‘I Feel Like It’s One Of My Best Vocal Performances’: Billie Eilish Gets Real About The Struggles Of Making ‘What Was I Made For’ And How It All Worked Out

Film News

When the news broke that Billie Eilish would be involved in Barbie, no one could have predicted the chart-topper she and her brother, FINNEAS, came up with. The answer eventually came in the emotionally charged track “What Was I Made For?” which is about questioning your life’s purpose as a doll or a human, fitting in very well with the Barbie movie’s themes. It turns out, the formation of the track was no picnic as the Grammy winner explained the struggles of making this song and how it worked out as one of her “best vocal performances.”

In Greta Gerwig’s Barbie movie, the Mattel Inc. doll is dealing with an existential crisis as she realizes she’s starting to develop human qualities (like flat feet). Billie Eilish and her brother FINNEAS, renowned for crafting relatable songs, were tasked with crafting a track for the film, and once again, they demonstrated their ability to compose a tune that blends in with a project’s themes so well. They spoke to Vanity Fair about what the writing process of this Grammy-nominated song was like, and Eilish said:

When we were writing this, we were very, very much writing about a character. We were writing from the perspective of a character and her life and the way she sees the world through her eyes and her experiences. And it wasn’t until two days later that I was listening to it and I was like, ‘This is me. This is my life and how I feel.’ And it was pretty weird to not realize that my subconscious was doing that — and also, just that I related a lot to this character.

It must have been a bizarre experience for Billie Eilish to write a song for the purpose of a movie only to discover it’s autobiographical. “What Was I Made For?” was played in the Barbie scene when the film’s lead is transitioning into the Real World and encouraged by the doll’s creator to “feel,” bringing about emotions she’s never felt before. However, as the Grammy winner said, she actually ended up relating to the song on a deep level.

To think that Eilish almost failed at the assignment to write a song for director Greta Gerwig is hard to fathom. She and her brother contemplated for six hours on material after watching unfinished scenes of Barbie only to end up with nothing. Then, they thought about the floating elegance of the titular character, and that’s where “used to float, now I just fall down” came from. The rest just fell into place.

As “What Was I Made For?” took a long time to write, there was another challenge that came from the song, because it challenged Billie Eilish and her vocal range:

It’s not even that it’s high, it is high in my range, but it’s not about that. It’s about the delivery. I was trying to do a very specific thing with my voice which was like this very soft, held back, you know, upper range falsetto. There’s so many ways I could have sung it, but none of it worked the way that this kind of heartbroken, almost like you were just crying and now you’re singing delivery was, and it was the hardest choice of all of the choices I could have made.

Eilish admitted that when she first started singing, she only had one way of using her voice. But, this new song of hers gave her an opportunity to explore her range with that High C in the “how” when she sings “I don’t know how I feel.” As hard as it was for the “Happier Than Ever” singer to play around with her vocal instrument, she said it was a lot of fun experimenting. On the other hand, the 21-year-old performer is also relieved she never has to record the challenging song again.

It’s funny how a task that appeared so challenging at first became a rewarding experience. Eilish continued to talk about how happy she was about the way she and her brother’s song turned out, explaining:

I had this exact vision for what I wanted it to sound like and I got it there, and I feel really proud. […] I feel like it’s one of my best vocal performances I’ve ever given.

Absolutely it was! I hope that Billie Eilish composes more songs like these where she pushes the limit on her voice. 

With this being one of her best vocal performances, it’s no wonder “What Was I Made For?” went viral on TikTok. This single from the film’s soundtrack also managed to snag five nominations at the upcoming Grammys, including Record of the Year and Song of the Year. It even won Variety’s Hitmakers’ Film Song of the Year. Who knows, it could even win an Oscar!

Barbie will be available with a Max subscription on December 15th. You can also cross your fingers with Eilish to have trophies in hand for a song and performance she’s clearly proud of at the 66th Grammy Awards, which will air on the 2024 TV schedule on February 4th on CBS.

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