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Few musicians in the last decade have had as an impact on the pop scene as Billie — and here are some of the best from her already historic career.
Billie Eilish has pioneered a new route in pop music with only three recordings, and many others are already following suit. She’s a tour de force of doing whatever the heck you want while yet making music catchy, sometimes dark and ambient, other times classically jazzy. Her sophomore studio album, Happier Than Ever , shown her ability to mature her music (created with co-writer, producer, and elder brother Finneas) without losing sight of who she is at her heart.
Now, to celebrate the start of her massive Happier Than Ever We’ve selected the top 20 Billie Eilish songs.
On her second album, Billie Eilish had a few things to prove. Happier Than Ever “That I can sing,” she told Brittany Spanos of Rolling Stone. “I am a woman.” That I have a distinct personality.” In the last song, “Male Fantasy,” she emphasizes all of these ideas. Over country-style acoustic guitar, Eilish begins by criticizing porn (“I can’t stand the dialogue”). But then she begins recalling old acquaintances and lovers, the ones she can’t get out of her brain, and she wonders how much of her own life is a fiction. It’s the kind of music that creeps up on you and emotionally wrecks you – it’s her expertise. —R.S.
Billie Eilish’s exquisite meditation on bewilderment seeks to make sense of someone telling her that they love her when she doesn’t want to hear it — and, to complicate matters even more, she loves that person back when she doesn’t want to. Finneas’ modest arrangement — simply some Nick Drake-style acoustic guitar and synths — and Eilish’s breathy, mournful vocals make the song extremely affecting. For the song, she took influence from Phoebe Bridgers, Sufjan Stevens, and, surprisingly, XXXtentacion and Post Malone, but it sounds entirely Eilish as the melody rises and falls like alternating optimism and disappointment. —K.G.
Billie Eilish and Khalid both emerged to prominence as mumbled-voiced high-schoolers who transformed their adolescent desolation into daring new unexplored nations. So this duet from 13 Reasons Why’s second season soundtrack, an ode to the happy-sad sensation of embracing your own sadness, made perfect sense. Over Finneas’ desolate piano and troubled string arrangements, and Eilish’s emancipated high notes that flutter arrestingly above the magnificently bleak musical environment, Khalid groans dolorously. —J.D.
Not long after sweeping the 2020 Grammys, this slime-haired prodigy reappears at an empty shopping mall, where a camera follows her all the way to Chipotle. Stars are actually just like us. That’s what occurs in Eilish’s self-directed video for “Therefore I Am,” a song that serves as her raison d’être now that the whole world is watching her. The lyrics alternate between hypno-pop and ASMR-rap. The song, like most of Eilish and Finneas’ greatest work, seems spontaneous, like a voice message they received straight away. —S.G.
“NDA” begins with a blurry distortion that establishes the tone: this is a song about life as a disconnected blur of new-fame loneliness. At a time when most people her age are enjoying the first fruits of early-twenties independence, pop diva Billie Eilish is trapped with a new house that seems like a mausoleum; and if she wants to get a guy back, she needs to have him sign an NDA. “Perhaps I should consider a new career,” she contemplates. With its water-torture string plucks and meat-cleaver snare thwumps, the tensely humming tune heightens the impression of claustrophobic desperation as Eilish’s drowsy voice strains to burst through, hungering for the freedom she’s earned and deserves. —J.D.
‘&Burn’ (feat. Vince Staples)
“I’ll sit and watch your car burn,” Eilish screams over crackling 808s with the voice of a disturbed cherub. The austere vengeance fantasy “&Burn” was a highlight on the enlarged version of the then-16-year-old’s first EP, Don’t Smile at Me. Eilish has said that Vince Staples was her first choice for the track’s collaboration, and it’s simple to see why. Staples’ flow about evening scores brings Eilish back down to confront the fire she unleashed. —S.G.
‘You Should See Me in a Crown’
while it came to their doomy, pump-up smash “You Should See Me in a Crown,” the pop-culture-obsessed O’Connells were first inspired by a piece of dialogue in Sherlock — that, and the sound their father made while he was sharpening knives in the kitchen one day. The song exemplifies how Eilish and Finneas draw inspiration from all aspects of their life, from the commonplace to the spectacular, to great effect. “I just want it to sound like it’d be fucking scary if you heard it in a dark room,” Eilish said of the music. So terrible… yet that’s the purpose, to scare everyone.” —B.E.
Only Billie Eilish could name a song after a program about individuals who eat glass and obsessively collect dolls, and then toss in some dialogue from the episode. The Office , and come up with a dark, seductive song about love passion. “My Strange Addiction” is based on a highly meta episode of the comedy Threat Level Midnight from 2011, about a fake secret agent called Michael Scarn, portrayed by Michael Scott, played by Steve Carell. For some reason, there is also dancing. “When we were working on the beat for ‘My Strange Addiction,’ it reminded me of the song they play when they do the Scarn dance,” Eilish said. MTV News . “I thought it was really funny, so we literally just ripped the audio from Netflix and put it in the song,” says the singer. —B.E.
Billie Eilish and her brother Finneas, in the words of Tina Turner, “never do things nice and easy.” They’re usually sweet — and tough. “My Boy,” from her 2017 debut, Don’t Smile at Me, begins similarly: jazzy and spiteful, like Anita O’Day in sweatpants (“My boy loves his friends like I love my split ends/And by that, I mean, he cuts ’em off”). However, as the speed increases following the first stanza, so do the fangs. —S.G.
