Since her 2016 debut, Billie Eilish’s ability to entrance the entire world with her very singular and distinct take on pop music is impressive, but not as impressive as the fact that she never cared to do it. World domination felt like Eilish’s destiny as opposed to her ambition, yet she has moulded herself to the role with ease, while never compromising on her ever-interesting artistic vision.
Taking bedroom pop to stadium crowds, Billie Eilish, together with her brother Finneas O’Connell, has proven to be an absolute force in pop culture. At not even 20 years old, she recognises her own jadedness at the industry around her, and never seems to censor herself for the good of anyone else. Billie Eilish is looking out for Billie Eilish, and thank God for that.
Her second album, Happier Than Ever, is upon us. It's time to look at where she’s come from, and how her catalog stacks up against itself. Here senior music and culture writer Jackson Langford ranks every Billie Eilish song ever.
At least Invisalign got some free promo out of this.
49. “Bad Guy (feat. Justin Bieber)”
Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should, IMO.
I don’t want to take the bait of describing a feeling a song gives me using that same song’s title, but… if the shoe fits.
47. “When I Was Older”
Ditto with “Bored”.
46. “sHE’S brOKen”
The hardest of Billie Eilish fans will recognise this little ditty as Eilish’s first song she ever uploaded to SoundCloud. Once you hear it, you can understand why it no longer exists in an official capacity on the internet.
But the title alone is an apt reminder that before Billie Eilish was superwoman, she was 13.
45. “Lo Vas a Olvidar (feat. ROSALÍA)”
THIS SHOULD HAVE BEEN SO MUCH BETTER THAN IT IS. DON’T TALK TO ME ABOUT IT. I’M MAD.
44. "Not My Responsibility"
A spoken word interlude that Eilish debuted at her ill-timed world tour at the top end of 2020. “Is my value based only on your perception?/Or is your opinion of me/Not my responsibility?”
While “Not My Responsibility” doesn’t share a new perspective, it’s a message that feels more pertinent for Eilish now; given the incredibly intense magnifying glass she finds herself under.
As an album closer, “Goodbye” taking lines from literally every song that came before it is certainly an interesting approach. A fun easter egg? Sure, but I don’t really have anything else to say about it.
42. “I Didn’t Change My Number”
Extra points for the dog sample, presumably her own pup, Shark.
41. “No Time To Die”
And here we have a James Bond theme song. It’s going to sound like plenty of other James Bond theme songs. Intimate and hushed at first, slowly building into a string-drenched climax that bursts with orchestral grandeur. “No Time To Die” isn’t a bad song – it does exactly what it’s supposed to. It follows a well-crafted process that has seen the likes of Adele and Sam Smith walk away with Oscars, and Eilish might just snag one herself.
But Eilish is someone who almost single-handedly revamped notions of chart-friendly pop, “No Time To Die” is, for lack of a better word, predictable.
40. “Six Feet Under”
Billie Eilish has made no secret of how Lana Del Rey has influenced her sound, with particular attention to her 2012 debut album Born To Die.
It would be fitting then that her official debut single – the world’s introduction to Billie Eilish – would really just sound like “What if Billie Eilish performed a Lana Del Rey song?” LDR’s influence exists throughout Billie’s music, but for me this feels a little too on the nose. I don’t think it’s a bad song, but it lacks that singular Billie Eilish sound we all know today.
Maybe that has to do with the fact that she was 14 years old when she released it and expecting artistic excellence from someone just starting to go through puberty is unrealistic, but maybe not.
39. “Billie Bossa Nova”
Undecided at this stage whether naming a song after the genre it’s inspired by is genius or tacky. I’ll report back.
Billie Eilish is no stranger to ukulele, but “8” never reaches the height she’s achieved with her similar predecessors. It sways and ebbs, but doesn’t go beyond that. If it ever does, Eilish sings with a vocal affectation that makes her sound like a literal child which I find a little uncomfortable to listen to.
An extension of “Not My Responsibility”, “Overheated” is about the public’s response to her body once she revealed it – presumably on the now infamous cover of British Vogue. “Overheated” is alluring. The song dabbles in curiosity and even defeat, but I couldn’t help thinking that this could have been an opportunity for her to really let go, and sadly she didn’t take it.
36. “Wish You Were Gay”
People had their own issues with “Wish You Were Gay” when it dropped, which Eilish has addressed repeatedly. But the real problem is Eilish’s vocal delivery here isn’t impactful enough to override the “We Will Rock You”-style drum and piano combo that dominates the whole song. The song is ridiculous and camp – in fun ways – but still feels just a little too disjointed to be taken as seriously as it could be. But maybe that’s the point.
