Billie Eilish’s sophomore album Happier Than Ever revolves around her rapid ascent to fame and the paradoxical sadness and turmoil that came with it. The shortest track, “GOLDWING”, opens with a lush choral arrangement and presents a metaphor for innocence and betrayed hope.
The song’s intro, written in Old English, interpolates an ancient Hindu poem translated into English by composer Gustav Holst in 1907. The original sacred hymn is one of the four great canonical texts of Hinduism taken from a collection of writings known as The Rig Veda. Originating around 1,500 BCE, the Vedas are some of the oldest texts ever found written in an Indo-European language.
The lines Billie sings, harmonising with herself, are taken from “Group 3” of the hymns, commonly known as, “Hymn To The Dawn”.
He hath come to the bosom of his beloved
Smiling on him, she beareth him to highest heav’n
With yearning heart
On thee we gaze, O’ gold-wing’d messenger of mighty Gods
Billie explained to Spotify that she wrote “GOLDWING* as a tribute to the innocent young woman navigating the predatory music industry.
I wrote a song that is kind of a metaphor for a young woman, especially in the industry, or life, that is pure, and I don’t mean a virgin. I mean like a young, non-exploited, non-traumatized person. A metaphor for that being a gold-winged angel.
The original Sanskrit poem from which the ‘gold wing’d messenger’ originates is dedicated to the arrival of the great king Vena. Later in his reign, Vena succumbs to temptation, plunging the world into a great depression and time of troubles. This theme of innocent arrival and impending doom also aligns with the central ideas of Happier Than Ever.
With its choral arrangements and heavenly sound, the hymn is often sung by contemporary choirs. Billie is known to have choir experience, with the Los Angeles Children’s Choir forming a key part of her musical upbringing. The LACC also accompanied her during her Disney+ concert event, Happier Than Ever: A Love Letter To Los Angeles earlier this month.
Billie’s own spin on the hymn takes a characteristic dark turn as she warns of the dangers ahead for this “gold-winged angel”.
Go home, don’t tell
Anyone what you are
You’re sacred and they’re starved
And their art is gettin’ dark
And there you are to tear apart
As Billie opens up on her struggles with fame and personal abuse trauma, “GOLDWING” serves as a warning to herself and other young women searching for such success. By referencing this ancient poem and hymn, the cycle of abuse and predatory behaviour would seem as if writ in scripture for Billie Eilish.