Billie Eilish has released her heavily anticipated sophomore album, Happier Than Ever. After the smash success of her debut album, WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? it is reasonable to question whether the music following it will be of the same caliber. The sophomore slump myth does add to the anxious feelings surrounding this album rollout, but Billie has something others did not. Her debut album garnered her SIX Grammys, making her the youngest person ever to win all top four categories (at 18 years old at the time).
Billie’s image has become synonymous with the sad girl pop persona. Her earlier works are dark, moody, and introspective, even for her age. Her brother, Finneas, produces all her music, which helps her feel comfortable being so vulnerable in her art. Leading up to this album, Billie released my future, Your Power, Lost Cause, and NDA, all as singles. All received different types of receptions from fans, with some saying that they missed the old Billie (a.k.a when she was “the sad girl”).
Fans were even roasting “NDA” so much that Billie made a TikTok video in response. A common term being thrown around was “flop,” which Urban Dictionary defines Flop as “something that fails miserably.”
Body Positivity… and Sexual Liberation (not)
For a long time, Billie was usually seen wearing baggy clothes in neon and dark colors. In recent months, she has been wearing more revealing and “feminine” outfits. A photo set was taken by a paparazzi going around last year where Billie was wearing only shorts and a tank. She was eviscerated online…for having a normal healthy body. Earlier this year, Billie was on the cover of “Vogue Magazine,” which also gained some attention.
What I do take issue with is that as soon as she turned 18… she was dressed this way. Of course, everyone has the right to show and do what they want with their body. However, we have seen this song and dance of young stars be groomed by the public time and time again.
From her documentary, “The World’s A Little Blurry,” audiences finally met Billie’s ex-boyfriend, whom she calls “Q.” Before then, most information on the pairing was the only speculation, such as outlined in this Twitter thread. From 2018 to 2019, the two dated. They met when she was 16 years old, and he was 22. Sadly, this is more common than it should be. Millie Bobby Brown, Billie, Olivia Rodrigo, Demi Lovato… the list goes on, but they all were in relationships with grown adults while underage. Billie is now reportedly dating Matthew Tyler Vorce, who is ten years older than her.
The second single leading up to this album was “Your Power,” a song about people abusing their power for their own gain. Some fans speculate it is about Q, while others think it is a general commentary on the industry.
“Lost Cause” also caused some controversy with allegations of ‘queerbaiting’. Queerbaiting is the act of “implying non-heterosexual relationships or attraction (in a TV show, for example) to engage or attract an LGBTQ audience or otherwise generate interest without ever actually depicting such relationships or sexual interactions” (Dictionary.com). In the video, Billie is seen having a fun sleepover with a bunch of friends. The topic of discussion revolved around an Instagram photo set, with the caption “I love girls.” I think the post was not meant to be harmful, but during Pride Month, it is plausible that some also interpreted it in this way.
Alright, I think it is finally time to dive into the review!
Happier Than Ever Review, by Tracklist Order
1. Getting Older
I don’t think there was a better song to start this album than “Getting Older.” With two years since her debut album, more is at stake, with her second project coming out. It is inevitable for an artist to be compared to their past works, and it can’t be any easier for someone so young. Billie is still finding herself and learning about who she is, literally with the whole world watching. Fantastic start.
2. I Didn’t Change My Number
The beat is SO infectious. I did not write this annotation on Genius, but it is too good not to share.
This is a nod of continuity to Billie’s debut album, WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP WHERE DO WE GO? and her EP dont smile at me. Specifically the tracks when the party’s over and party favor. Both of these songs are phone-related, and detail the experience of calling a lover back, and texting them the morning after.Genius – “I Didn’t Change My Number”
3. Billie Bossa Nova
This is one of the saucier songs I’ve heard from Billie, and I love it! There is a fun retro element to this track, especially the references to Frank Sinatra during the pre-chorus!
4. my future
I was obsessed with this song when it first came out. A good analogy would be that “my future” is “everything i wanted“‘s little sister. I love the change from somber into a more upbeat feeling a minute+ in.
5. Oxytocin & 6. GOLDWING
Did not really like either of these songs.
7. Lost Cause
I think this is such a fun track, with a little bit of dissing and empowerment. The video also adds to the overall feeling. Billie is ready to move on, while her ex is stuck and unwilling to grow.
8. Hailey’s Comet
Sounds beautiful; slow songs are just not my thing, unfortunately.
9. Not My Responsibility
I absolutely loved it. I thought it sounded familiar, and I was right. This spoken-word piece was set to be used as visuals for the Where Do We Go World Tour. Sadly, it was only played a few times before the tour was shut down due to COVID-19.
The transition was so seamless; I almost didn’t notice it. I’m glad Billie is speaking out about the criticisms people have been making about her body type. Interestingly, both Billie and Olivia have had songs come out this year on this subject (Olivia’s song jealousy, jealousy having similar themes of bodies on Instagram).
11. Everybody Dies
For a lot of people, it is comforting to know that we all have the same fate. But, unfortunately, this song felt like an idea that was not fleshed out enough.
12. Your Power
Even though I briefly covered it above, I am very proud of Billie for speaking up about abuse in the industry at such a young age. It gives me hope for future generations to come.
I really tried to like this song and give it a chance since it has been torn to bits. But I can’t. I love the themes and meaning behind it, but the song itself didn’t do it for me.
14. Therefore I Am
When I first heard this single, I thought it sounded like a song made for TikTok (ex. The get my pretty name out of your mouth line). Now, I feel differently, but if it weren’t Billie singing this song, it wouldn’t have gotten popular.
15. Happier Than Ever
Now I understand why the album was named after this song. The last-minute of this song reminds me of Phoebe Bridgers’ “I Know The End,” with the build-up paying off with the background screaming complimented with guitars.
“Happier Than Ever” feels like a breakup letter to Q, as if Billie is closing a chapter in her book. The hurt is still present somewhat, but she is moving on.
16. Male Fantasy
I have no clue why, but the song’s beginning sounded like the start of Taylor’s “Speak Now” title track. “Male Fantasy” plays on Laura Mulvey’s theory from “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema,” the Male Gaze.
Closing Thoughts – Is Billie really Happier Than Ever?
It’s inevitable for fans to yearn for an artist’s past eras. No matter what, someone out there is going to “miss the old Billie” or wish they were a smaller artist again before they “blew up.” “Happier Than Ever” details incomprehensible stardom that most of us could never imagine dealing with…. at such a young age, no less. It may seem strange to listen to a rich celebrity complain about their lifestyle, and to some extent: it would make sense that we can brush off these complaints from Eilish. But if you look at it from a different point of view, I know I would never in a million years be able to handle the number of expectations Billie is facing every minute of every day. All in all, I would give the album a 6/10. Not my favorite, still feels like a Billie/Finneas project, but you can feel the growth between the debut project and now.
Featured Image: Billie Eilish, photo by Kelia Anne MacCluskey