35. “Listen Before I Go”
I personally see this as the diet version of “when the party’s over”. One perfectly fine ballad that reminds you of what Billie’s voice is capable of.
While the pretty standard sound of “Watch” doesn’t shine like its remake “&burn”, it still gave us one of Eilish’s most iconic lyrics – “I’ll sit and watch the car burn/With the fire that you started in me” – and for that I have to be grateful.
33. “I Love You”
It’s like the strange lovechild of “Your Power” and “No Time To Die”. While I definitely found it more interesting than the latter, it never reaches the level of command of the former. A very beautiful number nonetheless.
It’s a solid song but this is literally all I think of.
31. “Lost Cause”
For a video that caused as much controversy as it did, “Lost Cause” is somewhat unremarkable in the scheme of what I know Billie’s capable of. Though it’s a pretty minor contribution to her discography, I don’t see it as a bad song by any means – it's breezy and silky, with Eilish delivering a celebration of her worth and independence with some of her most direct and stern vocals to date – but she’s not pushing any boundaries.
30. “Come Out and Play”
If Billie Eilish is going to give you anything, it’s delicate vocals into a volcanic climax – and the restless drum beats at the end of “Come Out And Play” offers that in droves, baby.
29. “&Burn (feat. Vince Staples)”
“Watch” is a pretty song, but in my opinion can be categorised with, and even mistaken for, a slew of other Billie Eilish songs. “&burn” takes the song, flips it on its head, cutting notes just short of completion leaving Eilish to sing over a much darker, stuttered beat. Where its predecessor is filled with pain, “&burn” feels angry and vengeful – two moods the menacing demeanour of Vince Staples has no problem matching. It might appear clunky at first, but Staples’ quick and punchy verse gives much needed contrast to a song that simply rests on pretty.
28. “My Boy”
“My Boy” is mysterious and oozy, with its initially disjointed production transforming it into what I’d call one of the most dynamic songs on Don’t Smile At Me.
27. "Getting Older"
The opening number of Happier Than Ever beats around no bush and wastes no time in thrusting us into the thick of it. Following an album that muses about what lurks in the dark, “Getting Older” throws Eilish’s darkness into the light. A bouncing, lullaby-esque beat cloaks Eilish losing herself in the gloomy underbelly of fame. She sings of her own life, abuse she’s suffered, “deranged” strangers and the grim realisation that she’s gotten over aspects of her career that once energised her – “The things that I enjoyed just keep me employed.” Billie Eilish still has the ability to haunt, but it’s no longer with fantastical stories – it’s with her own, singular experiences.
26. “Party Favor”
“Party Favor” is strangely reminiscent of the quirk and child-friendly sounds of the Australian indie pop of the early 2010s. Harmonica, xylophone and ukulele are married together to surprising success, as Eilish leaves her partner a voicemail saying she’s leaving them on their birthday. She’s breaking free of their possessiveness, but taunting them with her sweet, pretty voice while she does it.
It’s not the best song on Happier Than Ever, but it’s certainly one of the most interesting. Opening with a chorus reciting translations by Gustav Holst of an ancient Hindu poem, and echoing like it’s been performed in a vast, empty church, it unravels into a quick burst of energy. With a stalking, palpitating beat and a whirring sample of Billie’s own voice, “Goldwing” has the potential to build into something spectacular, but sounds like it stops about a minute too soon.
24. “All The Good Girls Go To Hell”
Despite its relative brightness and the campy haunted house, theremin-adjacent synths, “All The Good Girls Go To Hell” kind of immerses itself in bad girl clichés that Eilish masterfully avoids elsewhere on When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? That being said, it’s jaunty and twitching and in my opinion, still a great time.
23. “Male Fantasy”
The closing track on Happier Than Ever is melancholy and ethereal, though perhaps misplaced. Over the style of muted production that we hear countlessly over the album, Eilish ponders real love vs. what’s sold to us in media, like pornography. She feels destined to love this person, even though she doesn’t want to. It’s heartbreaking, but not exactly groundbreaking.
22. “Halley’s Comet”
Eilish will perform this (gorgeous, heartwarming and tender) ballad on a spotlit stage at the next Grammy Awards. Mark my words. There’s something about it that harks back to the standards of the 1940s and ’50s – no frills, no huge production, just Billie’s commanding vocals decorated with piano and the odd guitar.
21. “Bitches Broken Hearts”
“Bitches Broken Hearts” might’ve been just another run-of-the-mill song about the transience of young love, but it boasts Flume-inspired stuttering production that catapults back and forth, making for an interesting foundation to Eilish’s gorgeous vocal delivery.
