Bad Guy (Billie Eilish song)
“Bad Guy” (stylized in all lowercase) is a song recorded by American singer Billie Eilish. It was released by Darkroom and Interscope Records as the fifth single from Eilish’s debut studio album When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? Eilish and her brother Finneas O’Connell co-wrote “Bad Guy”, with the latter producing it and the former providing additional production. The song was described as electropop, dance-pop, pop-trap, and nu-goth pop in press reviews, for which synth bass, a kick drum, finger snaps and 808 bass provide minimalist instrumentation. During the song’s lyrics, Eilish taunts her lover for being a bad guy although suggesting that she is more resilient than he is, and further touches on themes about misandry and sarcasm.
Upon its release, “Bad Guy” received mainly positive reviews. It was also likened to music recorded by the White Stripes, Lorde and Fiona Apple. “Bad Guy” was a commercial success, reaching number one on the US Billboard Hot 100, as well as on the charts in Australia, Canada, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, New Zealand, Norway and Russia. In the United States, “Bad Guy” ended the record-breaking 19-week run of “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X featuring Billy Ray Cyrus. “Bad Guy” also peaked at number two on the UK Singles Chart, among others. It has been awarded several certifications, notably an octuple platinum award from the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) and a sextuple one from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). “Bad Guy” has received several awards, including Record and Song of the Year at the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards.
Dave Meyers directed the music video for “Bad Guy” which was uploaded onto Eilish’s YouTube channel at the same time as the single’s digital release. The video depicts Eilish being involved in several activities, including wild dancing, suffering a nosebleed and sitting on the back of a man doing push-ups. Reviewers noted the video for its camp elements and eccentric imagery. For promotional purposes, Eilish performed the song on several occasions and also included it on the set list for her When We All Fall Asleep Tour (2019) and Where Do We Go? World Tour (2020). On July 11, 2019, a remix of “Bad Guy” featuring Canadian singer Justin Bieber was released to mixed reviews from critics, who mostly commented on Bieber’s vocals.
Bad Guy-Background and release
Billie Eilish released her debut studio album When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? on March 29, 2019, via Darkroom and Interscope Records. “Bad Guy” was simultaneously issued as the record’s fifth single. The song was co-written by Eilish and her brother Finneas O’Connell, with the latter also produced the track and Eilish providing additional production. It was mastered by John Greenham and mixed by Rob Kinelski, both of whom also served as studio personnel. In August 2019, the single was made available for pre-order on cassette and scheduled to ship in October; selected cassettes were signed by Eilish. Additionally, a flexi disc was similarly released for pre-order to ship in the following 4–6 weeks. Each of the two releases came with a digital single delivered via email for US customers.
Bad Guy-Composition and lyrical interpretation
“Bad Guy” is divided into halves; the first half is moderately fast at 132–138 beats per minute (BPM) and the second half is slow at 60 BPM. The song is played in the key of G minor, while Eilish’s vocals span a range of F3 to C6. The track was called electropop, dance-pop, “pop-trap”, and “nu-goth pop” in press reviews; it features a minimalist production consisting of synth bass, a kick drum, amplified finger snaps and 808 bass. “Bad Guy” further uses a catchy synthesizer riff. In an interview with Rolling Stone, the utilization of a Sydney pedestrian traffic light sound in the song was revealed; it originates from a phone recording made by Eilish in February 2017. Vanity Fair‘s Louie XIV labeled it “dance music through a fun house mirror”. Alongside humorous cadences, Eilish uses several tongue-in-cheek lyrics. “Bad Guy” was inspired by Selena Gomez’s “Everything Is Not What It Seems” (2007), the theme song for the teen sitcom Wizards of Waverly Place, alongside the video game music theme for Plants vs. Zombies.
In the lyrics, Eilish taunts a lover for being a bad guy; as the song progresses she suggests she is tougher than him, singing in a “nonchalant, self-effacing murmur”. According to reviewers, the song also discusses themes such as misandry, gloating, sarcasm and naughtiness. During the track’s half-spoken chorus, the singer elaborates on her relationship with fellow men and women, rejecting their expectations of her; “I’m that bad type / Make your mama sad type / Make your girlfriend mad tight / Might seduce your dad type / I’m the bad guy, duh”. Other lyrics include: “My mommy likes to sing along with me / But she won’t sing this song / If she reads all the lyrics / She’ll pity the men I know”. AJ Longabaugh of V likened the lyrics to the later work of Amy Winehouse.
