Billie Eilish’s ‘Therefore I Am’ – Music Nerd’s Analysis

This is a timestamp-based review of Billie Eilish’s newest single, “Therefore I Am,” produced by her brother FINNEAS. You can press play on the song in the Spotify widget above, and pause at the annotated timestamps below. Enjoy!

0:01 – A lot of Eilish’s backbeats in her most popular songs (see: “Bad Guy,” “Bury A Friend”) start with a recognizable beatbox-esque sound.

0:07 – The scratchy record sound effects come in, which give the song a DJ-in-an-EDM club feel

0:18 – This distorted airhorn sound hits on all the downbeats in the chorus… Just a call-out to FINNEAS’s producing style

0:26 – Another hallmark of FINNEAS’s production is the layering of multiple different harmonies (called polyphony) to bring a certain part of the song in focus, like the chorus. Here you can hear that the layers drop off, because this part of the song isn’t as important.

0:31 – Layering. Also, what a vibe.

0:43 – These little laughs, which are undoubtedly very carefully placed in production, really work to give Eilish’s music an informal feeling that you don’t get from a lot of other mainstream pop.

0:48 – Here, all the other harmonies fade out and we’re left with just the backbeat (rhythmic line) and Eilish’s voice. Essentially, it’s the layering effect in reverse: de-layering to change the focus.

0:52 – FINNEAS has spoken about his usage of random objects to create interesting sounds in post-production. I could be wrong, but that little trill that repeats every few seconds sounds a lot like the message alert on an iPhone.

0:58 -“I think therefore I am” was coined by René Descartes in 1637 to determine the condition of true existence. Nice one, Billie.

1:12 – Here we see de-layering again for a pretty powerful verse. Eilish’s voice actually gets quieter here than in the chorus—maybe because she doesn’t have to shout over the layered harmonies to be heard. The whisper does definitely work to make the verse sound more profound, though.

1:22 – Oops.

1:34 – Eilish switches to a “talking voice” here, probably so that when she says, “You can give ‘em my best but just know,” it sounds like “(lol) just no.”

1:44 – The airhorn is definitely less prominent here than it was in the first run of the chorus. FINNEAS faded it out because everyone expects it by this point, so it’s less interesting.

1:59 – Textbook tension and release. Eilish sings the first line while going higher in pitch, then pauses for a second, creating tension, and finally releases it by dropping back down at the end of “name.”

2:18 – A simple melody on the synthesizer to slow down the song

2:29 – The chorus picks back up, but it feels slower because the song is almost over.

2:34 – In the background, we hear a newly added high-pitched Eilish harmonizing over herself. This makes the song more musically interesting when most of the interesting parts have come and gone.

2:48 – Message alert