Saturday, August 15th, 2020

Billie Eilish – My Future

Future/nostalgia…


[Video][Website]
[7.40]

Alfred Soto: “I’m in love with my future” — what a hopeful, apt line, and, in these times, poignant. How much massaging Finneas O’Connell had to apply to his sister’s vocal to get this blue morning of a performance, but the electric piano and programmed shuffle suit it. Has Billie Eilish been listening to Julee Cruise in this imagined future?
[7]

Katherine St Asaph: I hated this at first, and cursed whatever hypothetical boomers okayed this pivot to Real Music, dressed in dusty rose maxi-length mothballed lace and reluctantly shoved onto the Grammys with, I don’t know, Burt Bacharach. But I believe in Billie Eilish, which means I believe in her making music on her own terms. (Those who think, dismissively or moral-panickingly, that it’s mostly Finneas are advised to listen to his solo music and compare.) And taken on those terms, “My Future” is indeed something special. The beginning is a shockingly well-executed old-Hollywood fantasia, tense with noirish world-weariness and suppressed hope that — absolutely crucially — is delivered mostly in subtext and vocal styling. Then enters a beat that, while not necessary really, has the sort of ’90s coffeeshop, neo-soul, rainy Sunday-afternoon feel that’s reliably blissful and evokes all sorts of unexpected associations. I hear Mya at her airiest, Corinne Bailey Rae in her actually interesting phase, and even Nicola Hitchcock — Billie’s voice could even be a loose alto version of her signature quaver.
[7]

Thomas Inskeep: The first 1:40 is gorgeous and surprising — more Billie Holiday than Eilish, in terms of mood — and then she spends the next 1:20 singing against atmospherics (of course) and a crisp snare, before slowing it down again for the song’s end. I wasn’t a big fan of her debut album. I’m a big fan of this, because it sounds like, well, her future — and maybe pop’s, too.
[8]

Katie Gill: Is this a goodbye single? Or a looking-forward single? Is this one song or two? I’ve criticized Eilish in the past for having her songs sound like multiple songs awkwardly Frankensteined together but this still feels like the same song when the beat kicks in, even though it changes the tone DRASTICALLY. That shift back to a soulful ballad style at the end probably helps. I’ve been ambivalent about Billie Eilish at best, but this song is ambivalent in an interesting way. Are the vocals deliberately sleep-like or just a product of Eilish’s naturally lethargic singing voice? How much Steven Universe did she and Finneas listen to before writing this? The only thing I’m certain about with regards to this song is that we should all breathe a sigh of relief it came out when all the coffeeshops were closed, because it couldn’t have “hey white girls, you should make a ukelele cover of this” written on it in bigger, bolder letters.
[7]

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: The interesting thing about “My Future” is less any particular detail of the arrangement or lyric (although the rhythm guitar is very nice) and more Eilish’s attitude towards the song as a whole. It’d be easy to play a “sophisticated” song like this entirely straight or entirely ironic, but Eilish instead embraces the liminality of her mood, leaving more question marks in her interpretation than periods.
[7]

Tobi Tella: For someone who made a brand off of darkness, the reversal halfway through packs perhaps an even bigger gut punch than more balladry would. I don’t think either side of the fence is supremely interesting production-wise, but the more I listen, the more I think this was a necessary song to release, especially for detractors who take artists’ willingness to share and vulnerability for granted.
[7]

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: Billie Eillish, queen of the melancholy and macabre, just released a song about loving the world and the future in the middle of a global pandemic that has everyone depressed? Never say 2020 was short on surprises. “My Future,” of course, is lovely, a showcase of Billie’s gorgeous voice, and an oasis of comfort in a world on fire. 
[7]

Joshua Minsoo Kim: Billie Eilish spoils the surprise of the chorus: after spending the verses reflecting on unrequited love, she reveals that who she now loves is herself, her future. But this lack of grand reveal is the point — she’s already had this revelation, she’s just singing it back to herself to summon strength in solitude. Still, the introduction of a midtempo beat is unexpected: for an artist whose work has largely been defined by delightfully soporific and decidedly somber ballads, Eilish seems like a new person when she remains hopeful. As she pines, “Can’t wait to meet her,” she’s delivering a kiss-off to a former lover, but also anticipating her continued growth. And given its release during the midst of quarantine, “My Future” channels the giddiness of wanting to meet a lover in person, and the confidence of someone who’ll come out of this pandemic even stronger. The aforementioned line gets replaced with another in a future chorus: “And you don’t know her.” It’s short but poignant: who knows what we’ll look like once this is all over, but curiosity for who we can be is enough to keep us going.
[6]

Scott Mildenhall: Like discovering aphantasia, hearing about people who conceive of their future can be eye-opening. Having that sense of a successive self and place in the world is an issue of class, generation and culture — metaphysical even — and it is, of course, a none-more interesting time to make a song exploring it, or at least fiddling around with it. Billie Eilish rhapsodising about her future is thus quite a jolt, and could uncharitably be deemed to be the product of privilege, but for as solipsistic as it may be, “My Future” is wonderfully, invitingly intimate and warm. For all those who do not, or no longer feel able to consider their future, it could be a comfort; perhaps even the “Wear Sunscreen” of a summer in which the class get no speech, but instead their lives summarily trampled on.
[8]

Kylo Nocom: I used to gush about Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams,” how I listened to it on repeat on a nighttime field trip ride to D.C. while my friends were asleep and I got to see snow for the first time in my life as the sun came out. Now, it’s just a great song. I may still love it, but the experiences I’ve had have long passed, and all the possibilities that came with it have faded. So maybe Billie Eilish’s “My Future” will not be the gorgeous ballad I think of fondly as the gateway to where my current future lies, a song that mystified me for hours as my sister drove me and my family to my college town in the middle of the night while I was the most anxious I’d been in months. I might look back cynically, wondering how I ever let myself feel so vulnerable to pop music at a time when the mainstream industry has disillusioned me for months on end. The song might not even sound good to me come New Year’s. But for now it has been unspeakably magical: a teen idol whose grasp of adolescent angst has been wonderful but never heart-wrenching to me, finally catching up to the exact moment in time I’m in. Never mind that it’s a career ode, stylistic shift, and “quarantine anthem” all at once; never mind that it’s bedroom-soul in a pop environment rife with alternatives. I haven’t cared this much about a song in forever, and neither has a song seemed to care so much for my own recovery.
[10]

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