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 with questions or ideas!

What does "I Love You" by Billie Eilish mean?

What does "I Love You" by Billie Eilish mean?

“I Love You” Lyrics Meaning

(The following blog post is a transcript created by Xalma of the below video.)

Today we're talking about "I Love You" by Billie Eilish; and this is going to be really interesting, because this song seems to be part of a three-part series that you might not realise if somebody didn't tell you; so basically, the track right before is "Listen Before I Go"; and then we have "I Love You"; and then the song right after is "Goodbye"; all three of those titles are meant to make a full statement, so "listen before I go, I love you, goodbye"; and it is especially interesting, because "Listen Before I Go" is probably about suicide; "I Love You" sounds like it's about the same relationship, that is being talked about in "Listen Before I Go"; and then "Goodbye" serves as this very sad sort of allusion to suicide; but it's also a way to say that the album is over.

So there's a lot going on here; "I Love You" is the middle one, it's one of the most sentimental songs on the entire album WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? by Billie Eilish; and it's also one of her favourites; as she said on Radio Energy:

It's still one of my favorite songs I’ve ever written in my life

This song is about a complicated relationship that isn't always happy; and there is a lot more that's going on here than meets the eye.

Before we jump into the lyrics for "I Love You", I'm going to take a quick look at some of the lyrics from "Listen Before I Go"

Take me to the rooftop
I wanna see the world when I stop breathing

Which really suggests suicide by jumping of that rooftop.

Turnin' blue
Tell me love is endless, don't be so pretentious
Leave me like you do (Like you do)

I am not going to get into explaining all of that song; but I think it's obvious that this is the same rocky relationship mentioned in "I Love You"; and it's her saying "look, I need to tell you somethings before I go"; and this is especially heart-rending and difficult to hear, because if you have read or watched any of her interviews about her newfound fame; she says it's not really treating her well; like, she's having nightmares, night terrors, sleep paralisys, and things like that; she has explained to reporters or journalists that they arebecoming worse ever since she's gotten more famous; she has had more anxiety, and more depression; basically, it's just been really really difficult for her.

I don't want to comment too much on her mental health, because I don't really know exactly what she's going through, or what's going on; but maybe we can see what she has left for us to learn in the song "I Love You"; something that at least in a small way harkens to the positive side of things.

“I Love You” Lyrics Meaning

Verse One

It's not true
Tell me I've been lied to
Crying isn't like you, ooh
What the hell did I do?
Never been the type to
Let someone see right through, ooh

She says "it's not true, tell me I've been lied to"; what is she referring to there? is she saying "you cheated on me?! tell me that that's not true, because I still want to believe in you"; or is it something good that she doesn't want to hear? well, the answer will definitely surprise you; it surprised me anyway. So she doesn't want to believe it, whatever this thing is, she wants it to cease to exist; then she says "crying isn't like you", so it's made this other person emotional too; you know, either her response, or the thing that they've said; and she like lashes out in anger, saying "what the hell did I do? never been the type to let someone see right through", which refers to her getting vulnerable in this relationship; and not wanting any of it, right?


Maybe won't you take it back?
Say you were tryna make me laugh
And nothing has to change today
You didn’t mean to say "I love you"
I love you and I don't want to, ooh

So, the thing that this person's said is "I love you"; it's the title of the song; Billie Eilish's just heard this, and she's saying "no, I don't want our relationship to go this direction"; but she admits and says "I love you, and I don't want to". Now, she doesn't get into why or why not she doesn't want to love this person; but the thought of this relationship going to that level of depth is frightening for her; she wants the person just pass it off as a joke, so they can just keep going on the comfortableness of whatever level their relationship was at.

Verse Two

Up all night on another red-eye
I wish we never learned to fly
Maybe we should just try
To tell ourselves a good lie
Didn't mean to make you cry

So "Up all night" could be the context of when she had this conversation with this person; and by wishing they had never learned how to fly, could mean it would be a lot harder for her to be able to go to shows and concerts; which is apparently something that she doesn't always enjoy. "I didn't mean to make you cry" is there probably because of her response to what this person's said to her.


The smile that you gave me
Even when you felt like dying

So this person felt like dying, because of how she responded probably; or because he was so embarrassed of what they said, because really, that's such a big risk.

Then we have the outro; and keep in mind, she's been keeping this guy at arm's length the entire song; but in the outro, they are going to be a little bit close.


We fall apart as it gets dark
I'm in your arms in Central Park
There's nothing you could do or say
I can’t escape the way I love you
I don’t want to, but I love you, ooh
Ooh, ooh
Ooh, ooh

So they're at Central Park in New York; and she kind of caves a little bit; she's in his arms, so she's kind of succumbing to her friend's love I guess. Now; if it were me, I don't know how I'd feel about somebody saying that they don't want to love me, but they still do; but I'm assuming that this guy was like "cool, I'll take it"

So this song seems to be about something that happened near the beginning of a romantic relationship, but a little bit after a friendship; so they know each other, and she knows him well enough to know that she doesn't want to love him; but she knows him well enough that she still eventually admits that she does. Obviously it's a conflicting song; she feels two different ways about this person, who's telling her that he loves her; it's a difficult situation for her to be in; especially with the stuff that she is going through because of the fame and whatnot; and especially if you contextualise it between "Listen Before I Go" and "Goodbye". She is really going through some rough stuff; and so maybe part of the reason she doesn't want to love this guy is just because she thinks there's something wrong with her.

Guys, it's a deep song, her voice and the melody is so bittersweet, which fits this song perfectly; there's lots and lots more to be said about the song; and I'd really love to hear your favorite line from this song and why in the comments down below. For more Billie Eilish stuff, click on the Billie Eilish tag.

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