Alt-pop’s current darling, Billie Eilish, is in the throes of promoting her highly anticipated debut album, due out at the end of this month. Billie’s widespread success is undeniably attached to a relentless release schedule that uses the virality of streaming hits to her advantage, so it’s honestly not surprising that wish you were gay is the fourth track released in advance of WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? And although I would like some surprise to hang onto by the time the whole thing drops, I can’t deny that this release schedule is working for her; the hype she’s generated in the last year is unbelievable.
I have to admit, when I saw this on the track list a few weeks ago, I was fairly nervous about what direction this might head. Queerbaiting and appropriation are legitimate and serious issues in the entertainment industry, and criticism of straight artists taking space from queer artists and audiences is entirely reasonable. In my view though, at least, Eilish has avoided entrenching herself in that nightmarish vortex of faux-pandering by being up front about the concept behind the lyrics, and releasing the track with no buildup or teasing about it’s message. On her instagram over 6 months ago, Billie explained:
“I wrote this song about a guy that really was not interested in me and it made me feel horrible so the song is called ‘wish you were gay’. And that’s so not meant to be offensive in any way. It literally means I wish he was gay so that he didn’t like me for an actual reason.”
wish you were gay is not a coming out song, but it is a cleverly devised and deftly handled expression of how it hurts to not have your feelings reciprocated. The verses feature some witty wordplay as she counts down, literally, to the chorus, which in turn cracks the song wide open and puts her emotions on full display. The bridge, in particular, shines through:
To spare my pride, to give your lack of interest an explanation / Don’t say I’m not your type, just say that I’m not your preferred sexual orientation
I still like the darker, angsty vibe she’s been showcasing on her last few singles, but I find the relative delicacy of this track refreshing, a reminder of what drew me to her in the first place.T
In tandem with the song’s release, Billie also made this announcement:
Billie will be in Australia for Groovin’ the Moo next month.