Home » Decoding the Significance of Billie Eilish’s Debut Single at 13: “Ocean Eyes”

Decoding the Significance of Billie Eilish’s Debut Single at 13: “Ocean Eyes”

In 2015, Billie Eilish, at the tender age of 13, unveiled her inaugural track, “Ocean Eyes.” This bedroom pop ballad was both produced and co-written by her brother and collaborator, Finneas O’Connell, and initially shared on SoundCloud. The song swiftly captivated listeners, going viral overnight and marking Eilish’s maiden appearance on the charts, peaking at No. 84 on the Billboard Hot 100.

A year later, “Ocean Eyes” gained visual accompaniment with the release of its music video. The track also found its place on Eilish’s 2017 EP, “Don’t Smile at Me,” and contributed to the soundtrack of the film “Everything, Everything.”

The Meaning

In the track, penned by Finneas, Eilish croons about being entranced by someone’s gaze, specifically their captivating ocean-blue eyes. “I’ve been watchin’ you for some time Can’t stop starin’ at those ocean eyes Burning cities and napalm skies Fifteen flares inside those ocean eyes Your ocean eyes

No fair You really know how to make me cry When you gimme those ocean eyes I’m scared I’ve never fallen from quite this high Fallin’ into your ocean eyes Those ocean eyes”

Reflecting on the genesis of the song, Eilish recalls, “He came into my room in October of last year to tell me he had this song called ‘Ocean Eyes.’ He’d been doing it with his band before, but of course, I’d heard it because I was right next door. I sang it, and we both loved it. It’s just a beautiful song, and Finneas is an amazing writer.”

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Eilish, who was engaged in dancing until a hip injury forced her to halt, continued, “I loved it, and I couldn’t shake it from my mind for weeks.” Eilish added, “I’m part of a dance company, and one of my teachers asked if I could record [the song] and send it to him so he could choreograph a dance. Therefore, all of the production is inspired by lyrical contemporary dance.”

The Slightlys

Finneas initially crafted “Ocean Eyes” for his high school band, the Slightlys. However, he soon realized that the narrative found its ideal home in his sister’s vocals. Reflecting on this decision in 2015, Finneas remarked, “She brought life to it that I couldn’t believe. She might be the most convincing singer I’ve ever heard. I’ve never doubted a single word she sings. It’s such a gift. Her voice is like a Stradivarius violin.”

In another interview from around the song’s release, Finneas disclosed that the bridge of “Ocean Eyes” is, in fact, the chorus played in reverse. “Billie was sending her friend a Snapchat, put the reverse filter on while we were working on the song, and it sounded sick,” Finneas shared. “So, I took every vocal from the chorus, reversed them, and washed them out with reverb to create the bridge—crashed my computer.”

“Ocean Eyes” marked a breakthrough moment for Eilish, leading to the release of her chart-topping albums: the debut “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?” in 2019, and “Happier Than Ever” in 2021. “‘Ocean Eyes’ gave us something from nothing,” expressed Finneas in 2021. “I always have this profound gratitude for that song.”

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