Tuesday, June 15th, 2021

Billie Eilish – Lost Cause

Faltering as we reach single number four in the new-album cycle…


Harlan Talib Ockey: Now, I only have one earbud in, right? Once I grab the other one, I’ll hear something other than withered bass-subservient production, limp vocals, and… oh no.

Austin Nguyen: A decent SoundCloud demo that attempts not-so-decently to upcycle parts of Billie Eilish’s actual SoundCloud-era output: “My Boy” eye-rolled bitterness without the arch wryness, “Idontwannabeyouanymore” dead space filled with scats, “Ocean Eyes” mellowness laid back to a fault with pockets of whisper-rushed reverb. How any of this should amount to some “7/11”-adjacent music video escapes me — the bass shudders like it’s in a library, not an LA-mansion party, and when the synths come in trying to compensate, it’s too late. If the intention were understated confidence, the delivery comes off as mere crepitation: all noise, as if “You Should See Me in a Crown” were centered around a cicada.

Dorian Sinclair: You know when karaoke tracks bill themselves as being “[song] by [band you’ve never heard of] in the style of [the actual artist you know]”? Generally, this heralds that you’re going to get some very thin and dodgy production that just sort of loosely approximates what the original song sounded like. For those karaoke tracks, I assume it’s about resources, and the company not being able to afford rights to the original mix stems. Since this is presumably not a problem for Finneas and Billie Eilish, I have no explanation for why “Lost Cause” sounds as empty as it does. Eilish’s lassitude doesn’t help — normally she rides the line of “disaffected but engaging” well, but here she just sounds bored with the track.

Will Adams: It’s hard to believe the same team who sampled crosswalk tickers, dentist drills and ASMR Invisalign (on top of already blustery beats with glitched-out vocals) would turn in something so pared down, to the point where it sounds like a demo. The coffeeshop vibe suits Billie better than expected, but the close-up draws more attention to the lyrics, for better and for worse: “you got no job,” on top of not making sense as a converse to “you think you’re such an outlaw,” feels especially callous given the pandemic making that the case for millions.

John S. Quinn-Puerta: I dig Finneas’s work on the bass, and Eilish’s vocal melody is instantly memorable, made to sing along and bob your head. But the lyrics don’t really stand up to scrutiny, particularly the central declaration: “you got not job.” It feels like an unneeded and unearned punchline, ill-matched with the interpersonal complaints the rest of the song focuses on. 

Edward Okulicz: The ultra-minimalism of this bass-led kiss-off doesn’t suit Eilish that well. It would have suited someone tougher, or a bit jazzier and smokier. But I was still kind of getting into it, and then where the sublime payoff was supposed to come — from the master of such things, a woman who managed to weaponise “duh” into a world-destroyer — all that was there was “But you got no job.” That’s not it.

Katherine St Asaph: Billie Eilish, after making several trip hop-adjacent songs, finally loses the “adjacent” entirely: beat from Mandalay’s “Insensible,” vocal timbre and attitude from Martina Topley-Bird. The genre allows Billie and Finneas to get away with more minimalism than they otherwise might, or that was accurate to the ’90s really. The chorus makes me bristle — using “you got no job” as a zing right after the worst mass unemployment since the Great Depression seems unnecessarily cruel, as does calling someone a lost cause at the irredeemably old age of, what, 22? (And I thought I was a harsh critic.) Then again, nobody ever asked or expected a Billie Eilish song to be nice.

Aaron Bergstrom: Comes off like an OpenAI rendering of a “Billie Eilish type” song, specifically one where the computer was only given the most basic details of what her music sounds like (“it’s really sparse and she insults people”) and then was left on its own to figure out the rest. So instead of the ominous minimalism and devastating punchlines that made When We All Fall Asleep such a fascinating album, we get beige coffeehouse vibes and half-hearted digs about being unemployed.

Andrew Karpan: What would a Billie-style song of the summer sound like? It’s a boring question, for sure, but it’s one that she manages to answer cleverly, her voice splashing around the room like errant waves on a beach day. In the context of a sunny day, her aloof disinterest bit, a performance of studied pouting rooted in camp, ultimately becomes impossible to resist.

Nortey Dowuona: The soft petal drums waft behind Billie’s even softer voice, as the bass pops in, light synths on the walls. She gathers the echoes around her, carefully dressing and styling each, and lays down a sweeping synth cord line network, the echoes following each off and away, with Billie sitting and watching it all.

Alfred Soto: Here’s the second new single I’ve reviewed in as many days by a generational icon who confuses slow for cool. The ooh-ooh-oohs and the loping beat help, and her hip-hop diction’s crisper. No lost cause, but the road map’s smudged. 

Reader average: [5] (1 vote)

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6 Responses to “Billie Eilish – Lost Cause”

  1. I had the same thoughts about the “you got no job” line, but couldn’t find a way to fit it in my blurb….also, the songwriting elsewhere feels a bit shoddy? The first four lines feel sort of non sequitur, and I don’t really get what the “You ran the shower, and left them by the stairs” line is supposed to signal?

  2. I took it to mean that she gave them flowers and then they were just like “oh ok whatever,” left them on the stairs and went off to do something else.

  3. Okay, yeah, that’s what I thought; at first, I was just like…did she expect them to bring the flowers into the shower or something?

  4. back in my day leaving flowers by the stairs was meant as a surprise to let me know she cares

  5. omg

  6. the more I listen to (and enjoy!) this album the more puzzled I am that this was a single, to the extent that I’m almost surprised it made the album at all

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