May 23, 2024

Billie Eilish remembers being aware there were some puzzled — or just wary — reactions when a song she and Finneas co-wrote, “What Was I Made For?,” was one of the last tracks announced for the “Barbie” soundtrack. “I remember everybody being like, ‘What the hell? It’s gonna be a fun, cute, girly, pink movie for the summer and we’re all going to be laughing. What the fuck is Billie doing on the soundtrack? Why is there going to be a sad song? That doesn’t make any sense.’ And I remember just being like, ‘Guys. It’s not me, it’s the movie. The movie is fucking sad!’”

That may not be everyone’s all-consuming experience of the mostly comedic “Barbie,” but for a good segment of the audience, the doll movie is a tear-jerker, and its emotional climax is signaled by the arrival of Eilish’s tender, yearning ballad, which gave the main character the “heart song” filmmaker Greta Gerwig felt was missing from the movie. She and Finneas were inspired by the penultimate scene in which Barbie embraces being all that is human — anxiety and mortality included. But they also took the cue for the opening lines from the first hints of Barbie’s existential crisis in the film’s opening.

A possibly even more haunting couplet — “I’m sad again, don’t tell my boyfriend / It’s not what he’s made for” — recognizes that sometimes the people in our lives may not be emotionally intelligent Ken-ough to deal with someone else’s moments of depression. Add to this the unrelentingly serious music video Eilish directed for the song, and it’s clear just how much heaviness “What Was I Made For?” brings to the movie, and soundtrack… but it’s a weight Greta Gerwig’s film was meant to bear.

Eilish and Finneas spoke with Variety from their studio in Los Angeles.

Do you feel that assignment writing is a good thing for you, creatively?

Finneas: I think it’s a like twofold positive. The first is that it gets you out of your own way. When you’re writing a song that you feel has to be autobiographical and touches on how you really feel and speak to your soul, you could be coming up with the best lyric but you’re like, “Yeah, but it wasn’t in December!” — that kind of goofy, nitpicky thing. And then of course, the other thing that’s funny is that you set out to write a song about Barbie for the “Barbie” movie and end up writing, in Billie’s case, exactly how she feels. You’re like, “Oh, let me speak from this character’s perspective,” and you say something that you maybe weren’t even brave enough to say about yourself.

Eilish: What was funny about this one was that it was this character that I really did relate to, but I didn’t even realize that I was relating so much. I was just like, “Wow, I feel such a strong connection to this, but I don’t know why.” When we were writing the song, we weren’t thinking about our own lives. Then a couple days later I was like, “Oh, this is me and my story.”  It was pretty jarring, to be honest. It felt like somebody else put a spell on me, and then I saw a couple days later what the outcome was.

Film songs have a special resonance when the lyrics directly relate to what’s in the film, although it’s a fine balance of how many lines in the song can be that specific and how many should be more general.

Finneas: We were making a song for the movie, and so I don’t think we had any fear, to that end. The more bespoke, the better. Billie and I went and saw the movie, and then wrote what we wrote the next day. This is all back in January of this year. And my girlfriend didn’t see the movie until the premiere in July. And she would hear me playing the song around the house over the next couple of months. (Eventually) I said, “You know, that’s actually a thing that happens in the movie, that she floats, and then one day she doesn’t float anymore and she falls down.” And my girlfriend was like, “Oh, really?” We got lucky that Greta put a great image in the movie, and we could use it.

To compare apples and oranges, I joke about the song we wrote for the movie “No Time to Die.” It was important to me to use the title of the movie in the song — but also, it wasn’t called “Quantum of Solace.” There are movie titles that don’t lend themselves to lyrics. And this just had such good imagery in this song to use as lyrics.

Eilish: That’s like a challenge for us, to write these lyrics that are very specific but that totally make sense in everybody’s life. And Greta had such a beautiful film with such amazing visuals that it was easy to think, “OK, what do we write? She floats in the first scene and then she falls in the next one.” And that has so much to do with my life and the way that I view me as I was growing up: I was this person who was could do no wrong in so many people’s eyes, and I felt like everything I did was me floating, and I felt unstoppable and unbeatable, when everything was blowing up for me. And then, things change and you grow, and sometimes you just feel like you don’t know how to float anymore.

Finneas: Billie’s life in many ways is so abnormal, but in terms of how many people have experienced the things she’s experienced, I just think that’s part of growing up. There are elements of life that are not challenging as a child. There is this kind of obliviousness or ignorance — it can be very blissful and it can make life seem simple and easy, when you wake up on a Saturday and you might go over to your friend’s house for a play date and you guys might go to a park or go see a fun movie. A good day as a child can be very simple. And you suddenly turn 18 and the world is much more real and challenging.

