The 20 Best Billie Eilish Songs
Few artists in the past decade have changed the pop landscape like Billie — and here are the highlights from her already-historic run
Over just three releases, Billie Eilish has blazed a new path in pop music that so many others are already following. Sometimes dark and ambient, other times classically jazzy, she’s a tour de force of doing whatever the hell you want while still keeping it catchy. Her second studio album, Happier Than Ever, proved how capable she was maturing her music (which she makes with co-writer, producer, and big brother Finneas) without losing sight of who she is at her core.
Now, to celebrate the start of her massive Happier Than Ever tour, we’ve ranked the 20 best Billie Eilish songs.
20 'Male Fantasy'
Billie Eilish had a few things to prove on her second album, Happier Than Ever: “That I can sing,” she said. “That I’m a woman. That I have a personality.” She makes all these points loud and clear in “Male Fantasy,” the final song. Eilish starts by critiquing porn (“I can’t stand the dialogue”) over country-style acoustic guitar. But then she starts remembering friends and lovers from her past, the ones she can’t get out of her head, wondering how much of her own life is just fantasy. It’s a song that sneaks up and destroys you emotionally — just her specialty.
19 'I Love You'
A beautiful meditation on confusion, Billie Eilish attempts to make sense of someone telling her that they love her when she doesn’t want to hear it — and, complicating things further, she loves that person back when she doesn’t want to. The song is especially moving thanks to Finneas’ sparse arrangement — just some Nick Drake-style acoustic guitar and keyboards — and Eilish’s breathy, sorrowful vocals. She drew inspiration from songs by Phoebe Bridgers, Sufjan Stevens, and, improbably, XXXtentacion and Post Malone for the tune, but it sounds wholly Eilish as the melody rises and falls like alternating hope and disappointment.
18 'Lovely' (with Khalid)
Billie Eilish and Khalid both rose to success as mumbly voiced high-school-age kids who made their little corners of teenage wasteland feel like bold new undiscovered countries. So this duet from the soundtrack for the second season of 13 Reasons Why, a hymn to the happy-sad feeling of owning your own depression, made plenty of sense. Khalid moans dolefully over Finneas’ forlorn piano and distressed string arrangements, and Eilish’s liberated high notes that flutter arrestingly above the gorgeously grim musical landscape.
17 'Therefore I Am'
Not long after this slime-haired prodigy swept the 2020 Grammys, she resurfaced in an empty shopping mall, where a camera follows her all the way to Chipotle. Stars, they really are just like us. That’s what happens in the video Eilish self-directed for “Therefore I Am,” a song that doubles as her raison d’être now that the whole world was paying attention to her. The verses jockey between hypno-pop and ASMR-rap. Like many of Eilish and Finneas’ best work, the song feels off-the-cuff, like a voice memo they got right on the first try.
The bleary distortion that opens “NDA” sets the tone: This is a song about life as a disconnected blur of new-fame isolation. At a time when most people her age are enjoying the first fruits of early-twenties freedom, pop superstar Billie Eilish is stuck with a new mansion that feels like a tomb; when she gets a boy back, she has to make him sign an NDA. “Maybe I should think about a new career,” she muses. The tensely humming track, with its water-torture string plucks and meat-cleaver snare thwumps, amps up the sense of claustrophobic desperation, as Eilish’s bleary voice tries to break through, hungering for the freedom she’s earned and deserves.
15 '&Burn' (feat. Vince Staples)
“I’ll sit and watch your car burn,” Eilish sings with the voice of a deranged cherub over crackling 808s. “&Burn” is a sparse revenge fantasy that became a standout on the expanded edition of the then-16-year-old’s debut EP, Don’t Smile at Me. Eilish has said that Vince Staples was her first choice to collaborate on the track, and it’s easy to hear why. Eilish can sound untethered, but Staples’ flow about evening scores drags her back down to face the fire she started.
14 'You Should See Me in a Crown'
The pop-culture-obsessed O’Connells were initially inspired by a line of dialogue in Sherlock when it came to their doomy, pump-up hit “You Should See Me in a Crown” — that and the sound their father made when he was sharpening knives in the kitchen one day. The song is a prime example of how Eilish and Finneas plumb every aspect of their lives for inspiration, from the mundane to the theatrical, to great effect. “I just want it to sound like, if you heard it in a dark room, it’d be fucking scary,” Eilish told Billboard of the track. So terrifying … but that’s the goal, to freak everybody out.”
13 'My Strange Addiction'
Only Billie Eilish could name a song after a show in which people eat glass and compulsively collect dolls, throw in some dialogue from The Office, and somehow come out with a dark, sexy tune about romantic obsession. “My Strange Addiction” riffs off of a very meta 2011 episode of the sitcom titled Threat Level Midnight, about a fictional secret agent named Michael Scarn played by Michael Scott played by Steve Carell. There’s also dancing for some reason. “When we made the beat for ‘My Strange Addiction,’ it reminded me of the song they play when they do the Scarn dance,” Eilish told MTV News. “I thought that was really funny, so we literally just ripped the audio from Netflix and put it in the song.”
12 'My Boy'
In the words of Tina Turner, Billie Eilish and her brother Finneas never ever do things nice and easy. They always do it nice — and rough. “My Boy,” an early track from her 2017 debut, Don’t Smile at Me, starts off like that: jazzy and bitchy, 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”). But when the tempo picks up after the first verse, so do the teeth.
