Friday, November 27, 2020

Billie Eilish – Therefore I am - Single Review

Ever tried using the philosophy of Descartes to poke fun at the toxic people in your life? Well, then you and Billie Eilish have something in common.

After setting the bar high back in July with new single ‘My Future’, which provided melancholy yet optimistic musings on isolation, self-acceptance and the hope for a better tomorrow, Eilish’s subsequent single had a lot to live up to.

In this tongue-in-cheek track that many fans have interpreted as Billie “clapping back at her haters”, ‘Therefore I am’ replaces the poignancy and musical depth of its predecessor with sharp wit and playful sarcasm. Eilish seems to have a smile playing on her lips throughout the song, her words sometimes making way for laughter as she mocks the subject of her lyrics.

‘Therefore I am’ stands apart from more sinister-sounding past hits like ‘COPYCAT’ or ‘you should see me in a crown’ due its more light-hearted, “don’t take this too seriously” vibe. The song features a few Eilish-isms that we’ve come to expect, including layered vocals and the trademark distortion, but it also packs less bite and more of a smirk than her previous tracks. The spoken verses sound conversational, the bassline is catchy but unobtrusive and there’s a sense of the music leaning away from sounding too sincere or emotionally weighty.

But the lyrics are really what make this song as good as it is. René Descartes once declared that mankind’s capacity for thought is proof of our existence with three words: “Cogito, ergo sum”. In ‘Therefore I am’, Eilish turns this idea on its head. The singer insinuates that, while the song’s subject might think of himself as “the man”, that doesn’t make it so (or at least, not in the eyes of everyone else). She reiterates her point in the following verse with the lyric, “Top of the world, but your world isn’t real. Your world’s an ideal.” Way to bring someone down a peg.

The specificity of some of Eilish’s lyrics will leave fans wondering whether the single is aimed at anyone in particular, or if it’s just a general eye roll at the many fake friends, publicity chasers and hangers-on that the young star will have likely come into contact with throughout her career. Billie has publicly stated that she wants people to form their own interpretations, but it’s difficult to ignore theories that say she is specifically targeting the body shamers and trolls that have been giving her a hard time over this past year. This rings particularly true when you pair the single with its accompanying music video, which sees Eilish strolling through a shopping mall, grabbing fast food as she goes with carefree abandon.

Eilish’s lyrics suggest that, while the song’s subject might think of himself as ‘the man’ and as deserving of her constant attention, he is actually just an irrelevant spec on the young singer’s radar. The bridge sums up this notion perfectly, with Billie chuckling as, with mock innocence she asks: ‘I’m sorry. I don’t think I caught your name?’ If you were wondering what ultimate shade in musical form sounds like, there it is.

So, love her or hate her, one thing is clear from Billie Eilish’s new single: she knows her worth and she doesn’t really give a damn what you think. 

- Hannah McGreevy


 CREDIT: Kenneth Cappello

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