“My Lucifer is Lonely.” The opening line of one of Billie Eilish’s more sinister songs “All the Good Girls Go to Hell.” The entirety of the song, including the music video, is embodied with religious metaphors and dark undertones fueling the assumption that the song signifies an inner battle between good and evil. The song and music video, however, are part of a greater message from Eilish to bring awareness on climate change. “People all over the world are facing the reality of climate change – in many parts of the world this is manifesting in an increased volatility of extreme weather events. Between 1999 and 2018, about 495,000 people died worldwide and losses of US$ 3.54 trillion (in PPP) were incurred as a direct result of more than 12,000 extreme weather events.” (Eckstein 5) Eilish uses her out of the box artistic abilities combined with her worldwide platform to bring the realization that there is a not only a problem, but that it is being ignored by those who have the power to make a difference. This rhetorical analysis will take a deep dive into the symbolic lyrics of Billie Eilish’s “All the God Girls go to Hell,” as well as the imagery she uses to bring the song to life in the music video.
Eilish and brother Finneas O’Connell write many of Eilish’s songs together, and “All the Good Girls Go to Hell,” is no different. In an interview with Vulture magazine Finneas made it clear that the song undoubtedly is referencing climate change and stated “You can think whatever you want about our music. I love that it’s ambiguous. But that’s not a conspiracy theory. That’s just true.” (Jenkins, Craig) The opening verse takes the first step at addressing the biggest problem regarding climate change at this time; our nation’s leaders are ignoring the problem.
My Lucifer is lonely
Standing there, killing time
Can’t commit to anything but a crime
Peter’s on vacation, an open invitation
Pearly gates look more like a picket fence
Once you get inside ’em
Got friends but can’t invite them
“My lucifer is lonely,” applies to the idea that everyone has a good and dark side to them, which is usually represented by the concept of a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other. By stating that her Lucifer is lonely she’s acknowledging the fact that her angel is no longer with her to help her make better decisions. The viewpoint is then shifted over from herself over to our nation’s leaders. “Standing there, killing time. Can’t commit to anything but a crime, Peter’s on vacation, an open invitation” is a direct indication that those in power are indeed conscious of the problem our world is facing but they are not taking any initiative to fix said problem. Instead, they are avoiding it until enough time passes that society will just disregard it as well. Therefore, if they are able to make these conscious decisions their angel must be gone as well, and they have an “open invitation” to do bad and ignore morality. Eilish and O’Connell then address the fact that all of this is being done when there is actual evidence that something has to change. The song then comes back to a self-reflection viewpoint, by mentioning, “Pearly gates look more like a picket fence,” they are saying the gates to heaven are not as intimidating and easier to get through than many assume. With that mindset and they are then questioning what the point of being “good” actually is. The song then shifts to the frame of reference of God.
Hills burn in California
My turn to ignore ya
Don’t say I didn’t warn ya
Here God is unapologetically looking at mankind amidst the natural disasters; “hills burn in California.” And wondering how mankind could be surprised when he/she has given clear signs of what could happen if nothing is done. The chorus itself outlines the final outcome if climate change is still ignored.
All the good girls go to hell
‘Cause even God herself has enemies
And once the water starts to rise
And heaven’s out of sight
She’ll want the devil on her team
With the religious connotation, it provokes a certain amount of fear that can be seen as inevitable. “All the good girls go to hell,” and “heavens out of sight,” means God has given up completely on mankind because we are hopeless. With no one to turn to, the only other person the God can go to is the devil them self. In the final verse Eilish and O’Connell the bring this kind of “worse case scenario” to a close.
Look at you needing me
You know I’m not your friend without some greenery
Walk in wearing fetters
Peter should know better
Your cover up is caving in
Man is such a fool
Why are we saving him?
Poisoning themselves now
Begging for our help, wow!
The verse calls into question why mankind is begging for help and questioning how climate change has gotten to this point, when in reality we did this and are choosing to ignore the role we played. And if it all ended at this point, and if we tried going to heaven still, it’d be obvious we did not belong there due to the “fetters” we are wearing. “Biblical imagery is omnipresent throughout “all the good girls go to hell.” Fetters are even mentioned in the Bible metaphorically as a symbol of inner turmoil, like Billie references throughout this song.” (Genius)
The religious symbols in no way lessen when transitioning into the music video for “all the good girls go to hell.” The video was released, by no coincidence, ahead of the September 2019 Global Climate. The video begins by depicting Eilish as a fallen angel being cast into what appears to be thick, black oil. Black oil which has the uncanny resemblance to that of oil spills that affect our animal life.
We then see her walking through a burning hellscape, which symbolizes the Earth in turmoil because of climate change.
Although the imagery that is used is frightening, and extreme, it is an accurate representation of what is happening to our world. With all of Eilish’s surrounding being up in flames it is also an indication of a sort of “hell on earth” setting. If you look closely within the surrounding flames you even see silhouettes of women dancing as if part of a hellish entertainment. Finally, as the song comes to a close Eilish, as this fallen angel, turns around to witness the destruction that has taken place. What is truly notable though, is that instead of running away as most would from that type of hell, she accepts it and walks back into the flames. This indicates an admission of guilt and understanding that you have to live the decisions you’ve made.
In an IGTV video on Instagram, Eilish issued a plea to fans to take action against climate change: “Our earth is warming up, our ocean is rising, extreme weather is wrecking millions of lives…We cannot let this happen on our watch. Up to 1,000,000 species are becoming extinct because of mankind’s actions and time is running out.” Eilish understands that she has an unprecedented amount of power with her platform. Even brother Finneas O’Connell acknowledges the same matter by stating, “I think Billie has some of the most engaged listeners I’ve ever met or heard of,” in an interview. (Jenkins, Craig) Bringing to light to these sorts of issues is a perfect example of using your influence to better mankind. Eilish and O’Connell know what they are doing when using extreme symbolism to bring attention to matters. Now, as listeners, it is our job to stop ignoring what is in front of us.
Works Cited Page
Eckstein, David, et al. “ BRIEFING PAPER GLOBAL CLIMATE RISK INDEX 2020.” Germanwatch.org, Germanwatch E.V., Dec. 2019, http://www.germanwatch.org/sites/germanwatch.org/files/20-2-01e Global Climate Risk Index 2020_16.pdf.
Jenkins, Craig. “Inside the Making of Billie Eilish’s When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?” Vulture, Vulture, 9 Apr. 2019, http://www.vulture.com/2019/04/the-making-of-billie-eilish-when-we-all-fall-asleep.html.
Ma, Annie. “Nine Years Later, the BP Oil Spill’s Environmental Mess Isn’t Gone.” Mother Jones, 22 Apr. 2019, http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2019/04/deepwater-horizon-bp-oil-spill/.
Person, and ProfilePage. “BILLIE EILISH on Instagram: “#Climateemergency.’” Instagram, 28 Sept. 2019, http://www.instagram.com/p/B29RyP0l4Mv/.
“Walk in Wearin’ Fetters.” Genius, 29 Mar. 2019, genius.com/16813333.