feathery white, then she falls into a tar pit, then the wings catch fire and transform into demonic wings.
- Horror: Billie has remarked on how heavily WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP was influenced by her love of the genre.
- "bury a friend" and its music video (directed by Michael Chaves of The Maiden fame) fall squarely into this genre.
- "I Am Great!" Song: "you should see me in a crown" is an exceptionally dark variation, bordering on Villain Song.
- Incompatible Orientation: Inverted in "wish you were gay", where Billie laments that the boy she likes isn't gay, because it would be easier to deal with the rejection if he just didn't like girls.
- Last Chorus Slowdown: In the end of "when the party's over".
- Last-Second Word Swap: In "my strange addiction":You could kiss my as-king about my motto
- Laughing Mad: Billie's laugh in "!!!!!!!" devolves into an unsettling howl before cutting out abruptly to make way for the first song.
- Longest Song Goes Last: Inverted. "goodbye" is the shortest on the album.
- Love Is a Drug: "my strange addiction", unless Billie was serious about it being about The Office (US).
- Lyrical Cold Open: To "xanny".
- The Masochism Tango: One of the recurring themes is a love that just won't go away. For instance, from "when the party's over":I could lie, say I like it like that...
- Motif: References to blood appear in "bad guy", "you should see me in a crown", and "when the party's over", and indirectly in "bury a friend".
- Non-Appearing Title: "ilomilo", whose title is that of the videogame it's based on. Also "listen before i go".
- Obligatory Bondage Song: “bad guy” is a subtler example.I like it when you take control
Even if you know that you don’t own me
I’ll let you play the role
I’ll be your animal
- Obsession Song: "my strange addiction".Learned my lesson way too long ago
To be talkin' to you, belladonna
Shoulda taken a break, not an Oxford comma
Take what I want when I wanna
And I want ya
- Obviously Evil: According to herself:
- Ode to Sobriety: "xanny", where Billie complains about her friends spending all their time under the influence of drugs and alcohol while she abstains:I'm in their second-hand smoke
Still just drinking canned coke
I don't need a xanny to feel better
- Ominous Music Box Tune: The music behind the refrain of "ilomilo" evokes one.
- Orifice Evacuation: At the climax of the "you should see me in a crown" vertical video, Billie opens her mouth and a tarantula crawls out.
- Past Experience Nightmare: A recurring theme throughout the album.The friends I've had to bury
They keep me up at night
- Playing with Syringes: In one scene of the "bury a friend" music video, a collection of disembodied gloved hands stab large needles into her bared back.
- Production Throwback:
- "you should see me in a crown" includes the line, "fell for these ocean eyes", in reference to her debut single.
- "all the good girls go to hell" echoes "COPYCAT"'s "You committed / I'm your crime" with:Can't commit to anything but a crime
- Reprise Medley: "goodbye", the item's final track, lists lyrics from every song in the album in reverse order.
- Sampling: "my strange addiction" interpolates audio from the seventh season of The Office (US) in several places.No, Billie, I haven’t done that dance since my wife died.
- Satanic Archetype: "all the good girls go to hell" and its video portray Billie as one, in a dark take on a Green Aesop.
- Self-Backing Vocalist: Most tracks feature multiple layers of Billie, only occasionally supplemented by her brother Finneas.
- Self-Referential Track Placement: Track #8 is called "8." It is sung from the perspective of her eight-year-old self.
- The paired music videos to "bury a friend" and "all the good girls go to hell" are extremely similar to Panic! at the Disco's "This Is Gospel"/"Emperor's New Clothes. Both duologies consist of a first video with a Medical Horror aesthetic (and disembodied gloved hands manipulating the singer's body) and a sequel which begins with flashbacks to the previous video before showing the protagonist falling a great distance and turning into a winged demon.
- "You should see me in a crown" is a quote from BBC Sherlock, spoken by Diabolical Mastermind Moriarty.
- "ilomilo" is about the characters in the Microsoft puzzle game ilomilo, using their situation to explore fear of separation and reunion.
- "my strange addiction" to the Point-and-Laugh Show of the same name.
- Simple Score of Sadness: “when the party’s over” is Billie, a little backup, and a piano. And there are some parts that are just plain silence, and some that border on One-Woman Wail.
- Singer Name Drop: Guest rapper Crooks announces, "Billie." right at the beginning of "bury a friend".
- Song Style Shift: The final section of "bad guy" drops into a completely different beat and tune.
- Stringy-Haired Ghost Girl: "bury a friend" has Billie play a terrifying example.
- Surreal Music Video: A few of her videos from this album are quite bizarre, such as "bury a friend" and “when the party's over”.
- Sympathy for the Devil: "all the good girls go to hell".My Lucifer is lonely ...
- The Teetotaler: The singer of "xanny".
- Textless Album Cover: See the page image. It's just Billie on a bed.
- Things That Go "Bump" in the Night: "bury a friend" is from the perspective of the monster under her bed.
- This Is a Song: The second verse of "bad guy":My mommy likes to sing along with me
But she won't sing this song
If she reads all the lyrics
- The Vamp: The singer in “bad guy”.I’m that bad type
- Villain Song: Billie embodies various personal demons throughout the album. “bury a friend” is, according to Billie, from the perspective of the monster under her bed. "Bad Guy" is also a more traditional example.