Bad Guy-Critical response and industry awards
Upon its release, “Bad Guy” received mainly positive reviews, with several critics praising its lyrics. White of Uproxx likened the song to material released by the White Stripes, writing, “It’s the kind of song that builds power as it unfolds, an anthem imbued with casual fearlessness”. Labeling “Bad Guy” as a “low-key banger”, Stereogum‘s Chris DeVille drew comparisons between the song and the work of Lorde and Fiona Apple. Writing for PopBuzz, Sam Prance said “Bad Guy” is “iconic” and dubbed the “duh” lyric as “already one of the standout musical moments of 2019”. He continued; “It’s the perfect anthem for anyone who likes to get in touch with their dark side”. Vanity Fair‘s Louie XIV included the track in the magazine’s list of “9 Songs From 2019 That Might Predict the Future of Pop”, writing; “Billie has remade the look of pop success: ironic, self-aware, intimate, DIY, and paying little mind to dated standards for teen-pop idol-dom”. Suzy Exposito of Rolling Stone said Eilish recalled DC Comics’ character Harley Quinn during the song, “playing a comic book villain in a voice that suggests Lorde’s rascal kid sister”. In a negative review, Pitchfork’s Stacey Anderson criticized Eilish for “bragging about statutory rape” and said she found the song “stale”. Billboard included “Bad Guy” in their list of 100 songs that defined the 2010s. The song has received several awards and nominations, most notably Record and Song of the Year at the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards:
Bad Guy-Commercial performance
Upon the release of When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, “Bad Guy” debuted at number seven on the US Billboard Hot 100 on the week ending April 13, 2019, as Eilish’s first top ten entry on the chart. It later occupied number two for a total of nine weeks, before ultimately reaching number one on the week ending August 24, 2019. “Bad Guy” ended the record-breaking 19-week run of “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X featuring Billy Ray Cyrus. At 17, she further became the first artist born in the 2000s to achieve this feat and the youngest since then-16-year-old Lorde topped the ranking with “Royals” in 2013. “Bad Guy” also experienced success outside of the United States, reaching number one in Australia, Canada, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, New Zealand, Norway, and Russia.”Bad Guy” was the best-performing global single of 2019 with combined sales and track-equivalent streams of 19.5 million units according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI)
A music video for “Bad Guy” was directed by Dave Meyers and was uploaded to Eilish’s official YouTube channel on March 29, 2019. Additionally, Eilish released a vertical video on August 15, 2019. The video begins with a yellow backdrop while the opening track “!!!!!!!” from When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? plays. Eilish discusses taking out her Invisalign dental brace before laughing. She eventually kicks her way through a wall while wearing a yellow sweatshirt and sweatpants, and hands her dental brace to a man, Eric Lutz, on her right. The video ends in a sinister way as Eilish sits on the back of a man who does push-ups in a dark, red room.
The video was positively received by music critics. Uproxx’s White called the use of “!!!!!!!” at its beginning “effective”. James Rettig of Stereogum noticed elements of camp although he acknowledged the video was “still being emotionally sincere and vulnerable. This one features a lot of weirdo imagery … in a way that’s both goofy and genuinely unsettling”. Chloe Gilke, writing for Uproxx, said the video takes several of the song’s lyrics literally and that it is “awash in primary colors and black and white, Eilish’s bold aesthetic”. Rolling Stone‘s Jon Blistein noticed “a series of strange, grotesque and weirdly hilarious sequences”, while Laura Dzubay of The Michigan Daily pointed out “strange dances, from a backward Exorcist-style crawl to a squatting sidestep to an energetic roll”. Upon its release, the video was accused of “blatantly” plagiarizing photographs by Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari of Toiletpaper magazine. The video received significant attention online and was the subject of several memes. Melissa McCarthy parodied it on The Ellen DeGeneres Show in May 2019. On the January 16, 2020 episode of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, the show parodied the song as “Bond Guy”, which references No Time to Die, where Eilish will provide the theme for the movie.
Live performances and other usage
Eilish has promoted “Bad Guy” through a number of live performances. On May 7, 2019, she sang it on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, and on May 26 on BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend. The singer also performed the track at Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival on April 20, and at Glastonbury Festival on June 30. “Bad Guy” was included on the setlist of Eilish’s When We All Fall Asleep Tour (2019). It was also performed at Pukkelpop in August of the same year. On September 29, 2019, Eilish performed the song on Saturday Night Live; her routine was compared to Lionel Richie’s “Dancing on the Ceiling” (1986) music video. She further sang “Bad Guy” on her Where Do We Go? World Tour (2020).
In June 2019, Bastille covered “Bad Guy” at BBC’s Maida Vale Studios as part of a medley that also included Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” (2009), Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood” (2015), Dick Dale’s “Misirlou” (1962) and their own “Bad Decisions” (2019).The track was also covered by Two Door Cinema Club on Radio 1’s Live Lounge the same month, by Alexandra Stan on Virgin Radio Romania in July, as well as by multiple musicians in December during a live radio broadcast of Live From Here at the Town Hall.
“Bad Guy” was used for an advertisement for clothing manufacturer Calvin Klein’s “My Truth” campaign, as well as in a television commercial for Kia Seltos. It was included on the chart compilation album Now That’s What I Call Music 103, and was used during the end credits of the 2019 superhero horror film Brightburn. It is also featured on the 2019 dance rhythm game, Just Dance 2020, and further made an appearance in a trailer for the 2019 film Bombshell. Among other parodies, one titled “Dad Guy” released by FunkTurkey on YouTube in August 2019, went viral. It replaces the original lyrics with jokes about fatherhood.