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Released: 2022

Embodying the ambivalent emotional space between self-awareness and self-deprecation in the face of romantic learned helplessness, Billie Eilish’s song “TV” serves as a gripping examination of loneliness, love, and disillusionment set against the backdrop of modern-day media saturation. The song dissects the dichotomy between private pain and public performance, portraying the protagonist’s struggle with isolation and unrequited love.

Opening with the line “I don’t wanna talk right now / I just wanna watch TV,” Eilish sets a tone of emotional disconnection. She’s evading communication, instead opting to lose herself in the detached reality of television. The verse “I put on ‘Survivor’, just to watch somebody suffer” is a potent commentary on the desperation of seeking solace in the plight of others, an attempt to downplay one’s struggle by comparison.

The recurring chorus, “all of my friends are missing again / that’s what happens when you fall in love,” delivers a biting critique of the self-isolation that often accompanies intense romantic entanglements. Here she underlines a shift in priorities, noting how love can consume us, leaving our friends and even parts of our own selves behind.

Whether it’s “Sinking in the sofa” or “the internet’s gone wild,” Eilish uses familiar pop culture references to underline the discardment of self and the society’s obsession with external spectacle, even as world-altering events unfold. The line “watching movie stars on trial / While they’re overturning Roe v. Wade” juxtaposes the media-frenzied celebrity scandal with major legal shifts, illustrating how society often fixates on the superficial at the expense of the substantive.

Finally, Eilish’s repeated assertion, “Maybe I’m the problem,” signifies a moment of profound self-realization. Through this repetition, she underscores the cruel self-indictment that happens when love goes unreciprocated. But what’s compelling is the transition from “Maybe I’m the problem” to “Baby, I’m the problem.” This hints at her accepting this self-rebuke as fact, further trenching her in the melancholy of unrequited love.

In conclusion, Eilish’s “TV” is a ballad of modern loneliness couched in the lingo of familiar pop culture. It’s a stark spotlight on the isolating impact of unrequited love, the solace sought in shared suffering, and the distraction offered by the banalities of the screen. A bleak echo, it prompts listeners to consider the ways in which we all might be slipping into self-constructed purgatories of aloofness when love doesn’t quite play the pleasant tune we’d hoped for.

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