“Ilomilo” stays in a space of tense anticipation, as Eilish’s chopped voice spins around your head as the ominous bass creeps up inside you. Like a video game the song’s title references, Eilish sings of love as just another level in her world, and without her partner, she might be down a life with no option to respawn.
19. “Everybody Dies”
“Everybody Dies” offers a rare instance of Eilish exploring ideas outside of herself. When you’re Billie Eilish, you’re hardly relatable to the average, or even above average, person – but here she’s trying to make sense of the one concept every person on this planet reckons with: death. Though it isn’t that exciting musically, Eilish expresses incredible maturity when in her lyrics – wading through the inevitable grief of loss, but also taking strange comfort in this being humanity’s one universal experience. “And maybe, in a couple hundred years, they'll find another way/I just wonder why you'd wanna stay if everybody goes.”
18. “You Should See Me In A Crown”
No Billie Eilish song makes me miss being deep in a festival crowd like this one does.
The way Billie and Finneas subvert our expectations on “Hostage” gives it so much power. While building on delicate acoustic guitar, it’s the ear-rattling bass and the obsessive, intense lyrics that makes “Hostage” one of the most personally memorable tracks on her 2017 EP Don’t Smile At Me.
16. “Bury A Friend”
With monstrous production that rivals Kanye West’s Yeezus, “Bury A Friend” will forever be one of Eilish’s most signature works; purely because of how well it captures the themes of her debut album. It’s scary, frightening, dramatic and unsettling – stretching distorted screeches back and forth like elastic. When I visualise the album artwork for When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, with a seated Billie with whitened eyes and a haunting grimace, “Bury A Friend” is the song that comes to mind.
Don’t Smile At Me is in many ways the sonic precursor to When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, but to me the mesmerising taunts of “Copycat” are the clearest indicator that Eilish was on the cusp of a unique flavour of pop that – once perfected – would rule the world.
P.S. It is my opinion that the whisper of “psych” after a run of apologies makes for one of the single-best moments in Eilish’s discography.
14. “My Strange Addiction”
“My Strange Addiction” is the perfect example of how Eilish plays on our expectations of pop tropes, stretching and moulding to such extremes that it almost becomes anti-pop. It bounces along springy notes with a steady beat, but is violently sliced against the wincing guitar strings being played up and down and rattling bass that vibrates back and forth. Not to mention, the repeated samples from The Office help bridge mainstream pop culture to the distorted underworld she explores throughout her debut album.
If fans are going to find a problem with Happier Than Ever, it’s that far fewer songs have that heart-racing, uptempo impact that Eilish’s first album has. After four songs that wade gently along, “Oxytocin” comes in like a sex-filled tsunami. The bass rattles you right from the jump, as strobing synths jitter around Billie’s brooding voice throughout before building into a climax where she’s unleashing megaphone-amped screams akin to Crystal Castles or Azealia Banks.
“Oxytocin” is a fever dream eruption that sounds like it was as cathartic for Billie to release as it is for us to hear.
12. “Therefore I Am”
As far as a layman’s understanding of what a Billie Eilish song sounds like, “Therefore I Am” completely nails it. Being one of the only tracks I’ve heard from Happier Than Ever that even remotely resembles anything on its predecessor, the song struts with an unrelenting attitude and delicious wit. Coming after the intimacy of “My Future”, “Therefore I Am” serves as a reminder of what Billie Eilish can do with an uptempo, hip-hop friendly beat – just in case anyone somehow forgot.
11. “Bad Guy”
Like “Bellyache” and “Bury A Friend” before it, “Bad Guy” sees Billie Eilish taunt us in a never-ending game of catch me if you can. One of her most chart-friendly tracks to date – hitting #1 in over 15 countries including Australia and the US – Billie peaks around corners in the distance; a menacing smile twinkling in moonlight. “Bad Guy '' bangs, but never needs to prove it to you. It stalks, with a now iconic bassline waltzing with snaps and clicks, as Eilish dances around wildly flexing her strength and resilience. This will always prove a defining song in Eilish’s career and wider zillennial pop zeitgeist, and rightly so.
Note: The “duh” before that inescapable carnival-ready synth riff is just the venom-dipped cherry on top.
Like a drug you can’t get enough of, “Xanny” almost always requires a repeat listen. It crawls along the ground, slurred just behind where we expect it to, before throwing itself into body-shaking, cochlea-splintering bass. While a little preachy in parts, as if the “canned Coke” she’s fine with drinking isn’t also a detriment to health, her lyrics are so poignant and thunderous they’re impossible to ignore.
