Cliff-pop-song-professor.png

Welcome!

I'm Clifford Stumme, and I use literary analysis and research to explain the deeper meanings of pop songs. Feel free to leave a comment or to email me at clifford@popsongprofessor.com with questions or ideas!

What does "xanny" by Billie Eilish mean?

What does "xanny" by Billie Eilish mean?

“xanny” Lyrics Meaning

In an interview with The Guardian, Billie Eilish commented on “xanny”, saying of her motivation in writing it: “I have never done drugs, I’ve never got high, I’ve never smoked anything in my life. … It’s just not interesting to me. I have other [things] to do. I know people around you doing that [stuff] makes you want to, but you don’t have to. I don’t want my friends to die any more.” This is a topic she takes very seriously as we can see through the beautiful and melancholy lyrics of “xanny”.

“Don't give me a Xanny, now or ever”

Billie finds different ways throughout this song to portray the ugliness of drug addiction that she’s seen in people’s lives. In bringing the unnatractiveness of drug usage to light, she expresses her wise distaste for the lifestyle and declares that no matter what she may go through in life, she doesn’t “need a Xanny to feel better”, and is adamant that she never, under any circumstances wishes to be given drugs as a problem masquerading as a solution.

Verse 1

What is it about them?

I must be missing something

They just keep doing nothing

Too intoxicated to be scared

Better off without them

They're nothing but unstable

Bring ashtrays to the table

And that's about the only thing they share

Billie hooks the audience in by asking the vague question, “What is it about them?”. It becomes clear she is asking this because feels she “must be missing something”, since she doesn’t understand why her friends aren’t trying to escape their drug addiction. Rather than get help, “they just keep doing nothing”. Her explanation for their behavior is they are “too intoxicated to be scared”. She knows that she is “better off without” these type of people in her life. They can no longer have normal friendships and are “nothing but unstable”. Everything they are involved in is related to drugs, and outside of that world, they don’t know how to interact with one another, or how to help Billie or anyone through difficult times. “Bring ashtrays to the table / And that’s about the only thing they share.”

Chorus

I'm in their second hand smoke

Still just drinking canned Coke

I don't need a Xanny to feel better

On designated drives home

Only one who's not stoned

Don't give me a Xanny, now or ever

With the simple line “I’m in their second hand smoke”, Billie illustrates that their behavior is having a negative impact on her even though she wants no part in their unhealthy lifestyle. (Secondhand smoke is smoke inhaled involuntarily by a non-smoking person. Long and repeated exposure to secondhand smoke can even cause cancer in a person who has never smoked.) Rather than cave to the peer pressure, she continues to drink “canned Coke” as opposed to using the drug, cocaine. She affirms to her friends that she doesn’t “need a Xanny to feel better.” Xanny is a slang word for the pleasure street drug, Xanax, which was created to provide temporary mood improvement, but is also highly addictive and dangerous. Billie is the only one who refrains from using these drugs and as a result, is the only one who can drive her friends home as a sober individual. She has seen the impact of drugs first hand. As a result, she doesn’t want to be given “a Xanny, now or ever.”

Verse 2

Wakin' up at sundown (Ooh)

They're late to every party (Ooh)

Nobody's ever sorry (Ooh)

Too inebriated now to dance

Morning as they come down (Come down)

Their pretty heads are hurting (Hurting)

They're awfully bad at learning (Learning)

Make the same mistakes, blame circumstance

The second verse paints a vivid picture of what life is like for her drug-using friends. They are “wakin’ up at sundown” and are constantly out of sync with the rest of the world. They are “late to every party”, but they aren’t “ever sorry”. They are too caught up in themselves to care they left others waiting. Their habits rob them of the simple pleasures, and they are “too inebriated now” to even dance at a party. After a night of partying, they “come down” off the high and experience the pain of “their pretty heads … hurting.” But despite this cycle of intense pain, Billie says her friends are “awfully bad at learning” and they “make the same mistakes” but never take responsibility and “blame circumstance” in an attempt to justify their poor judgement to her.

Bridge

Please don't try to kiss me on the sidewalk

On your cigarette break

I can't afford to love someone

Who isn't dying by mistake in Silver Lake

In the bridge, Billie speaks directly to one of her friends. She tells him she doesn’t want him to “try to kiss [her] on the sidewalk / On [his] cigarette break.” The unromantic image paints an unnatractive image of drug usage. She continues with her rejection of him due to his lifestyle and explains that she “can’t afford to love someone / Who isn’t dying by mistake in Silver Lake.” Silver Lake is a residential neighborhood in Los Angeles, and is also close to Billie’s hometown. This is possibly where her friends were from, and appears to have a reputation for a lot of partying. She “can’t afford to love someone who” is intentionally killing themselves with drugs in “Silver Lake.”

Deeper Meaning of “xanny” by Billie Eilish

“xanny” is a unique song for Billie Eilish. It doesn’t involve playing a role, she speaks from personal experience. She doesn’t attempt to be creepy or edgy in this song, but does bring her beautiful voice and lyrical abilities, just as FINNEAS adds his unique flare with the production. One of the most admirable things about “xanny” is Billie’s willingness to make a true, beautifully written statement about an issue that many pop artists endorse. The fact that she is able to make her opinion clear without being preachy only hits home how talented she is as a lyricist. She tells her story by allowing us to smell the smoke, feel the confusion and concern, and empathize with her frustration as her friends refuse to learn. At a time with so much reckless partying among my generation (as I’m around the same age as Billie), I appreciate this song and am given hope by how popular this track is becoming. With artists like Billie Eilish being real with her audience about drug use, we can be encouraged that we aren’t alone in our desire to avoid the lifestyle of teen partying that is so often normalized in pop culture. Hopefully, it will remind both users and non-users of all ages of the pain that comes with the party-culture we so often see glamorized.

What does "all the good girls go to hell" by Billie Eilish mean?

What does "all the good girls go to hell" by Billie Eilish mean?

What does "bad guy" by Billie Eilish mean?

What does "bad guy" by Billie Eilish mean?