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

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

“All the good girls go to hell” Lyrics Meaning

It’s interesting that despite the popularity of this song, Billie Eilish has not commented on it within the few days since its release. Keeping this in mind, there is not yet conclusive evidence as to what this song means, but this is a probable interpretation at the moment and fits well with what she has created in the past.

“Peter’s on vacation, an open invitation”

This line is important, as it highlights the desire of the narrator to have a free pass to give up on morality and will take any excuse as an “open invitation” to do bad. The emphasis is on the word narrator, as the tone of this song is very consistent with some of the character’s Billie Eilish has created in songs such as “bellyache”, “you should see me in a crown”, and most recently, “bad guy.” Just as she paints a caricature of religion, the views expressed here are also a caricature of themselves. It is important to keep that in mind as we dive into an explanation of this song, as well as the multiple interpretations of many of the lyrics due to some of their vagueness and heavy reliance on metaphors.

Verse 1

My Lucifer is lonely

Standing there, killing time

Can't commit to anything but a crime

Peter's on vacation, an open invitation

Animals, evidence

Pearly Gates look more like a picket fence

Once you get inside 'em

Got friends but can't invite them

The use of  the possessive “my” likely means she is referring to her dark side. Her inner demons prompt her to be unable to “commit to anything but a crime.” “Peter’s on vacation”, refers to St. Peter and means that the moral absolutes are no longer in play, which is “an open invitation” to do evil. To her, being good (represented by the metaphor of heaven), “look[s] more like a picket fence” of rules. She asks why she should “get inside ‘em” if she has “Got friends but can’t invite them” because they’re not good enough for the version of heaven she has set up (If this is speaking about Heaven literally, it is coming from the point of view of someone who has likely not had much experience with Christianity, since the Bible teaches a reliance on salvation in Christ rather than works, and acknowledges that all people sin and require the grace of God.) Her character’s view of good and evil carries the familiar irreverence we see a few songs earlier in the album, on “bad guy”. To this character, good is boring, and being bad is much more fun to her.

Pre-Chorus

Hills burn in California

My turn to ignore ya

Don't say I didn't warn ya

The line “Hills burn in California” likely references the recent fires that took many homes and lives in the last year, and is, from her character’s point of view, proof that God doesn’t care. While these lines are confusing, my best guess would be that she is speaking to God and saying that it is now her “turn to ignore” Him, as she believes He has ignored her.

Chorus

All the good girls go to Hell

'Cause even God herself has enemies

And once the water starts to rise

And Heaven's out of sight

She'll want the Devil on her team

The line “all the good girls go to Hell” illustrates a belief that moral acts are futile, because in the end she believes they will all fall short of that goodness. Another interpretation of this line is that Billie’s character believes that good girls are all miserable, something she has told herself to justify her behavior. “‘Cause even God herself has enemies” is difficult to interpret since it is unclear if she is referring to God as a woman in order to be controversial or because it has some metaphorical significance to the song. Either way, the crucial takeaway from this line is that the narrator is intentionally departing from a traditional view of God by using a feminine pronoun and discusses weaknesses (Which is theologically inconsistent with biblical teaching) as an intentional act of rebellion against even the theology of the Judeo-Christian God.

The lines “once the water starts to rise / And Heaven’s out of sight”  means that when a real problem comes up and no one is around to see how it is dealt with, the god Billie Eilish has set up will “Want the Devil on her team”. This connects back to the idea that individuals who attempt to do good and in a manner that is selfless, do so for nothing, because eventually they will succumb to evil. This is the belief her character clings to in order to justify her rebellious behavior.

Verse 2

Look at you needing me

You know I'm not your friend without some greenery

Walk in wearin' fetters

Peter should know better

Your cover up is caving in

Man is such a fool, why are we saving him?

Poisoning themselves now

Begging for our help, wow

The narrator points out that she is needed, and relishes in the power she holds over someone else. She says that she will only give help if they have “some greenery” or payment. By the line “Man is such a fool, why are we saving him,” it is possible that the narrator has changed from Billie’s character to the image of God she has in her mind. In her mind, God is looking down on humanity with apathy saying “[they’re] poisoning themselves now / Begging for our help, wow” in a careless attitude. (Again, this either purposely conflicts with the identity of the Judeo-Christian God, who does not have human flaws such as apathy. However it may very well be an honest belief of either the character, or Billie herself, that comes from a place of great pain and confusion.)

Post-Chorus

My Lucifer is lonely

There's nothing left to save now

My god is gonna owe me

There's nothing left to save now

“Haha!

I cannot do this snowflake”

She reminds us of the loneliness she experiences because of her dark side with the repetition of the earlier line, “My Lucifer is lonely”. She says that there is no point in trying to be moral because “there’s nothing left to save now”. “My god is gonna owe me” is a line laced with anger and rebellion, and might even be revealing a little honesty and vulnerability from either the narrator or Billie herself. The outro features her and FINNEAS laughing in the studio, solidifying the irreverent tone that “bad guy” shares.

Deeper Meaning of “all the good girls go to hell” by Billie Eilish

“All the good girls go to hell” is one of the darker songs Billie Eilish has released, as it is written from the perspective of someone who has given up on being good and rejects God and the moral absolutes that accompany a belief in God. People of all faiths or lack thereof would likely agree that an abandonment of morality is harmful to both that individual and those around them. The pain, confusion and anger that leads to such a choice is heartbreaking. I don’t like to get preachy, and I hope I’m not coming across that way, because that is the last thing I intend, but for anyone reading this who is struggling with any of the feelings talked about in this song (as I think most of us do at some point in our life), it’s not pointless. I believe that being kind, trying to do the right thing, and loving others when it’s difficult are some of the most rewarding things we can do on this earth. It is those things that change people’s lives, remind us of our purpose on this earth, and it is those things we are remembered for. As far as being good being futile because we inevitably mess up, that’s what being human is. We will make mistakes and we will even intentionally do things that aren’t good sometimes. It’s how we grow and learn to accept grace for those times that is so important. Full disclosure, I am a Christian and this is my (Arielle Anderson’s) personal personal perspective:If I could talk to the narrator of this song, I would tell her this, “I’m sorry you feel alone, abandoned. But you’re not alone. There’s hope for you; there always is hope and you don’t need to give up on trying to be kind. It’s okay if you fail sometimes. The response wouldn’t be ‘Man is such a fool, why are we saving him?’ It would be ‘You are worth saving’. All the good girls don’t go to hell, but the ‘bad girls’ don’t need to resign themselves either.”




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