Review: Finneas’ ‘Optimist’ album touches vulnerability, problems in society

Writers review songs from debut album of Grammy-winning producer

Alyssa Clark

In a graphic made on, created by senior and writer Alyssa Clark, the album cover of ‘Optimist’ takes the focus. The debut album dropped Oct. 15. “For anyone that has ever said that Finneas hides behind his sister’s fame, they obviously haven’t listened to this album yet,” Clark said. “‘Optimist’ is a soon-to-be award-winning album, and I can’t wait to see how Finneas continues to showcase his talent.”

Finneas O’Connell, better known as FINNEAS, dropped his “Optimist” tracklist Friday, Oct. 15, as his debut album. His past works include his EP, “Blood Harmony,” which features popular songs like “Let’s Fall in Love for the Night,” which is his most listened to song to date.

Known for his Grammy-award winning producing work on sister Billie Eilish’s songs, and other artists such as Girl in Red, Justin Bieber and Camila Cabello, Finneas is now taking his turn in the spotlight. “Optimist” is ironic, as almost every song hits on a new issue we face as a society. His “Optimist” tour will start Oct. 25 in San Diego, Calif.


A Concert Six Months From Now

Alyssa: calming


One of the early releases of the album, “A Concert Six Months From Now,” was debuted Aug. 5 to first announce the album. As the first song on the album, Finneas speaks about how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone, and how staying inside has caused him to be “I’ve been thinking too much / And it’s ruined my nights.” The guitar and use of sound affects really show how Finneas is trying to give that concert feel. I don’t think this is one of my favorites off this album, but I think it’s worth a listen.


The Kids Are All Dying

Alyssa: real

“The Kids are All Dying” features Finneas speaking about real world issues that are prevalent in our society. Featuring heavy-hitting hard beats, the song lets listeners reevaluate what they value and how they support artists in times of crisis in society. Finneas sings “How can you sing about love when the kids are all dying? / How can you sing about drugs? Politicians are lying” to show how in extreme times of crisis, people gloss over heavy topics with their fame.


Happy Now?

Caleb: eye-opening

Describing the feelings of depression and self-loneliness after accomplishing a goal, “Happy Now?” gives an emotional perspective to Finneas’s career. “Happy now / There’s nothing left for me to laugh about / I was supposed to be happy now / They’re all so happy for me,” Finneas sings over the chorus. The production is filled with multiple guitar riffs, drum and chord progressions, which all tie together nicely to give the signature “Finneas” feel.


Only a Lifetime

Caleb: reflecting

Starting off with reverbed piano chords and powerful vocals, “Only a Lifetime” sets the tone for an emotionally-bound track. “Don’t waste the time you have / Waiting for time to pass / It’s only a lifetime, that’s not long enough / You’re not gonna like it without any love, so don’t waste it” Finneas writes for the chorus. The production of the song helps bring out the overall theme of the track, with piano chords and a hidden bass-line: don’t waste your time doing things that make you unhappy. Focus on yourself and what you love.


The 90s

Alyssa: powerful


Included with a music video, “The 90s” was released Sept. 2, and is all about how the internet and social media has changed everyone’s lives. Finneas reminisces on the past in this song, and how when he thinks about the 90s, “When the future was a testament / To something beautiful and shiny, now / We’re only counting down the time that’s left.” The first portion of this song is built on melodies, displaying Finneas’ beautiful voice and ability to captivate listeners. When the music starts to come back in, you can hear some auto-tune in his voice which adds a sleek element, and gives a throwback to when autotune became heavily used in 1997, according to Wikipedia.


Love Is Pain

Caleb: relatable


Comparing the experiences and downsides of loving someone throughout “Love Is Pain,” Finneas sings about his personal experiences. The lyrics, production and vocals complimented each other so well, and the track is definitely worth listening to. “We go through life, we play pretend / Act like it doesn’t have to end / It’s all alright until your friend runs a red light / You watch his car burst into flames / Love is pain,” Finneas sings over the chorus. Presumably about a death of a loved one, Finneas compares the downsides of love, or losing a loved one, to being self-harming.


