Billie Eilish doesn’t like making things easy for herself. When we met her last year to discuss ‘When The Party’s Over’, she made a confession: “I bring the most miserable things onto myself.” She was talking about the single’s accompanying video which sees the 17-year-old cry gloopy black ink, inspired by a picture fan drew her on tour. That creepy concept is what elevated the track and visual into a viral sensation. While she whispers about loneliness, the raw emotion on show in the bleak, but staggering video proved that she’s one of our most formidable artists.
Fitting, then, that nothing has really changed for her in her latest video for ‘Bury A Friend’. It’s the first single from her now-announced debut album ‘When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?’out on March 28. Utilising similar horror aesthetics as ‘When The Party’s Over’, a tortured Billie is pushed, pulled and possessed in the haunting clip. At one point, gloved hands continuously enter and exit the frame, grabbing and prodding her face, all while she poses questions faster than an unforgiving game-show host.
Then again, her career hasn’t been a complete easy ride. Sure, the 17-year-old had her debut single ‘Ocean Eyes’ go viral and landed a record deal with a major label, but she’s since dealt with unparalleled pressure and scrutiny. “I just don’t wanna see all the horrible things people say,” she said about social media to NME. “I don’t wanna see that I should have died instead of this artist. It takes not looking at my phone to stop myself from engaging.”
‘Bury A Friend’ throws down the gauntlet early on. After rapper Crooks’ booming voice introduces “Billie”, a galloping beat that keeps pace with Kanye West’s ‘Black Skinhead’ emerges, as haunting yelps lurk around every beat. “What do you want from me?” she asks, at once inquisitive, pained, frustrated and prepared before she muses on mortality and asks the haters once more to just “say it, spit out”.
It’s a sizeable middle finger to anyone who expected a twinkly ballad befitting to her lone EP, 2017’s ‘don’t smile at me’. Instead, it’s a even progression from recent brooding singles ‘You Should See Me In A Crown’ and ‘Lovely’, but with some necessary tweaks. ‘Bury A Friend’, co-produced with writing partner and older brother Finneas O’Connell, is drowning in layers of vocal effects and there’s a playful trickery in each hook. Those looking for a glittery chorus will be sorely disappointed.
Instead, ‘Bury A Friend’ is a statement song from an artist who is currently tearing up the rulebook of what young fans want from their pop stars. Instead of faux-happy bops, much like her contemporary Post Malone, Billie is looking inwards and vocalising the uncertainties and inquisitions of a generation ready to make their mark. She doesn’t make things easy for herself, but sometimes the hardest road and most terrifying steps turn out to be the most rewarding.