It is currently 2:34 in the morning and I’m just sitting here, on my bed feeling so fucking grateful I sat down to listen to Billie Eilish’s ‘Happier Than Ever’. I wanted to write this review with as fresh a mind as possible because this really is the type of album where the initial listen is the most crucial one and I really wanted to capture how I’m feeling at this moment. Not only out of respect to the album and to Billie but also to myself, because I know for a fact that I would have overthought this review for another week or so and it’s already late so here goes nothing!
Truth be told, I was mortified to listen to this album. Music is an incredibly powerful tool and I just wasn’t at a good place when this album debuted. Dormant is what I would use to describe my emotions right now. Cautiously feeling what I think won’t lead to an emotional breakdown. Listening to a Billie Eilish record didn’t feel like an example of that. I knew that I wanted to listen to it, I’m a huge fan of Eilish and I knew that this album needed my undivided attention and respect because I know that she considers music an extension of herself and I genuinely admire and respect her. Seeing someone my age become such a cultural phenomenon while staying true to herself and truly crafting a unique sound in an age where originality is so rare, it was simply inspiring. It connects even more when the music she puts out is genuinely fantastic. ‘Happier Than Ever’ honestly blew me away. It made me once again realize how important, how crucial and how fresh Billie Eilish continues to be.
Let’s get the elephant out of the goddamn room, the title track? Holy shit. Holy fucking shit. This is one of those incredibly rare moments where a piece of art is so incredible that it takes you out of it to acknowledge the fact that this is the last time you will ever experience it for the first time. The first half was already so beautiful but then the switch up happens and I was left smiling from ear to ear thinking how much I love music. As cliche as it sounds, this is really what music is all about. Turning your true, genuine emotion turn into art. Yes, we’ve had angry breakup songs before but they were always filtered in some way. Sure, they were written with a teenage mindset but the execution always had to feel mainstream and safe. ‘Happier Than Ever’ never felt safe or restricted. Eilish pours her heart and soul into what can only be described as an aggrieved epiphany. Starting the song out with a beautifully melancholic melody and letting the lyrics transform the mood and tone from sadness into anger was very clever. She didn’t speak too much about romantic heartbreak in this album but when she did, she nailed it on the head. The screaming, cursing and emotional relief in the second half of the song feels oddly triumphant and empowering. The verse ‘I don’t relate to you, no ‘Cause I’d never treat me this shitty’ is so important. Looking after one’s self isn’t really prioritized in breakup songs, it’s always been something that’s been treated as a given but the truth is that we do need to hear it more. She loves herself more than he ever could and that’s fucking sad but it’s what makes this song so great. Eilish gives an electrifying performance here and I honestly, genuinely think this is her best song so far in her career.
‘Happier Than Ever’ the album acts very much like a sequel to ‘When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?’ in the sense that her commentary on fame now is much more mature. The tone, mood and visual mood board for this album are entirely different. There’s an unspoken homage to the sixties with tracks like ‘Growing Older’, ‘Halley’s Comet’ and the first half of ‘Happier Than Ever’ that gives this album a very ironic yet effective glamour. There’s that old-timey charm in her vocal delivery that we would have never expected from the same artist who gave us ‘bad guy‘ two years ago. After hearing this album, her being the choice for the next James Bond theme is a no-brainer. Not that the song itself wasn’t proof enough but it’s that now we have an entire album to reference. Her introspective lyrics this time around show tremendous maturity in how well she gets her point across. If there’s one thing you will never catch Billie Eilish doing, it’s sugarcoating something. From mortality, sex, abuse to her own experience not only as a woman but a woman in the music industry, she writes with brutal honesty. The media’s disgusting obsession with tearing down women isn’t something she is going to lightly reference and she shouldn’t. ‘Not My Responsibility‘ is an invigorating wake-up call to the double standards every female artist faces. Imagine attacking a famous nineteen-year-old because they look just like every other nineteen-year-old. It’s fucking crazy how people will latch onto the smallest of opportunities to break a woman’s career. I am so happy Eilish actually included this unfortunately expected chapter of her fame into this album. It wouldn’t feel as authentic if she didn’t.
Despite my enthusiastic praise, I was admittedly not a fan of the singles, specifically ‘Your Power’, ‘Lost Cause’ and ‘NDA’. Listening to them in the album was different but not enough for me to completely change my opinion on them. There were far better options to choose as singles. While ‘Your Power’ grew a significant amount on me, ‘Lost Cause’ did the opposite. It’s easily one of the blandest songs I’ve ever heard. I can never pay attention to the song past the first chorus and that’s just the truth. ‘NDA‘ is honestly a mixed bag, I don’t particularly care for it but if it came on I wouldn’t necessarily skip it. The last-minute or so are definitely the highlight and the lead into ‘Therefore I Am’ is genuinely insane. ‘my future’ is easily my favourite single from the bunch, in fact before the album came out it was easily my favourite song from Eilish but it seems now it has mighty tough competition. There are also songs which due to their distressing lyrical content, I can’t see myself really revisiting them unless it’s the entire album. Songs like ‘Oxytocin‘ and ‘Everybody Dies’ are not particularly going to be on loop anytime soon. It doesn’t make them bad, if anything it’s a compliment to how effective they are.
Overall, ‘Happier Than Ever’ is easily one of the year’s best and it’s established Eilish as one of my favourite artists. I genuinely hate to mention the “flop era” nonsense that’s going around because to me, this surpasses her debut in virtually every single way. She has two excellent records and their legacy alone is enough to make Eilish a game-changing icon in the music industry. This album is a testament to her exciting growth as an artist and I genuinely cannot wait to see what she does next.
RANKING OF SONGS
1. Happier Than Ever
2. my future
3. Getting Older
4. Male Fantasy
5. Halley’s Comet
6. Billie Bossa Nova
7. Your Power
9. Therefore I Am
10. Not My Responsibility
11. Everybody Dies
14. I Didn’t Change My Number
16. Lost Cause
‘Happier Than Ever’ is available to stream now.