To get to the musical part of the origin story, how did you end up at the place where you’re playing those first few chords? Because the overall soundtrack is not ballad-heavy, to say the least. After you went to that screening with Greta, did you get any instructions, like, “We need something to bring this back to some sort of solemnity for a minute?”

Finneas: She was so generous and effusive in the whole process, and was like, “You guys can make whatever you want, I’ll love it — whatever you want, whatever inspires you.”

Eilish: We were like, “We don’t know what that means!”

Finneas: We were like, “What do you want? If you have a goal or something that you’d love, why don’t we help you out?” And she was like, “Well, we’re missing Barbie’s heart song.”

Eilish: We had watched the first 30 minutes of the movie, and then she showed us different clips until the end, like the ones that she thought were really important for us to know. Some scenes at Mattel, some scenes with America Ferreira’s daughter, her speech about women — she was like, “OK, the movie’s not done, but you have to see these.” And then the last one she showed us was the scene where Ruth and Barbie are walking in the white abyss, and they’re standing there and she says, “Take my hands. Now feel.” And that shit makes me like literally choke up right now to think about it. It’s kind of crazy. At the time, there was no montage scene of life and childhood and living and joy and sadness. At the time it was just Barbie standing there crying, and that was the scene where she was like, “You can make anything you want. You don’t have to make anything. But this is the scene that I really think about when I think about Barbie’s heart and her feelings and her realization and wants and desires.” So that’s really what we were thinking about. We didn’t think, “Oh, we’re going to make an upbeat Barbie song with dancing and whatever.” Dua did that.

Finneas: Dua killed.

Eilish: Dua killed.

Finneas: And that song “(Dance the Night”) was, by the way, already there when we saw it. There was no sort of “We’re gonna try to beat that.”

To answer your question, though, about the chords: The short answer is, I subscribe to a method of writing songs which is like willing a song into existence. You sit down at an instrument, the piano in this case, and you play something that feels good; you sing something over it that feels good; you say some lyric that feels good, and you see if the combination is good. And if it isn’t, you change something about it. In this case, I played those chords; they felt really good. We started to sing the melody of the verses, and that felt good. And then we really kind of just improv-ed the first verse. And it has a melancholy to it. It’s a major key, but it’s so sad. There are super-happy songs with those three chords. It’s really to do with where Billie’s voice is sitting emotionally, where Billie’s voice is sitting melodically, her delivery.

It’s interesting what you say about the chords being potentially happy, because the song is mostly melancholy, but with obviously this hopeful tinge at the end. It doesn’t feel wrong when it suddenly has a slight hopeful edge to it, because the chords kind of support that, too, even though that hasn’t been the tone of a lot of the song. It doesn’t feel like a false hopefulness at the end.

Eilish: I like that you said that, because I haven’t thought about that much since we made it. You know, when we were writing it, initially, it didn’t end up hopeful. Initially, it was kind of just like a bummer the whole time. But we kind of sat with it for a couple days, before we sent it to Greta. We had made this little bridge that wasn’t great, and so we wanted to change that; in the end, we just made a different verse instead. And when we sat down to write that, we were starting to write, “I think I forgot how to be happy.” And then we both kind of had this thought of, like, you know what? It should be hopeful. She should be thinking, “I’m feeling really bad, but I think that I will be feeling better. I think I can. I can feel better. Something I can be.”

Finneas: And sometimes, also — and this is as much real life as anything — sometimes the way to feel joy and happiness again is to come to terms with the fact that you’re sad.

Eilish: Yeah. It’s really true.

Finneas: If you are in denial about how you’re feeling, that is usually not a road to feeling better. Usually the road to feeling better is going: Wow, I am depressed right now, for whatever reason. How can I make my life make me less depressed? How can I change the things I’m doing? Or live a life that fills me with more love than I’m being filled with? And I think that’s, like, “I can be happy; just because I’m not right now doesn’t mean I’m not capable of it.” And then, yeah, “something I wait for…”

Eilish: And then ending it with [she sings] “something I’m made for.”