“I had to stop writing that one in the middle,” Eilish remarked of “Getting Older.” “And it made me want to cry because it was so revealing.” And it’s just the truth.” It’s the album’s dramatic opening track, in which Eilish assesses the emotional toll of fame. “Things I once enjoyed/Just keep me employed now,” she whispers above the little electrical pulse. (It’s like Nirvana’s opening line of In Utero, “Teenage angst has paid off well/Now I’m bored and old.”) But she confronts her childhood trauma, adding, “It wasn’t my choice to be abused.” —R.S.
The song “Everything I Wanted” was written in 2018 in response to a severe attack of sadness and visions of leaping from the Golden Gate Bridge. “The entire dream was me watching how everything happened after I died,” she said. Song Exploder. “I remember seeing newspapers in my dream that said, ‘Problematic 16-year-old Billie Eilish has finally killed herself.'” And one of my closest friends was conducting an interview and said, “Oh, we never really liked her.” Initially buried in sadness, the song gradually evolved into a celebration of her and Finneas’ connection and how their friendship has kept her afloat. At the 2021 Grammy Awards, the song was named Record of the Year. —B.S.
“But we knew right from the start/That you’d fall apart ’cause I’m too expensive,” Eilish exclaims, making you pity the idiot she was ditching while reveling in her arrogant independence. “Bury a Friend” trod the narrow line between dread and intimacy, combining underground industrial rumbling, razor-eyed goth-jazz swing, predatory mumbling, and the blissful wooziness of a teen-pop fantasy bursting into scorching clarity. The contrast between the current and old is almost frightening when her voice suddenly slips into a Billie Holiday blues purr, implying an artist poised to diabolically twist the whole history of pop music into her helpless play thing. —J.D.
Is there a more romantic sounding account of a horrific massacre? Over an optimistic acoustic guitar line and even some lite-trap beats, an adolescent Eilish imagines the remorse she’d feel after killing her pals on “Bellyache.” “[It’s about] having a stomachache because you just killed a bunch of people, which you would if you just killed a bunch of people if you were human, but psychopaths don’t really have those feelings,” she said immediately after the song’s release. “We kind of just became this character who knows they’re insane but doesn’t realize it at the same time.” —K.G.
Her debut single was successful for a reason: “Ocean Eyes” is a wonderful preview of how captivating Eilish’s music would become. Finneas created the song for his band first, then gave it to his then-13-year-old sister to perform during her dance recital. The song ultimately became viral on SoundCloud, which helped Eilish land a recording deal. While the songs written by Eilish that followed provided a glimpse into a darker vision of pop, Finneas was correct in recognizing that his dream-pop ballad was a wonderful match for his younger sister’s still-developing musical tastes. —B.S.
Billie’s “My Future,” a jazzy techno torch tune that demonstrates how much her voice has hardened between albums, wowed audiences. except it’s a unique love song in that Billie swears she’s not falling in love with anybody except herself. She sings, “I’m in love with my future.” “I can hardly wait to meet her.” She and Finneas penned “My Future” in only a few days while stuck in quarantine. She enjoys her seclusion, both its pleasures and its trials. Instead of feeling lonely, she strives to get to know that lady better by looking in the mirror. —R.S.
“When the Party’s Over” is the final hymnal in Billie’s Church, where you may genuflect to her exquisite layers of voice and sorrowful piano. The When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? This breakup ballad is as beautiful as it is emotional, and it serves as one of her best vocal performances and a compositional peak for Finneas. As an example, it appears in the Season Three finale of . —A.M.
Eilish pays homage to the hormone produced during sex and delivery on this seductive little techno banger, coyly inquiring “What would they say… if they could hear through the wall?” The dark and clubby music is reminiscent of Nine Inch Nails and Crystal Castles, allowing the vocalist to flaunt her freak flag. “To be honest, the images I have for ‘Oxytocin’ were just sex,” she said. The Guardian . “That’s all there is to it. There are many types, styles, colors, and places. That’s exactly what I was thinking. Sex.” —B.S.
It begins quietly, with some campfire strumming and a basic seven-note melody. Then Billie appears. Doubling the acoustic guitar in a voice so high, pure, unearthly, and absolutely, terribly, impossibly sad, she has you in tears before the first chorus is through. That’s when she puts on her stilettos. “How could you? “How could you?” she wonders. “I thought I was unique.” You made it seem as though it was my fault that you were the devil.” It’s a scathing allegation from the mouth of an angel. —N.S.
Once in a generation, a great artist appears out of nowhere to take the stage and announce, “Duuuuh!” “Bad Guy” was the song that introduced the world to Billie Eilish, a self-described “annoying 16-year-old” who turned out to be a great singer and composer. “I’m the bad type, make your mama sad type/make your girlfriend mad type/might seduce your dad type,” she half-whispers, half-threatens her manifesto. But she refuses to tone down any of her basic quirkiness; in fact, she starts by removing her Invisalign. Billie’s breakout single, “Bad Guy,” was ideal: She expects you to pay attention, but only if you do it on her terms. Because she is the villain. Duh. —R.S.
The title track from Eilish’s second album begins like a lamb and ends like a swarm of lions. “Happier Than Ever,” inspired by the Beatles’ “A Day in the Life,” is divided into two distinct sections. The first two and a half minutes are a folky, emo song about how much happy she is without a neglected boyfriend. She’s gone electric by the second half, shouting at the top of her lungs, “I’d never treat me this shitty/You made me hate the city.” It’s pure anger and a departure for the typically level-headed singer-songwriter, who is now channeling some of the Green Day devotion that shaped her early musical tastes. —B.S.