Words: Alice Frost
Image: Interscope Records
When Billie Eilish ditched her signature green roots and debuted her bleach, blonde hair in an Instagram post back in March, it was evident that a new era in her career had arrived. It was difficult to imagine how Eilish could top her debut album When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go, but somehow with Happier Than Ever, she’s made the impossible possible.
In the past, Eilish hasn’t shied away from being totally open and honest with fans about her own personal experiences, and Happier Than Ever maintains that same kind of openness. For an opening track, Getting Older hears Eilish reveal some bold truths about her time in the music industry, which unfortunately to nobody’s surprise can be an abusive one also: “I’ve had some trauma, did things I didn’t wanna / was too afraid to tell you, but now I think it’s time”. Whilst Eilish doesn’t owe anyone an explanation or story for what may have happened to her, perhaps this is her way of letting her fans know that she’s coming to terms with her experience and will one day be ready to share her truth.
This same kind of respectable transparency from Eilish can be heard on the album’s previously released tracks, Your Power and NDA. Whilst the former opts for a softer, acoustic feel and stands out as the ballad of the album, the latter is a total contrast: dark and heavy production paired with Eilish’s electric sharp vocals and effective use of auto-tune on the chorus.
Elsewhere on the album exists another impressive trio of songs that effortlessly ooze confidence and empowerment and are overflowing with attitude. The first and freshest of the three tracks, I Didn’t Change My Number is all about Eilish moving on from someone; she’s fed up and it shows: “You got a lot of fucking nerve, I don’t deserve”. The other two tracks are ones we’re already familiar with: Lost Cause, a breezy and fun slow-tempo bop, dubbed the hot girl summer anthem of the season by some. And, Therefore I Am, which hears Eilish putting her foot down one last time, letting it be known that, well, she really doesn’t care. “Did you have fun? I really couldn’t care less, and you can give ‘em my best”.
Preaching an entirely different message, and unusually optimistic one from Eilish is my future, another track we’ve already heard, exactly a year ago, yet still remains one of the stand-out songs on the album. Though it’s had a year of radio play and may have possibly grown tired with some fans, its message can’t be faulted. She tells them, “And I, I’m in love / But not with anybody else, just wanna get to know myself”, reassuring them that sometimes the best kind of company is your own. “I’m in love with my future” is a simple, yet wholly effective message encouraging young people to embrace the moments they have with themselves and to relieve the pressure of finding a romantic connection and depending on others.
What follows from my future is one of the album’s most memorable tracks, Oxytocin. Whilst the sultry song sounds completely different to anything we’ve ever heard from Eilish, it also sounds like Bad Guy’s more seductive and irresponsible older sister. There’s nothing subtle about the message behind this song: “I wanna do bad things to you, I wanna make you yell”. Almost comically, Oxytocin is followed by GOLDWING, which in contrast opens with the kind of airy vocals you might expect to hear at the gates of heaven. Tracks like this one really boast the talents of Eilish and her older brother Finneas who also produced every song on the album by himself. The first half of the song and the second half could easily be two entirely different tracks, yet they somehow work in perfect harmony together.
The album’s title track Happier Than Ever perfectly summarises the album’s overall vibe, and is also arguably the best song on the album. Eilish teased a 15 second snippet of the song on social media a few months ago, so this one was already widely anticipated. However, what wasn’t anticipated nor expected was the complete 180 turn that the song takes around the 2 minute 30 second mark. We’re treated to pure pop-punk vocals and change in atmosphere from what was a mellow, acoustic track with a simple message: “When I’m away from you, I’m happier than ever” to a rather direct, angst-filled “just fucking leave me alone”.
Happier Than Ever takes listeners on an emotional journey packed with every emotion and feeling under the sun. It’s hard to believe that Eilish is only 19 years old, and somehow created another masterpiece from inside her brother’s bedroom. What’s also refreshing about Eilish, aside from her ability to create art without the need for a professional studio, is her willingness to be so open and honest in her music. Whatever the future holds for Eilish, it’s safe to say that she has once again cemented herself as one of this generation’s most talented and sought-after artists.
Happier Than Ever is available now via Interscope Records
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