I saw Billie Eilish live for the first time two years ago at an outdoor concert that almost got completely rained out. I had heard a lot of her radio singles, but I hadn’t listened heavily to the album she was touring with at the time. Really, I went based on a good friend’s opinion and my own curiosity about how well her hype could hold up in person. She didn’t disappoint.
With her newest album, Happier Than Ever, Billie hasn’t lost any of her ability to make grief sound palatable.
The songs “I Didn’t Change My Number,” “Lost Cause,” and “Therefore I Am,” allow Billie to be sassy, but each direction feels different in terms of disdain and volatility. My only issue with “I Didn’t Change My Number” has to do with the production nearing the end of the track; I don’t know if this was intentional, but the buzzing rhythm over the synth just sounds grating to me. Nonetheless, she’s good at spicy one-liners and stings, and I still love hearing the emotion-laced way she delivers them.
“Billie Bossa Nova,” “Oxytocin,” and “Halley’s Comet” all talk about different forms of attraction, but each version of Billie approaches it differently. While I’m sure many will have something to say about the racy nature of the second of these tracks, I appreciate that her romantic cynicism doesn’t take a break on any of the three.
I think that “my future” and “Everybody Dies” are companion tracks, as are “GOLDWING” and “Your Power.” On the former pair, she shows her hope for what’s to come, while expressing the angst that comes with it. The latter duo is used to instruct younger individuals about the perils she’s faced with her own naivete, and to admonish the ones who crossed her boundaries. The duality of perspective echoes throughout the album; humans are complex creatures and there is no single view of a situation that is always right.
Part of me is hesitant to publish this because by doing so I am feeding into the idea that anything Billie does, says, creates, or is needs commentary: the truth is they don’t. She states exactly that with her spoken word on “Not My Responsibility” and the follow-up track “Overheated.” I take her lyrics about bodies not to be a criticism of the people posing, but of the power figures who made those people feel like they had to alter their natural state to be appealing to the public. There’s nothing wrong with changing to fit what you want, but how many of us can say we’ve never been influenced by the pandering of perfect imagery?
While many people can’t relate to signing an “NDA,” they can relate to the idea of wanting to keep a certain level of personal privacy and safety. The transition between this track and the following one, “Therefore I Am,” was one of the best production moments from the album. After both of these comes “Happier Than Ever,” which is a contender for top three from the album.
The final track, “Male Fantasy,” is another contender. I’ve already seen commotion over the first few lines, so I’ll briefly touch on how Harry Styles referenced something similar in a track from his eponymous record and it was still regarded as art (I think so, too).
There were moments with some tracks that I felt Billie could’ve made it more impactful or well-blended. However, I also feel like she made a strong sophomore album. She didn’t feel the need to stick with her previous themes and motif, but you can still feel influences from her previous work’s progression. She also showed off her voice more and her stylistic growth. In the intro track, “Getting Older,” Billie says “I’m getting older / I think I’m aging well.” With this LP as evidence, I agree.
Different ways to listen: Happier Than Ever