Billie Eilish has been a breakout star since the age of thirteen when her first single, Ocean Eyes, was released. Since then, through putting forth albums such as Don’t Smile at Me and partnering with next generation musicians such as Khalid, her music has caught the attention of millions and given her a place on the world stage. As we await the release of her upcoming album WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?, we have her song come out and play to tide us over. Released in December of 2018, this song takes a gentler tone in comparison to her bass and percussion-heavy songs such as COPYCAT and you should see me in a crown. In this original song, Eilish’s delicate vocals that she has practically trademarked come to the forefront and are accompanied by an acoustic guitar to deliver a truly sweet and ruminant piece.
The title phrase “come out and play” seems to remind us of simpler times; perhaps it is something a neighbor would say after ringing our doorbell on a wintry afternoon, asking us to come join the fun only a snowy day could bring. Indeed, the song takes a reminiscent tone with soft acoustics that seem to take us back to a snow day long ago. However, at the heart of the song, Eilish’s lyrics seek to address an idea with far more emotional depth than the infantile title might suggest. The lyrics, in essence, seem to capture a letter of encouragement to a loved one, reaffirming and practically beckoning them to not only be present in the moment, but to be authentic. This set of lyrics alone offers a sentiment to the overall message of Eilish’s song:
You don’t have to keep it quiet
Yeah, I know it makes you nervous
But I promise you, it’s worth it
To show them everything you kept inside
This song, being attached to the holiday season, could be branded as just that: a more alternative sounding tune to listen to on a wintery day. However, to truly experience what I believe is Eilish’s purpose behind the song, the listener must conceptualize winter metaphorically and the song lyrics as a guide to navigate such a season of life.
Indeed, this idea of being vulnerable and genuine in a world so seemingly unsympathetic does not so much take us back to our childhood days as it does make us look towards the future. Eilish’s timid yet increasingly assured vocals serve to create an image of the stunted footsteps a person takes when making first steps in showing the world their authentic self. Winter is cold and, in some cases, brutal season. Frigid temperatures, frozen surfaces and violent snowfall all limit our visibility and make our steps unsteady. The flurries of self-doubt and insecurity seem to accumulate as plentifully as snowflakes from a blizzard. In this way, Eilish uses the winter season to symbolize the conditions a person enters as they become vulnerable to the elements all while carrying the burden of uncertainty.
As we seek to offer our authentic selves to the world that seems so cold and unforgiving, we often have to put a tremendous amount of effort into doing so. The track itself puts to use samples the sounds of a shovel scraping a snow-covered sidewalk as a makeshift percussion instrument. Eilish captures the emotion that resides when living our lives behind closed doors; our lack of transparency with the world around us transpires into a lack of acceptance of ourselves self and a need to exhibit face-saving behavior in the presence of others.
I had a conversation recently with a roommate on the first day SPU issued a campus-wide closure due to the snow. Life seemed to slow down a bit, and she took notice of how college life was suddenly viewed in a different light. Meals that would usually be rushed in order to get out the door were now shared in intimate settings, surrounded by friends. At times of the day when one roommate would come back only for the other to leave, we were all gathered in the same place, the warmth of each other’s company radiating throughout the room. In the absence of obligations, a new, more genuine part of us seemed to emerge.
During these many snow days, come out and play has been continuously streaming through my headphones. Every time I revisit the comforting tunes of this song, I am reminded of the importance behind presenting my authentic self and investing in moments that allow me to blossom in the midst of a desolate winter. It is in those moments that the once violent snowfall becomes comforting, the gusts enveloping me in pure, glistening white. It is in those moments where I find strength in vulnerability, letting the truest version of myself come out to play.
By: Maddie Grigg