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Xanny (song)

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"Xanny"
Song by Billie Eilish
from the album When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?
ReleasedMarch 29, 2019 (2019-03-29)
GenrePop
Length4:03
Label
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)Finneas O'Connell
Music video
"Xanny" on YouTube

"Xanny" (stylized in all lowercase) is a song by American singer Billie Eilish from her debut studio album, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? (2019). The singer and her brother Finneas O'Connell co-wrote it, whilst the latter solely handled its production. Musically, it was described as a mid-tempo and jazz-influenced pop ballad. Eilish recalled being inspired by several artists during the track's creation, most notably by Frank Sinatra. Productionwise, her distorted falsetto vocals are prominently layered over a similarly deformed bass in the drop of "Xanny", replicating the feeling of secondhand smoke. Lyrically, Eilish addresses substance abuse among teenagers; she was specifically inspired by the negative effects it had on her friends and ultimately on her.

Upon its release, "Xanny" received positive reviews from music critics, with one of them likening it to the works of Sophie and Lana Del Rey. The track was accompanied by a self-directed music video released on December 5, 2019. Minimalistically produced, it depicts the singer in an all-white outfit sitting on a bench against a white background whilst her face is burned by disembodied hands holding cigarette butts. Reviewers praised the visual's simplicity and its correlation to the song. With the release of its parent album, "Xanny" reached number 35 on the US Billboard Hot 100. Alongside top ten peaks in several countries, it was certified platinum in the United States by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Eilish included the track on the setlists of her 2019 When We All Fall Asleep Tour and 2020 Where Do We Go? World Tour.

Background[edit]

Eilish stated that she had a "very jazzy Frank Sinatra (pictured in 1957) view" on the song.[1]

"Xanny" is the third track on Eilish's debut studio album, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, released for digital download and streaming on March 29, 2019 by Darkroom and Interscope Records.[2] The song was written by the singer and her brother Finneas O'Connell; the latter solely produced it.[3] The duo has cited Frank Sinatra and Feist's "So Sorry" (2007) as primary influences during the creation process.[1][4][5] They were also inspired by tracks such as LCD Soundsystem's "New York I Love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down" (2007), Post Malone's "Stay" (2018), Johnny Mathis's "Misty" (1959), Daniel Caesar's "Japanese Denim" (2016) and Melody Gardot's "Who Will Comfort Me" (2009).[6][7] Mastering and mixing were handled by John Greenham and Rob Kinelski, respectively.[3] Inspiration for "Xanny" came to Eilish after seeing friends heavily inebriating themselves at a party, consequently becoming "completely not who they were". The event had, in turn, a frustrating and affecting impact on the singer. Eilish said drugs was a close subject to her, since some of her friends had died due to drug overdose; the song's last verse, described as a "melancholy blow", had been recorded two days after one's death.[1][8]

Lyrics and composition[edit]

The track's title is a reference to the Xanax drug, which Hannah Rose Ewens of The Guardian felt was glamourised by young "disaffected" SoundCloud rappers. Eilish elaborated that the message of "Xanny" was "less 'don't do drugs' [and] more 'be safe'".[8] She endorses what Vox's Charlie Harding described as a "teen sobriety trend" in the lines: "I'm in their secondhand smoke / Still just drinking canned Coke / I don't need a Xanny to feel better".[9] Fellow "self-aware" lyrics include: "Please don't try to kiss me on the sidewalk / On your cigarette break / I can't afford to love someone / Who isn't dying by mistake in Silver Lake".[10]

Musically, "Xanny" runs at a moderately slow tempo of 54–56 beats per minute (BPM), and is played in the key of A major. Eilish's vocals, which are "near-whisper[ed]" throughout, span a range between the notes of F#3 and E5.[11][12] Critical commentary described the song as a jazz-influenced mid-tempo pop ballad.[4][13] While the "lulling" verses of "Xanny" utilize a jazz-inspired loop and a drumkit as instrumentation, Eilish's layered falsetto vocals are distorted for the track's "violent" drop in its refrain, and played over similarly deformed, "bone-rattling" bass.[1][5][14] Staccato drum beats are also used throughout the song.[12] Brendan Wetmore of Paper noted that the singer's vocals are manipulated in a way to "peak into an untapped vibrational territory".[1]

Elaborating on the song's "weird" and unconventional sound, O'Connell told MTV that it was a point of contention with their label, although "it's kind of ironic, because [Eilish's] voice sounds so beautiful and the chords are really pretty". On the same occasion, he revealed that the "purposely distorted and clipped" sound of aforementioned SoundCloud artists influenced that of "Xanny". Eilish and O'Connell wanted the song's refrain to sound like "a girl blowing cigarette smoke into [someone's] face" and to replicate "what it feels like to be in secondhand smoke".[7] Furthermore, their overall desire was to make people listening to the track "feel miserable".[1][5]

Reception[edit]

Upon release, "Xanny" was generally praised by music critics. Insider's Libby Torres said that, although the track "lacks the slick hooks or sardonic lyrics of other songs on the album", Eilish's "breathy vocals and dismissive attitude towards recreational pill use make it one of the project's hidden gems".[12] Pitchfork's Stacey Anderson commended the lyrical content, which, according to her, "wonderfully underscore[s] how all teen angst is both fiercely sincere and an effect of being only partially informed".[10] Brendan Wetmore, writing for Paper magazine, stated that the "extremely jarring and tone-oscillating track" was influenced by the "modern pop" genre, which, as claimed by him, was created by the likes of Sophie and Lana Del Rey.[1] Thomas Smith of NME stated that the musical experimentation on When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? was best represented by "Xanny".[14] While likening the track's bridge to the works of the Beatles, Variety's Chris William saw the song as "tragicomic": "[I]t's anti-drug, in an amusing, WTF-is-wrong-with-my-contemporaries kind of way".[15]

