Write a Song Like… Billie Eilish

Billie Eilish and Finneas have made a reputation of creating music that is a little different. They have influenced an entire generation of songwriters with a unique style of writing, singing and production. Here are a few key things that recur in Billie Eilish songs that you may want to try.

Surprising lyrics

Even if you have only heard one song of hers, this is the most clear characteristic of her songs. Eilish will use very shocking/dark imagery in her lyrics or actions we wouldn’t do (ex. “bury a friend”). 

Another way she does this is by setting up a section with very normal lyrics and throwing in one odd line. Look at “party favor”:

“Stay” and “blah blah blah”
You just want what you can’t have
No way
I’ll call the cops
If you don’t stop, I’ll call your dad

It seems very “normal” until she starts talking about calling the cops.

Twist song titles

Eilish also likes to twist the meanings of her song titles. In “wish you were gay”, without context we would expect that she wishes someone would fall for her. Instead, we listen to the song and understand that her romantic interest didn’t share her feelings, but she wished they were gay instead of the painful reality of her rejection.

Elongating notes

In nearly every song, Eilish elongates the vowels of some notes, usually on a slightly higher note, and slides down. It is a subtle part of her melodies that create the more melancholy emotions.

Chorus leads to a hook

Many of her choruses have their own patterns, but the hook line (usually the line with her song title) is tagged onto the last part of her Chorus. Listen to “idontwannabeyouanymore”:

If teardrops could be bottled
There’d be swimming pools filled by models
Told, “A tight dress is what makes you a whore”
If “I love you” was a promise
Would you break it, if you’re honest?
Tell the mirror what you know she’s heard before
I don’t wanna be you anymore

You can hear that the title of the song isn’t quite part of her Chorus melodic pattern, which actually highlights the last line as the hook.

Fragments

A common songwriting tool that Eilish uses for her darker songs is using sentence fragments rather than through-written lines. This creates both a sense of imbalance and leaves room for her to describe more dramatic imagery without providing too much context.

Changes in melodic rhythm

Like many songs these days, Eilish doesn’t always change the register and give us the big Chorus. Instead, she often stays in the same vocal range in the entire song and changes her melodic rhythm. The melodies are often very different as well, but the most stark change tends to be her rhythm.


Using the tools

No one should copy other writers exactly (plagiarism is not encouraged!). When your song is calling for something a little darker or surprising, try using some of the tools from a Billie Eilish song.

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