On Sept. 14 of this year, singer-songwriter Billie Eilish released a teaser for her new single “Therefore I Am” on Instagram. The song, which she co-wrote with her older brother Finneas, is a banger for sure, drawing influences from ‘90s funk. This style of funk and vocal fry tactics (a form of speak-singing in a low, rough voice) can be compared to her songs “bad guy,” “strange addiction” and “all the good girls go to hell,” to name a few.
Based on various fan theories, the title itself seems to be an ode to the phrase “I think, therefore I am,” coined by René Descartes, a 17th century French philosopher. Descartes’ original intention was to find a statement true beyond reasonable doubt. If you think of something about yourself, then it must be true. In Billie’s case, if she thinks she wants to live life to the fullest without caring what others think, then so be it.
The accompanying music video, released on Nov. 12, the same day as the single and directed by Billie herself, takes this notion a bit further. The video starts with her parading through an empty mall, the white and polished floors a seemingly endless expanse. Her green and black hair swings around her shoulders. As the song begins, she turns to the camera with a smug, self-righteous expression and sings, “I’m not your friend [...] you think that you're the man; I think, therefore I am.”
The “man” in question might be someone who thinks they are worthy of acclaim or someone hoping to use Billie's name to get ahead, especially with the use of the line, “Get my pretty name out of your mouth.” In other words, don’t drag her name through the dirt. In retrospect, it doesn’t matter what others want from her, Billie will remain herself. She thinks and therefore she is.
The rest of the video involves Billie dashing around the vacant mall and snatching up conveniently placed food items like pretzels, french fries, slushies and donuts. Billie has had the unfortunate history of being body shamed, especially when she posts pictures of herself in anything that isn’t five sizes too big. Her grabbing an extensive amount of food in the midst of it all seems a bit too “on-the-nose” to be a coincidence. And, she isn’t promoting gluttony, because she’s barely eating the food. She’s merely placing herself in the line of fire.
The video is brilliantly made in its simplicity. The song is also simplistic in sound, with brutally honest lyrics and dark, grungy beats that don’t require an entire cinematic experience to interpret.
Aside from her most recent single and music video release, fans can expect a performance of this song at the American Music Awards on Nov. 22.
Follow Lauren Johns on Twitter, @lje2017
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