Billie Eilish—whose full, given name is Billie Eilish Pirate Baird O’Connell—is 17 and famous.
At the tender age of 8, this homeschooled Los Angeles native was singing in the Los Angeles Children’s Choir. She started penning her own tunes when she was 11. In 2015, Eilish recorded the song “Ocean Eyes,” and in 2016 the song was released on SoundCloud. A year later, she released her EP, Don’t Smile at Me. From there her music has been featured on various shows, such as the problematic-but-popular 13 Reasons Why.
Eilish’s latest song, “When the Party’s Over,” is reminiscent of New Zealand’s Lorde, filled with raspy vocals and a light touch that sets her right outside of a set genre box. Some may say she’s pop, while others might argue otherwise. But whatever is said about her style, it is clear that her musical talent runs deep and that her voice is ethereal—especially on this latest single about a defective relationship and the end of a party.
Eilish wants to be rid of a damaged relationship, no matter how hard it may be to let it go: “Don’t you know I’m no good for you/I’ve learned to lose you, can’t afford to.” She’s done everything she could to mend the broken connection, but it can’t be salvaged: “Tore my shirt to stop you bleedin’/But nothin’ ever stops you leavin’.”
Eilish believes that if the two stay together, things will just get worse (“I’ll only hurt you if you let me”). For his part, he’s the jealous and possessive type, which is why she tells him, “I’ll call you when the party’s over.”
But when she leaves the party, loneliness sets in (“Quiet when I’m coming home, and I’m on my own/And I could lie, say I like it like that, like it like that”). Still, even loneliness is better than holding on to something that is not meant to be (“But nothing is better sometimes”), so she asks, “Once we’ve both said our goodbyes/Let’s just let it go/Let me let you go.”
This song is achingly beautiful. There is an incredibly sad tone to it (which Eilish says was not her intention), a melancholy vibe that’s amplified—and almost horrifically so—by the accompanying video.
The video pans in on a glass filled with a black substance that sits in a sterile white room, on a stark white table. Eilish sits, also dressed in white, staring at the glass, contemplating whether or not she should drink what’s inside.
Slowly, hesitantly, Eilish brings the glass to her lips and drinks the dark liquid until it is completely gone. As if poisoned by the drink, she slightly convulses. Then, as she sings, the liquid—looking like black blood—seeps from her eyes as painful, morbid tears.
As a young girl growing up in Los Angeles, in a family who had dipped their toes into the entertainment world, it’s not hard to see how Billie Eilish has created a name for herself. But she didn’t really plan on being famous. (Or so she says.)
In an interview with Tom Powers on Q on CBC, Eilish makes it clear that she just wants to make music, whenever, wherever. When asked about her musical direction, she said, “I just want to make exactly what I want to make, when I want to make it.”
No lines. No boundaries. No genres.
“When the Party’s Over” indeed feels like a song that Eilish has crafted on her own terms. And she is talented, there’s no denying that. When she opens her mouth, a beautiful, haunting sound emerges.
As for the message in this breakthrough hit, it swirls around themes that are dark and lonely, hinting at a longing for love that has been shattered by the harsh reality of dysfunction and disappointment.
Kristin Smith joined the Plugged In team in 2017. Formerly a Spanish and English teacher, Kristin loves reading literature and eating authentic Mexican tacos. She and her husband, Eddy, love raising their children Judah and Selah. Kristin also has a deep affection for coffee, music, her dog (Cali) and cat (Aslan).