Peaches Etude

Alyssa: beautiful


A beautiful piano melody, “Peaches Etude” is decided to Finneas’ dog, Peaches. The 2:16 minute long song is a tribute to the dog, as an etude is used as a short musical composition, typically for one instrument, designed as an exercise to improve the technique or demonstrate the skill of the player, according to Oxford. This was a nice break in the middle of the album to relax and just listen to the endless instrumental.


Hurt Locker

Alyssa: deep

“Hurt Locker” talks about the pain and dark truths that Finneas has had to face in past relationships. Hurt locker is a slang term for “a place of deep pain and discomfort.” The introduction of the beat half-way through the song really adds an impact and depth to the song. It has a truly different sound, showing again how Finneas is successful in any style he pursues.



Caleb: metaphorical

“Medieval” is the No. 9 track on the album, and features amazing vocal overlays and productional components. The track uses metaphors to compare society in medieval times to current day, feeding into Finneas’ opinion that society is moving backwards. This can be shown in the chorus, where Finneas sings “It feels a little medieval if you ask me / Like I’m watchin’ a sequel I’ve already seen / I could tell you what happens to the new king / When he goes out of fashion.” The track was also previously heard on Instagram Live on Sept. 10, 2020, and fans have been awaiting its release since.


Someone Else’s Star

Caleb: reminder of his past

Taking the theme of quick-growing fame, Finneas seems to be writing a message in “Someone Else’s Star” to his sister, fellow singer and songwriter Billie Eilish. “You found fame and it was fleeting / You became someone else’s star / Now all your memories feel more like films / You put ’em on to see which ones still kill / You wonder why the bad ones paid the bills” Finneas sings in the first verse of the track. The production is more of a ballad-style, and captivates the emotional meaning behind the song, as well as Finneas’s astonishing vocals.


Around My Neck

Caleb: a new sound

Starting off with a strong baseline and snare, “Around My Neck” picks up the tempo in the album. While the lyrics are quite sexual, the production of the album ties Finneas’ intent of the track in nicely with his vocals. Much like a 2018 Justin Timberlake song, Finneas’ 11th track of the album has a techno-like beat and catchy synths surrounding the production. While it’s not a song I see myself listening to every day, that’s not to say that some won’t enjoy its uniqueness, so it earns its spot on the album.


What They’ll Say About Us

Alyssa: motivational

This song has been out since Sept. 2, 2020. It’s slow, almost melancholy-sounding, but the lyrics carry heartfelt and loving lyrics. “We’ve got the time to take the world / And make it better than it ever was.” As the No. 12 track, the buildup to the chords in this song really brings the listener along with Finneas, instead of dragging them along with the song. Finneas shows his musical abilities with his range in this song, as well.


How It Ends

Alyssa: vivid and bright

If the album was a beautiful, wrapped-up present, “How It Ends” would be the real gift inside. He encourages listeners to stop caring so much about money, power or fame, and just to enjoy life in the moment, instead, because “Who wants a millionaire / when you can have a friend?” This song truly stands out to me compared to the others, as it has a positive outlook with a catchy beat.


Final Thoughts

Alyssa: One of my favorite albums of the year! The songs are unique and powerful, and Finneas’ voice really shines in each one. For anyone that has ever said that Finneas hides behind his sister’s fame, they obviously haven’t listened to this album yet. His technical ability of producing is absolutely obvious. He can pull every listener’s heartstrings, and three seconds later make everyone dance. “Optimist” is a soon-to-be award-winning album, and I can’t wait to see how Finneas continues to showcase his talent. I did feel like there was a lack on the range of types of songs, as most were very melancholy, but that could never change my rating: 10 out of 10.


Caleb: The album was a very well-done “musical journey” from Finneas, and many of the things that stood out to me were the quality of each track. The production, the vocals and the lyrics help make the album stand out from previous ones released this year by other artists. Not only this, but this album once again proves Finneas’s ability to be an exceptional musician when away from his sister’s, Billie Eilish’s, projects. Overall, I’d rate the album a 9.5 out of 10, as the flow was incredible throughout the entire album. If I had to change anything about it, I’d say some of the tracks are missing deeper emotional connections. Overall, I see myself listening to most of the tracks frequently, and definitely recommend every to take a listen.