In a negative review, Jason Lipshutz of Billboard called "Xanny" "ambitio[us]", yet not "as soaring as it needs to be", and The Independent's Roisin O'Connor deemed it "more soporific than seductive".[13][16] Upon the release of When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, Eilish broke the record for the most simultaneous US Billboard Hot 100 entries for a female artist. "Xanny" was the highest-charting non-single off the record in the territory, reaching number 35.[17][18] "Xanny" further peaked at number six in all three Baltic states.[19][20][21] It has notably been awarded a platinum certification by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).[22]

Promotion[edit]

A screenshot from the video, featuring disembodied hands forcing cigarette butts into the face of Eilish, leaving burns.

Eilish has performed "Xanny" a number of times, including for MTV in April 2019;[23] the performance was done since Eilish had been named the channel's breakthrough artist of that month.[5] The song was also included on the setlist of Eilish's When We All Fall Asleep Tour (2019).[24] "Xanny" was performed at Pukkelpop in August 2019,[25] and eventually added to the singer's Where Do We Go? World Tour (2020).[26] In November 2019, Eilish announced the release of a self-directed music video to accompany the song;[27][28] it was eventually premiered on December 5.[29] In the minimalistic visual,[28] a brown-haired Eilish sits cross-legged on a white bench against a white background, wearing an all-white outift.[30] The camera zooms in and out on Eilish's face while she dances robotically, performing neck, head and glazed eye movements.[31] She remains seated for the majority of the video while disembodied hands force cigarette butts into her face, leaving burns.[30][32]

The music video was positively received by music critics upon its release. While NME's Elizabth Aubrey called it "haunting",[33] Koltan Greenwood of Alternative Press stated it was "straight forward" yet had "a few jarring visuals and some disturbing movements".[28] Jordyn Tilchen of MTV commended the fact that the music video underscored the song's lyrics, and pointed out that the message behind the closing scene where "the singer simply gets up and walks away as smoke continues to fill the room" is "hav[ing] the power to excuse ourselves from harmful, anxiety-inducing situations".[30] The Harvard Crimson's Tadhg Larabee wrote that "paradoxically, in being [seemingly] boring, this music video may represent an attempt by Eilish to twist pop culture’s norms around drug use—another attempt to do fame differently".[31] Justin Curto of Vulture deemed the singer's look in the music video "iconic", although opining that it made her "look like a 40-something mom".[34] The music video was nominated for Best Direction at the 2020 MTV Video Music Awards.[35]

Credits and personnel[edit]

Credits adapted from Tidal.[3]

  • Billie Eilish – vocals, songwriter
  • Finneas O'Connell – producer, songwriter
  • Rob Kinelski – mixer
  • Casey Cuayo – assistant mixer
  • John Greenham – mastering engineer

Charts[edit]

Chart performance for "Xanny"
Chart (2019) Peak
position
Australia (ARIA)[36] 10
Canada (Canadian Hot 100)[37] 26
Czech Republic (Singles Digitál Top 100)[38] 18
Estonia (Eesti Tipp-40)[19] 6
France (SNEP)[39] 189
Germany (Official German Charts)[40] 78
Greece (IFPI)[41] 15
Hungary (Stream Top 40)[42] 13
Iceland (Plötutíðindi)[43] 24
Ireland (IRMA)[44] 99
Italy (FIMI)[45] 91
Latvia (LAIPA)[20] 6
Lithuania (AGATA)[21] 6
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[46] 48
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[47] 22
Norway (VG-lista)[48] 35
Portugal (AFP)[49] 34
Slovakia (Singles Digitál Top 100)[50] 11
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[51] 32
UK Audio Streaming (OCC)[52] 21
US Billboard Hot 100[18] 35

Certifications[edit]

Certifications for "Xanny"
Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[53] Platinum 70,000double-dagger
Canada (Music Canada)[54] Gold 40,000double-dagger
Poland (ZPAV)[55] Gold 10,000double-dagger
Portugal (AFP)[56] Gold 5,000double-dagger
United Kingdom (BPI)[57] Silver 200,000double-dagger
United States (RIAA)[22] Platinum 1,000,000double-dagger

double-dagger Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g Wetmore, Brendan (April 12, 2019). "Billie Eilish Talks Teen Substance Abuse and Grief". Paper. Archived from the original on August 3, 2019. Retrieved June 28, 2019.
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  3. ^ a b c "When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? (Credits) – Billie Eilish – Tidal". Tidal. Archived from the original on February 15, 2020. Retrieved May 3, 2020.
  4. ^ a b Roth, Madeline (April 1, 2019). "Billie Eilish Breaks Down the Narcoleptic 'Xanny': 'I Wanted It to Feel Miserable'". MTV. Archived from the original on April 13, 2020. Retrieved April 27, 2020.
  5. ^ a b c d Roth, Madeline (April 4, 2019). "Billie Eilish's When We All Fall Asleep: A Complete Breakdown From Finneas O'Connell". MTV. Archived from the original on April 13, 2020. Retrieved April 27, 2020.
  6. ^ Skinner, Tom (March 25, 2020). "Billie Eilish shares playlists of songs that inspired her debut album". NME. Retrieved May 5, 2020.
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