“Tomorrow. Song at 9am PST, Video at 12pm PST,” wrote FINNEAS (aka Finneas O’Connell) when teasing his new track, “What They’ll Say About Us.” It’s a somber, piano-driven song with the same dark, enchanting production he wove into When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go, the landmark debut album from his sister, Billie Eilish. Hours after releasing the “What They’ll Say About Us” – a song FINNEAS said was inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement and the death of Broadway star Nick Cordero – he shared the music video. Like the track, it’s a simple-but-powerful statement, with Finneas performing the song while the seasons — spring, summer, winter — happen around him.
In a quick intro before the premiere, Finneas said that he hopes this new song gives a little “hope” to those who have been going through their own struggles. That message is evident in the song’s lyrics. “We’ve got the time to take the world / And make it better than it ever was / That’s what they’ll say about us,” he sings, per Genius. “If I say a cliche, it’s ’cause I mean it / We can’t walk away, we gotta get in between it / And when you wake up, we’ll grow together / So don’t you give up.”
“I wrote [“What They’ll Say About Us” on the day of a Black Lives Matter protest back in June,” FINNEAS said while speaking with the Wall Street Journal. “I had spent the day out protesting with my girlfriend [YouTube personality Claudia Sulewski], and protests, in general, make me feel really optimistic. I think being surrounded by people who also see the flaws in the system is a really positive experience ’cause you go, ‘Oh, my God, I’m not the only one.’” Finneas also said that another “component of the song” was the tragic death of Broadway star Nick Cordero.
“I was very closely following Nick Cordero’s story on Instagram, via his wife [fitness entrepreneur Amanda Kloots], and Nick and his wife were not people I’d ever met,” Finneas told the WSJ. “I don’t know them at all. I saw the headlines about his health, just like everybody else did. I just became incredibly attached to this family that I’d never met before. I kind of wrote this song as if you were singing to your loved one who was in a hospital bed while the world was protesting outside. I did make a point to keep the song fairly ambiguous because I know everybody’s sort of going through different circumstances of the same things right now.”
When asked if FINNEAS thought there was a value in art that provides a distraction from all the “different circumstances” unfolding in the world, he replied, “ Escapism? Yeah. I think there’s totally value in that. And I guess to me, it’s more like, if you were going to write a story and it was going to be a story about the present world, like you could write any number of stories, as long as the stories had a self-awareness of the present world, right?”
“What They’ll Say About Us” is FINNEAS’ first major solo release this year, arriving on the heels of his and Billie’s sweep at the 2020 Grammys. It’s also the first release of songs he’s worked on since self-isolating from the COVID-19 pandemic. Billie shared a new song, “My Future,” in July, and performed it (alongside FINNEAS) for the first time at the 2020 Democratic National Convention. It appears that these two tracks are the tip of the iceberg when it comes to new music. FINNEAS said most of his time is spent “working on Billie’s next album” and they’ve worked on a bunch of new tracks while in quarantine. “She’s my quarantine artist companion,” Finneas told the WSJ. “She’s in my pod. It’s her and me and my girlfriend and then our parents—that’s the pod.”