On June 2, Billie Eilish released the “Lost Cause” music video, to the delight of her fans. The video features Eilish and a group of friends at what seems to be the ultimate slumber party, complete with silly string, water guns, and a sun-drenched mansion with a huge backyard.
The “Lost Cause” video seems to be Eilish’s latest step in her image rebrand, which has been fascinating the public since her British Vogue cover shoot. Part of her sophomore album, Happier Than Ever, “Lost Cause” takes a step away from the broody, dark tones of her first album and into a brighter future, hence the album name — though that’s not to say Eilish sacrifices her signature sound. But while YouTube commenters were busy debating “how far she’s come” and how she’s “being more comfortable with herself,” what I couldn’t help noticing about the “Lost Cause” video was its familiarity.
That is, “Lost Cause” seems to cement a new subgenre of music video that has been on the rise for the past few years, what I’m calling the Girl Power Sleepover.
Why are they all caressing each other on the couch while singing about some dude? Why do I, despite myself, kind of want in on it?
The Girl Power Sleepover music video is essentially what it sounds like: roughly three minutes of envy-inducing shots of a group of female friends gallivanting around a giant, well-lit house and hyping each other up while one or more of them sing about how much of a loser that ex they just ditched is. Sounds ridiculously specific? Trust me, I can back it up: Take, for example, Dua Lipa’s 2017 video for “New Rules.” If you want to get technical, it takes place in a fancy motel, but I still count it — friends and flamingos alike back her up as she cuts off a toxic relationship. Or what about Little Mix’s 2016 music video for “Hair”? The girl group has the sleepover of their dreams as they literally wash their ex out of their hair. “Lost Cause” fits the bill too, and is even more notable given the return of Hot Girl Summer — Harper’s Bazaar said it gave them FOMO, and maybe that’s the point.
I’m using the words “Girl Power” half-sarcastically, because every Girl Power Sleepover music video manages to both be a feminist anthem and also spectacularly fail the Bechdel test. Save Little Mix’s “Hair,” which has a brief Sean Paul feature and a cameo by the pizza delivery boy, there is not a man to be found in any of these enviable mansions (perhaps that’s the ultimate fantasy of them?). But simultaneously, none of these songs are actually about female friendship — they’re all about dunking on a boy who treats you wrong. Dua’s not calling him back, Little Mix (almost!) cusses him out, and Billie? Well, she thinks he’s just a lost cause.
It’s empowering and maybe a little bewildering to me — why are they all caressing each other on the couch while singing about some dude? Why do I, despite myself, kind of want in on it?
Every Girl Power Sleepover music video manages to both be a feminist anthem and also spectacularly fail the Bechdel test.
I’m particularly fascinated by this trend because watching these music videos is almost aspirational for the modern young woman. While all three videos were different in tone — Eilish’s as chilled-out, Dua’s as sultry, and Little Mix’s straying into bubblegum pop territory — they all seem to get at the same point: this must be what young women want — an entourage of friends who have your back at all times, enough money to buy a big house, and freedom from that ex who’s been blowing up your phone with unsolicited messages.
Is this what young women want? Honestly, I think they’re kind of on to something.
An April 2021 study by the Institute for Mental Health Policy Research in Toronto found that during the COVID-19 pandemic, women in the 18-29 age range had greater odds of loneliness than men. It’s no secret that making and keeping friends in college is difficult; of course the allure of a close-knit, fun friend group would rake in millions of views (billions, in Dua Lipa’s case).
Our generation may be interested in romance, but we’re sure as hell not interested in settling for something less than we deserve — and these songs understand that.
And what about the big houses? Well, financial anxiety has been high even before the pandemic for American adults, as reported by FINRA. This is especially true for young women: female college students have higher financial anxiety than their male counterparts, according to a 2013 study published by the Institution of Education Sciences. Many of us aren’t sure we’ll be able to own a home at all in our lifetimes; being able to roam freely around a mansion sounds like a dream.
Finally, with young women being harassed on dating apps so often and Gen Z prioritizing their studies or careers over finding a partner, there’s nothing like living vicariously through a song about cutting off a person that didn’t respect you or deserve your time. Our generation may be interested in romance, but we’re sure as hell not interested in settling for something less than we deserve — and these songs understand that.
The Girl Power Sleepover, then, becomes a utopian escapism from the confluence of these desires and fears. As Elite Daily noted, “Lost Cause” in particular is filmed as though we, the viewer, are also a guest at this slumber party. The power of it is that even though it’s meant to portray an intimate and exclusive setting, every one of us is invited.
The power of “Lost Cause” is that even though it’s meant to portray an intimate and exclusive setting, every one of us is invited.
Of course, the Girl Power Sleepover is not without issues — Eilish has already been accused of queerbaiting in the “Lost Cause” video, since it features scenes of girls twerking on each other and nearly kissing. This isn’t new: all-girls sleepovers on screen are often depicted for the male gaze in a queerbait-y way, though that isn’t the experience of many young girls. It’s something that queer female artists have pushed against in their own content, like Ashnikko and Princess Nokia’s TikTok-viral “Slumber Party” or Hayley Kiyoko’s “Sleepover,” which gives me hope for the evolution of this trend.
Here’s to throwing our own semi-ironic Girl Power Sleepovers this vaccinated summer, because we may not all be pop stars, but frankly, we deserve it. In the meantime, I guess I’ll just be streaming “Lost Cause” on repeat and wishing that my living room looked like that.
Wickens, C.M., et. al. (2021). Loneliness in the COVID-19 pandemic: Associations with age, gender and their interaction. Institute for Mental Health Policy Research in Toronto.
Archuleta, K.L., Dale, A., and Spann, S. M. (2013). College Students and Financial Distress: Exploring Debt, Financial Satisfaction, and Financial Anxiety. Institution of Education Sciences.