Finneas: But the “something I wait for,” to me … anytime you’re suffering, instead of collapsing in on yourself and giving up on the world and your life, you wait for the storm to pass. You wait for the thing that’s making you feel bad to fade into the background of the life you’ve lived through. The things I’m talking about are like, your family dog passes away, something that you have basically no control over, that you’re not gonna sort of philosophically, the day that it happens, go, “Oh, they lived a great life. You know, I’m fine.” You’re still gonna be devastated that day, and then with the passage of time, you’ll think of it differently and start to heal. That to me as part of being human. And that’s sort of what you watch Barbie do in the movie is not understand what it is to feel depressed or devastated or anxiety or any of these superhuman emotions. She looks at them as these alien things: “How do I stop crying?” And it’s like, that’s what being a human is, just living your life and experiencing the spectrum of emotion and letting it wash over you.

The line that always kind of gives a chill down the spine, for me, is “I’m sad again, don’t tell my boyfriend / It’s not what he’s made for.” That refers to the very simple aspect of Ken being a pretty simple guy. But a lot of people have anxiety and depression in their lives, and realize that the people around them, whether it’s a boyfriend or family or whatever, are not constitutionally sort of even capable of understanding that, and to realize that you can’t share what you’re going through with them… that’s a sad thought.

Finneas: Yeah, absolutely. And you know, in rare cases, you’re friends with a sociopath who really, truly isn’t interested in how you feel. But I think in most cases, it’s just people ill-equipped. It’s people around you who don’t, for whatever reason, have the emotional capacity or intelligence to understand you. It’s not that they don’t care. They just don’t understand it. They’re just like, “Oh, like, why are you so devastated by this?”

Eilish: And maybe can’t necessarily give you the comfort that you’re gonna need. I don’t know, I’ve been there so many times. And that lyric is one of my favorites that we’ve ever written. When we wrote it, I remember being like, “God, this is so real for me.” But I also remember being like, “How is anyone going to know what this means? It doesn’t explain itself. No one’s going to understand it.” And that was the first lyric that people understood. And I felt so heard, and related to. I felt like how you feel when you meet new people, and you say, “Well, you know, I usually like to do this,” and it’s a thing that you don’t think anybody else likes, and then someone’s like, “Oh my God, I do the same thing,” and then you talk about it for hours with that person and you have a new friend. You feel so in connection to a person that relates to you about something that you really didn’t think anyone would.

It’s cool that you did the music video the way you did, because it’s a very serious video that really inspires you to think about the meaning of the song, and the fact that it came out before the movie helped set it up so that when the song appears in the movie, it doesn’t seem like a sudden, jarring left turn. People had some experience of the music already when it starts getting into the tearjerking stuff. And it’s a dark video. There’s no obvious happy ending to those four minutes, but you weren’t afraid to present it in this austere way, the dark side of Barbie or feeling like a Barbie. Did that seem like a risk to kind of preface this seemingly happy go lucky movie with a video that really emphasizes the melancholy of the song?

Eilish: Well, I didn’t think of it as a risk at all. Honestly, when the trailer was coming out and then different people on the soundtrack were being announced, I wasn’t announced at first. I was like the last or next-to-last to be announced. And that was all on purpose. There was a whole strategy to everything — whatever, it doesn’t matter. But when I was announced, I remember everybody being like, “What the hell? What kind of a sad song is gonna fit into this Barbie movie? It’s gonna be a fun, cute, pink Barbie movie for the summer. We’re all gonna be having fun and it’s just going to be laughing and it’s going to be cute and fun and girly…” I think that nobody at all, including myself, thought that it would be this groundbreaking, astounding piece about being a woman and the female experience and the human experience and growing up and all of these real things that we all experience and go through.

Then when I was working on the video, I wanted it to not give anything away, but I wanted it to have to do with the movie and have to do with kind of the feeling of it. But also, the video is very much like my own experience and my own version of explaining that song without words.

Is your appetite whetted to do a lot more film songs, after scoring home runs with this and “No Time to Die”?

Finneas: I just want to do whatever we feel a real connection to, and I don’t want to ever overdo it. We’re both big fans of Greta and Noah as filmmakers. But there was never like a thing of we’re signing some contract to turn in a song. We just basically talked to her, felt like, wow, she’s really brilliant, went and saw the movie and we were blown away, and then you just feel like you have to be involved. I think the rule of thumb is: We say yes to stuff we can’t say no to.

free coin
free coin

get now
get now
get now
get now
get now
get now

free coins
free coins
free coins
free coins
free coins
free coins
free coins
free coins
free coins
free coins
free coins
free coins
free coins
free coins
free coins
free coins
free coins
free coins
free coins
free coins

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *