Meaning Behind the Song: “Bad Guy” by Billie Eilish

Billie Eilish had set herself up as an intriguing pop artist destined for success with early singles like “Ocean Eyes,” “You Should See Me in a Crown,” “Bury a Friend” and others, but “Bad Guy” took her over the edge. Co-written by Eilish and her frequent collaborator, brother and producer Finneas, “Bad Guy” continued to prove them as an unstoppable duo when it was unleashed in 2019, solidifying Eilish as a modern superstar. Below, we explore the meaning behind “Bad Guy.”

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Meaning Behind the Song

“Bad Guy” is as much about social commentary as it is an unforgettable pop song. Eilish has explained that the track pokes fun at people who try to project an image out into the world that they want others to see them as – whether it’s true or not.

“It’s about a lot of things, but I think the actual idea for this song was people that have to tell everybody that they are a certain way all the time, they’re not that certain way,” she explains to 102.7 KIISFM. “It’s basically just making fun of everyone and their personas of themselves, and even mine.”

An example she cites of people who fall into this category is those who “say they’re always working” and try to prove that by having a kitschy phrase like “never not working” on their cell phone case.

But the singer says that she actually identifies with these types of people, as she used to try to come off tougher than she is. “I feel like you will never catch a bad bitch telling everybody that she’s a bad bitch,” she continues. “If you’re going around all the time saying ‘I’m bad, I’m always breaking rules and doing this and doing that,’ you’re not. I know that because I used to say that and I wasn’t. People like bad kids, bad boys, bad bitches, they do that shit and they don’t even know.”

She elaborated on this point to Rolling Stone, noting that “Bad Guy” is about taking someone down a couple of pegs who is too big for their britches.

“The whole song is talking to someone that thinks they’re this big tough guy,” she describes. The concept for the song was developed by the singer from a previous song she started writing that centered around the topic of her being “the bad guy.” She adds that she was inspired by the sonics of “Never” by J.I.D. and “Stuck in the Mud” by Isaiah Rashad featuring SZA when creating “Bad Guy.”

Lyrics like so you’re a tough guy / Like it really rough guy are meant to call someone’s bluff. “I’m going to be all types of fake too,” she responds to the fictional main character. “If you can be fake with everyone and try to prove you are something that you’re not, I can do it too.”

Hooked on Sonics

The production of the song is just as intriguing as the lyrics, Eilish working closely with her brother to create the various melodies. The siblings reveal that the synth at the end of the chorus was actually inspired by the theme song of the former Selena Gomez-fronted Disney show, Wizards of Waverly Place.

“I feel like a lot of music producers have the same toolbox and to me as a producer, I always want something to set my stuff apart,” Finneas expressed on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. To accomplish this, he walks around with an iPhone or recorder capturing everyday sounds that oftentimes make it into his songs in an effort to add a “little textural thing.”

One example is when he and his sister were on tour in Australia, they noticed that the street crossing signal for pedestrians made a distinct sound that they recorded and incorporated into part of the melody of “Bad Guy.”

“In Sydney and Melbourne, when you stand at a street light, you press the button and then when the walk sign turns on, you hear this rhythmic sound that I love and that Billie loved and so we recorded it,” he explained. “It’s got like a groove.”

“This song was one of the most fun songs to make ever,” Eilish said to Rolling Stone. “I like our music and we work so hard on it.”


“Bad Guy” charted around the world, hitting No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, making the then 17-year-old Eilish the first artist born in the 2000s to reach the summit. Hungary, Australia, Canada, and Greece are among the many other countries where the song hit No. 1. It also won multiple awards, including Song of the Year and Record of the Year at the 2020 Grammy Awards, while its parent album, When We All Fall Asleep Where Do We Go? was named Album of the Year, Best Pop Vocal Album and Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical.

Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images

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