“Please don't try to kiss me on the sidewalk/On your cigarette break/I can't afford to love someone/Who isn't dying by mistake”
9. “My Future”
Billie Eilish doesn’t know what her future sounds like, though I certainly hope it is filled with as much jazz and optimism as this song. Eilish’s music pendulums between fantastical gore or sombre introspection, and “My Future” is a shimmering reminder that she’s got a whole lifetime ahead of her, and it’s probably going to be one worth living.
When the world looks back at Billie Eilish’s greatest musical achievements, “Bellyache” is often unjustly overlooked. The almost saloon-ready strumming of acoustic guitar as Eilish sings of literal murder is a juxtaposition Eilish would explore routinely in the years following “Bellyache”, and to great success. It’s maniacal and callous, but you can’t help but get caught up in the enthusiasm. The deep house drop in the chorus gives the song its necessary grit to remind you that she’s not serious, but she sings with such unapologetic conviction that you’d be wise to keep your distance anyway.
7. “Lovely (feat. Khalid)”
“Lovely” shines where songs like “Lo Vas a Olvidar” fails – Eilish’s ethereal voice blends seamlessly with Khalid’s, which is rich and smooth, over immersive orchestral production that snaps to silence just when it needs to. The contrast of the two voices, and the precise yet unlikely fusion of the two, offers for the most stunning duet of either of their careers.
6. “Your Power”
While “Your Power” wasn’t our first introduction to the new era of Billie Eilish, it certainly felt like it. The blonde hair, the luxe old-Hollywood aesthetic – for at least a moment, it felt like the undercutting edge of When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? had faded. Now, while we know now that that isn’t the truth, “Your Power” is a song that finds its strength in clarity, conciseness and its inability to be interpreted in any other way than what was intended.
Eilish has described the delicate, twinkling folk ballad as an “open letter” to those who wield their power to take advantage of others. It’s a post-Me Too call for respect, coming from a woman whose image has been very publicly dissected for over two years now. Her reverb-laden vocals drift along nothing but an acoustic guitar, as Eilish finds her power in silence. The empty spaces left in “Your Power” that her other songs have filled in pulls the listener in immediately and never lets go – exactly what a song like this should do.
5. “When The Party’s Over”
In an album where Eilish asks us to ponder what lies under our bed at night, “When The Party’s Over” is a rare moment where she turns the light on and stares at herself in the mirror. In the dark disquiet of the song’s stunning piano, Eilish ruminates on what makes her human – feelings of abandonment, loneliness and betrayal.
With muted hums and whispers throughout, “When The Party’s Over” might be one of the most immediately sincere songs Eilish has ever released. It has the same arresting ability as the work of Imogen Heap or Regina Spektor, but with a distinct twist that is uniquely Billie Eilish. It’s another example of Billie and Finneas understanding that space is just as important as sound in music, and they wield it to devastating effect on one of the most memorable pop ballads of recent years.
4. “Ocean Eyes”
It’s difficult to think that a song of this standard imbued with so much emotional intelligence came from a 14-year-old, but the audible youth in Billie Eilish’s voice in “Ocean Eyes” doesn’t detract from its undeniable excellence. The catapult into stardom Eilish seemed pre-ordained for, “Ocean Eyes” wades between subtlety and strength seamlessly. While the production is restrained and atmospheric – almost verging on ambient – the purity in Eilish’s voice remains cemented, and maybe the most beautiful it's ever sounded.
She sings of falling into her lover’s ocean eyes, and that’s exactly what this song feels like – a backwards skyrocket from towering heights, with anxiety slowing down everything around you. Its understated and heart wrenching, eliciting even more sympathy from the listener with the child-like pains of “No fair” at the opening of the chorus.
More importantly, “Ocean Eyes” has helped reshape the contemporary idea of what a pop ballad is. For years, we’ve seen Adele, Lana Del Rey and the like dominate the landscape with either inimitable vocal prowess or heavily orchestrated, melancholy production. Billie Eilish doesn’t necessarily execute “Ocean Eyes” with either of those attributes, yet continues to soar because of them.
Most of present day Billie Eilish’s music is written about her very singular life experience. It’s not meant to be relatable – there are only a handful of people as famous as Billie Eilish – but it still doesn’t alienate. While lots of these tracks, like “My Future” or “Your Power”, see Eilish quietly meditate on who she’s surrounded by or where she’s headed, “NDA” is an all-out onslaught of fiery emotion as she reckons with fame’s intense repercussions.
