Billie Eilish released ‘Bad Guy‘ in 2019. Consider the eight singles we have received since then. Ballads? Most of them. Sad? All of them. The key takeaway here is this. It’s been a long time since Billie Eilish released anything upbeat.
The World’s a Little Gloomy
Despite what its accompanying music video suggests, ‘Lost Cause’ is no party anthem. Eilish’s latest single continues this somber spree. Less downbeat than the recent ‘Your Power’ it is more in line with 2020’s widely popular ‘I Think Therefore I Am.’ The single is, as reviewers once wrote of Bob Dylan‘s ‘Like A Rolling Stone‘ era material, a finger-pointing song. It takes aim at a former lover, tears them down, and then casts them aside.
Billie Eilish is an indie artist with a pop star’s reputation
A rebel at heart, Eilish often rejects pop music formulas and public expectation. Her singles reflect how she feels and are the music she wants to make. Her impact on pop culture cannot be understated. With hit single ‘Bad Guy’ and blockbuster debut album When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? she singlehandedly changed the trajectory and sound of modern pop music. (And in the process gave birth countless soundalikes.)
Eilish sports earth-tone clothing, another element of her new look.
Billie Eilish is a songwriter in the classic sense
Eilish is often praised for her postmodern whisper-in-your ear production. Her work as a songwriter, in contrast, is too often overlooked. ‘Lost Cause’ exemplifies this. It is a classic love song. Though far from tearing a page from The Big Book of Pop Classics Eilish is intent on adding pages of her own.
Is ‘Lost Cause’ about Brandon Quentin Adams?
Given that this new single is about love it raises the obvious question. Is ‘Lost Cause’ about Eilish’s former lover and LA rapper Brandon Quentin Adams? Without diving deeply into Eilish’s actual and rumored love lives, it is possible. Though it must be said that, as with ‘Your Power’, Eilish universalizes her sentiment so well this song could apply to any number of ex-lovers.
Coming together and breaking apart is, after all, the nature of all universal life. Which makes it, in short, impossible to say who this song is about. As a result, this song’s appeal will likely outlive fan fascination with her former relationship with Quentin Adams.
Eilish continues her somber spree
‘Lost Cause’ is not a high-energy single. It holds up a mirror to these troubled and gloomy times. Eilish treads a fine line between spreading her wings creatively and falling into the kind of self-pleasing narcissism that, while very rewarding to the artist, causes fans to eventually give up.
As with Tame Impala‘s The Slow Rush last year, Happier Than Ever seems like it will be another album exploring the neither-here-nor-their feelings many modern artists are currently experiencing. In this sense, ‘Lost cause’ does an admirable job of documenting Eilish’s depression and the prevailing listlessness of 2021.
‘Lost Cause’ is a terrific song. Eilish remains one of the brightest creative lights in modern music. Fans, however, have heard a lot of similar material from Eilish in the past year. A listener only has to compare ‘Lost Cause’ to Olivia Rodrigo‘s massively successful ‘Drivers License‘, which shares the same subject matter, to realize the public is currently more hungry for melodramatic escapism than the in-your-face-reality of an artist’s interior self.
Final thoughts on Billie Eilish and ‘Lost Cause’
All it takes to write a brilliant song, former Beatle John Lennon once said, was some honest lyrics and a big drum beat. Eilish does both better than any singer-songwriter of her generation. Getting it out of her though is, as the old saying about fine artistes goes, like nailing jelly to a wall.