11 'Getting Older'
“I had to take a break in the middle of writing that one,” Eilish said about “Getting Older.” “And I wanted to cry because it was so revealing. And it’s just the truth.” It’s the powerful opening song on Happier Than Ever, where Eilish takes stock of the emotional damage of fame. She murmurs over the minimal electro pulse, confessing, “Things I once enjoyed/Just keep me employed now.” (It’s like how Nirvana kicked off In Utero with the line, “Teenage angst has paid off well/Now I’m bored and old.”) But she faces up to her past trauma, saying, “Wasn’t my choice to be abused.”
10 'Everything I Wanted'
“Everything I Wanted’ was penned in 2018, inspired by a severe bout of depression and dreams of jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. “The whole dream was me watching how everything went after I’d died,” she told Song Exploder. “I remember in the dream there were newspapers that said, ‘Problematic 16-year-old Billie Eilish has finally killed herself.’ And my best friends were doing an interview and they were like, ‘Oh, we never really liked her.’” Initially mired in the darkness, the song eventually became a celebration of her and Finneas’ bond and how their togetherness has helped keep her afloat. The song went on to take home Record of the Year at the 2021 Grammy Awards.
9 'Bury a Friend'
“But we knew right from the start/That you’d fall apart ’cause I’m too expensive,” Eilish declares, making you pity the fool she was dispensing with, even as you were thrilled to her arrogant freedom. “Bury a Friend” walked the finest of fine lines between terror and intimacy, fusing subterranean industrial rumble, razor-eyed goth-jazz swing, predatory mumble, and the ecstatic wooziness of a teen-pop dream coming into searing focus. When her voice suddenly slips into a Billie Holiday blues purr, the tension between the modern and ancient is almost disconcerting, suggesting an artist ready to diabolically twist the entire history of pop music into her helpless play thing.
Has there ever been a sweeter sounding description of a bloody massacre? On “Bellyache,” a teenaged Eilish imagines the guilt she’d feel after murdering her friends over an upbeat acoustic guitar line and even some lite-trap rhythms. “[It’s about] getting a bellyache 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 shortly after the song came out. “We kind of just became this character that knows they’re out of their mind, but also doesn’t at the same time.”
7 'Ocean Eyes'
Her first song took off for a good reason: “Ocean Eyes” is a sublime teaser of how evocative Eilish’s music would become. Finneas wrote the song originally for his band before giving it to his then-13-year-old sister to sing for her dance recital. The song eventually took off on SoundCloud, helping Eilish secure a recording contract. While the Eilish-penned songs that soon followed offered a window into a darker vision of pop, Finneas was right in realizing that his dream-pop ballad was a perfect fit for his little sister’s still-developing musical sensibilities.
6 'My Future'
Billie blew listeners away with “My Future,” a jazzy electronic torch song that shows off how much her voice has toughened between albums. But it’s a special kind of love song — Billie vows she’s not falling in love with anyone but herself. “I’m in love with my future,” she sings. “Can’t wait to meet her.” She and Finneas wrote “My Future” in just a couple of days, sunk in the quarantine blues. She revels in her solitude, both the pleasures and challenges. But instead of feeling lonely, she tries to look in the mirror and get to know that woman better.
5 'When the Party’s Over'
“When the Party’s Over” is the ultimate hymnal in the Church of Billie, where you get to genuflect on the delicate layers of her voice and mournful piano. The When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? track doubles as one of her greatest vocal performances and a songwriting highlight for Finneas, a breakup ballad that’s as gorgeous as it is dramatic. Case in point: It plays in the Season Three finale of Riverdale.
On this slinky little techno bop, Eilish pays tribute to the hormone released during sex and childbirth, wondering coyly “What would people say … if they listen through the wall?” The dark and clubby track evokes Nine Inch Nails and Crystal Castles, letting the singer fly her freak flag. “Honestly, the images I have for ‘Oxytocin’ were just sex,” she told The Guardian. “That’s it. All different kinds, and styles, and colors, and locations. That’s really what was in my head. Sex.”
3 'Your Power'
It starts inconspicuously enough, with some campfire strumming and a simple, seven-note melody. Then Billie descends. Doubling the acoustic guitar in a voice so high, so pure, so otherworldly, and so completely, unbearably, impossibly sad, she puts you on the cusp of tears before the first chorus is through. That’s when she slips in the stiletto. “How dare you? And how could you?” she asks. “I thought that I was special. You made me feel like it was my fault you were the devil.” It’s a brutal accusation, coming from an angel’s throat.
2 'Bad Guy'
Once in a generation, a great artist comes out of nowhere to step up to the microphone, and declare, “Duuuuh!” “Bad Guy” was the hit that introduced Billie Eilish to the world, a self-proclaimed “annoying 16-year-old” who turned out to be a genius singer and songwriter. She half-whispers, half-threatens her manifesto: “I’m the bad type, make your mama sad type/Make your girlfriend mad type/Might seduce your dad type.” But she refuses to tone down any of her essential weirdness — she even begins by taking out her Invisalign. “Bad Guy” was the perfect breakthrough hit for Billie: She demands that you pay attention, but demands that you do it on her terms. Because she’s the bad guy. Duh.
1 'Happier Than Ever'
The title track of Eilish’s sophomore album comes in like a lamb and goes out like a whole pack of lions. Inspired by the Beatles’ “A Day in the Life,” “Happier Than Ever” is split into two very different halves. The first two and a half minutes are a folky, emo ballad where she reflects on how much happier she is without a neglectful partner. By the back half, she’s gone electric, screaming at the top of her lungs “I’d never treat me this shitty/You made me hate the city.” It’s pure angst and a departure for the usually cool-headed singer-songwriter, now flexing some of that Green Day fandom that molded her early taste in music.
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