She sings of Forbes’ 30 under 30, making guys she wants to hook up with sign non-disclosure agreements and even her alleged stalker John Matthews Hearle. Terrifying harassment and benign legalities are things Eilish never wanted to deal with – of course – but she can’t exactly reconcile that with her success. Instead she wants to move past this point – “I thought about my future, but I want it now” – because it’s simply getting too much. This frustration bubbles in the song’s hushed verses with eerie guitar plucks, before erupting with whiplash, booming synths and the strained autotune of “You couldn’t save me but you can’t let me go”, with all-consuming bass shaking the song’s very skeleton.
“NDA” feels like Billie’s Carrie moment, where she simply can’t take the bullshit anymore and has now lost control. The chorus is unchecked and untempered, and is better off because of it.
2. "Happier Than Ever"
Until this year, it seemed like the song that would define Billie Eilish’s artistry and career had already been released. Whether it was the sombre and hopeless romanticism of “Ocean Eyes” or the eye-rolling taunts of “Bad Guy”, it felt like the foundations of her legacy were already established; anything more would just be building on to it. Basically, the public knew what they were getting when they listened to a Billie Eilish song.
And then came “Happier Than Ever”.
The title track from Billie’s second album opens predictably enough. She whips out the ukulele, and sings forlornly of how she’s falling out of love inexplicably – or so she thinks. Throughout the song’s verses, she slowly divulges a bunch of reasons as to why she’s happier without her ex – rapper 7:AMP, or Brandon Quention Adams. According to her, he was unreliable, unaccountable and even scary with his actions, such as drunk driving.
When Billie starts singing about a call she had with her ex while they were intoxicated behind the wheel, the ukulele is thrown to the side making way for bubbling guitar strums. With each line, she gets angrier – “You scared me to death, but I'm wastin' my breath/‘Cause you only listen to your fuckin' friends” – and the guitars build and, eventually, erupt.
It was the volcanic outpour of anger and emotion I was yearning for throughout the album’s first fourteen tracks, and Billie Eilish finally delivers it. In absolute catharsis assisted by stadium-ready, crunchy punk rock, Eilish breaks herself of all restraints – those put on her by her ex, her audience and herself. She sings her barbed lines with such ferocity – “Never told anyone anything bad/'Cause that shit's embarrassing, you were my everything/And all that you did was make me fuckin' sad” – that might surprise the average fan. Her fury pulses through every word so powerfully that you start to feel it with her. You want to pull your hair out. You want to break shit.
She’s not using creepy fantasies or the fabled experiences of celebrity to get her message across – she is throbbing with rage and that’s it. The song’s closing moments are back with Eilish’s actual screams as she belts out an all-encompassing final line: “Just fuckin' leave me alone.”
So much of Eilish’s public life has been defined by others. What others have to say about her image, her age, her art. That final scream might be in relation to a shitty ex, but those chains translate to almost every avenue of her public life. Eilish’s obscene level of fame will never be relatable, but her uncharacteristic snapping at the end of “Happier Than Ever” is a perfect and necessary reminder that she’s human.
1. “Everything I Wanted”
As Eilish existed in the terrifying state of flux between albums one and two, she was in a strange position. No one could have ever predicted the horrorcore electronic escapade of When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? would become such a juggernaut on the charts and with critics. 2019 was Billie Eilish’s year.
The Grammys that she’d eventually sweep were still ahead of her, as well as a global pandemic that would shut down any plans she had to give the album a world tour it deserved, but the cycle of her debut album was drawing to its inevitable close. At 18 years old, Eilish achieved world domination, but what was the next step? Does she try and build on the hype around the sound she made for herself? Does she rehash similar concepts that appear on the album in an effort to maintain relevance? Once you’ve conquered the world, where else is there to go?
Eilish did none of that, but instead delivered her most reflective, most insightful, most beautiful and ultimately her best song to date.
“Everything I Wanted” will never appear on a Billie Eilish album, and that’s the way it should be. It’s an ode to not only the relationship she shares with her brother Finneas, and the success they’ve culminated for themselves, but also to the fears she has about her future.
The minimalist house and electronica-tinged production coupled with the down-tempo bassline make for an ominous listen, but not in the overt and even gimmicky way of Eilish’s debut album. “Everything I Wanted” stalks and haunts, as Eilish sings of her appreciation of Finneas’ protection, and their unbreakable bond, while also meditating on her newfound, and widespread, fame – a concept she would explore repeatedly over the coming years.
“Everything I Wanted” exists in two worlds. At once, it’s a time capsule of a point in Eilish’s life she’ll never re-experience, living with a unique and powerful combination of elation and anxiety. On the other hand, the song is a celebration of the pair’s eternal bond, something that will outlast both of their success, fame and even legacies.
If we ever see the downfall of Billie Eilish, as unlikely as that may seem, it’s certain that Finneas will be going down with her – and they wouldn’t have it any other way.