Album Reviews

Billie Eilish “Lays Her Scars Bare” in Happier Than Ever Album

Billie Eilish Happier Than Ever Album Review

Billie Eilish Happier Than Ever Album Review

At just 19 years old, Billie Eilish has already conquered the world. Her first studio album, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, debuted atop the Billboard 200 charts, featuring the ground-breaking #1 hit single “Bad Guy.”

She won seven Grammys along the way, becoming the youngest person to win all four general-field categories in one night. With such a monumental rise to stardom, where could Eilish go next?

Naturally, Eilish decided to confront her meteoric rise with a knife. Happier Than Ever abandons the darkness of Where Do We Go? for a glitzy gold aesthetic, but don’t let the newfound glam confuse you. Whereas her debut explored her nightmares, Happier Than Ever grabs hold of them and interrogates them.

Album opener “Getting Older” sets the stage for this lyrical specificity. As she croons, “I’ve had some trauma, did things I didn’t wanna / Was too afraid to tell ya, but now, I think it’s time,” Eilish makes it clear: people have hurt her, and it’s time for them to know.

Throughout the album, Eilish’s lyrics teeter between themes of love and abuse amidst worldwide fame. Happier Than Ever carefully balances wit and pain to form an honest representation of the highs and lows of celebrity. Along the way, she intersperses new musical styles to supplement her more specific message.

Eilish lays her scars bare over an acoustic guitar on the gripping “Your Power” as she chronicles the abuse suffered in a skewed relationship she had as a minor. “Therefore I Am,” meanwhile, casually thrashes her former partner and other critics for their lack of relevance along with a bouncy beat.

NDA” rests firmly between these two poles as it explores teenage romance as a pop star. The song’s title wryly references a lyric where Eilish forces a potential partner to sign an NDA over their encounter. Amidst this humor, however, lies anguish; by the song’s end, an auto-tuned Eilish begs to know if she took this relationship too far.

All of these themes culminate in the anthemic titular track “Happier Than Ever.” The song opens with a ukulele accompaniment evoking “The Mamas & The Papas,” as Billie softly lets her ex know she’s happier than ever without him. As he calls her drunk in the song’s second half, however, Billie loses her patience. The song shifts into a distorted rock anthem that sounds like the lovechild of Radiohead and Queen. Eilish’s vocal, lyrical, and musical chops are all on full display in what I’d consider her best song yet.

While her riskier moments lead to her finest songwriting, musical and lyrical variety leave Happier Than Ever a bit less cohesive and consistent than When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?.

The album’s middle particularly slows down. While it’s great to hear Eilish’s choral opening on “GOLDWING,” the song tanks the momentum built by the album’s raucous first five songs. “Not My Responsibility” and “OverHeated” combine for a powerful statement on the media’s perception of Eilish’s body. Yet at a run time of over seven minutes, it feels like the message could be tightened. Finally, “Everybody Dies” feels like the opening to a more interesting Adele song but fails to build much beyond its concept.

The peaks of Happier Than Ever, however, entirely outshine these lows. While it feels like a less complete album than When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, Happier Than Ever takes Eilish’s sound and songwriting to new heights. It feels like a natural evolution of Eilish’s sound and style; as she gains confidence in the industry, these risks will only continue to pay off.

If this is what she can do at 19, I can only imagine what’s next.

Anthony Madalone

Anthony Madalone is a DC-based contributor for Binaural Records. His old school roots in Springsteen have transformed into a love for modern pop and hip-hop. In his free time, Anthony enjoys performing stand-up and eating rice.

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