Last month, a close friend who keeps an ear much closer to the pop ground asked me to listen to Billie Eilish’s new album. During a train ride, I perused the rotting garden that is the pop scene, and found a strange flower that seemed to be growing closer and closer to the center of the garden; something that had its own unique glow, or at least seemed to, in comparison to the suburban lawn hedges of Julia Michaels and her ilk of the droning and dull. This flower, upon closer inspection, is a venus flytrap; always smiling, always ready to eat you whole. This flytrap’s most recent album, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, is not a masterpiece, but it’s fertilizer for a far more enticing and engaging alternative scene.
Dark Pop, Bright Outfit
It wouldn’t be fair nor accurate to call Billie Eilish a revolutionary figure in the pop scene; the credit, in most capacities, goes to Lorde, for, without her, the world wouldn’t care in the slightest for the young, cynical, sardonic women of pop that came in the wake of Lorde’s groundbreaking first album; people like Tove Lo, Lana del Rey, Halsey, Melanie Martinez, and, now, Billie Eilish. While listening to her collection of pain pop, which was finally released in 2019, the work of an earlier pop witch played in my head. The work of Melanie Martinez is a vital stepping stone in reaching the same heights that Eilish has managed; similar dark production, similar vile humor, similar elements of horror. However, while Martinez’s strand of post-Lorde pop involves a very specific aesthetic of silicon-coated and forced smiles, forced innocence and the perversions thereof; while Eilish’s strand feels somehow more personal and painful, even existential. And with that, it’s time to talk about bury a friend.
Melanie Martinez Made It Possible
The song’s a production line; a figure, an inquirer, being lead down a single track, looking left and right into the blackness around her and asking sincere questions of connection and honesty; before being hidden, blindfolded, gagged and beaten with the world’s new response: the ‘cannibal class’ of a grinning apathy that’s formatted to hurt and assault those who ask anything at all. The lights turn on. ‘I wanna end me’. There’s screaming in the background; then the production peaks; and there’s a devil in the foreground. There are criticisms of stardom and networking that are a flippant denial of fame. bury a friend, as well as when the party’s over, are, to me, the most emotionally affected and emotionally affecting songs on the album; these shining pieces of Eilish’s own pain pop. Frankly, I’m just glad she’s making music. Whenever I hear songs at my retail job and hear all the boring, meaningless, droning pieces of heartless, brainless garbage, I hear Eilish’s work, and imagine her music coming through those thrift shop speakers, and imagining that little would be different in the end; it’s still pop, it’s just not boring.