Diagnosis: Alive & Stable😴
Fav Tracks: I Didn’t Change My Number, Billie Bossa Nova, Oxytocin, OverHeated, NDA, Happier Than Ever
Least Fav: Not My Responsibility, Everybody Dies
Happier Than Ever, the sophomore album by young star Billie Eilish, has a lot to unpack. While, Billie, deals with growing up in the limelight she also dives into themes of relationships, abuse, and even some sexual subject matter. As always we see her brother FINNEAS orchestrating the production that is Billie Eilish over the 16 song 56 minute runtime. There are moments this album is super scaled back and lackluster but when the production is alive this record really shines. The top half of Happier Than Ever shows growth, wild production, and mixing genres which is everything you’d want to see Billie step into on a new album. Unfortunately, these risks don’t last throughout the entire record and it falls into a similar song lull where tracks are just brushing over you and it feels very one dimensional. The good news is Billie does break out of this towards the end of the album and it works out for the better.
The intro track “Getting Older” is a perfect introduction for listeners to get a glimpse of how Billie’s ideas/views have changed. The pulsating synths that surround this coming of age song plays nicely and this is also the first time Billie acknowledges her abuse.
Right after this calm opening we are hit with a snarling dog sound for an intro that is unexpected. “I Didn’t Change My Number” is alarming and Billie’s idgaf tone reflects the production to a tee with the looped dog snarl attached throughout its runtime. The synths used here are quite different from what we heard on the opener and have more of an edge/alertness to them that increases and creates uneasiness. All of this is pretty much Billie’s way of saying STAY THE FUCK AWAY.
“Billie Bossa Nova” plays exactly how the title reads with a bossa nova vibe. It’s fun to hear Billie’s voice used in this genre and adds to the sensual aesthetic at hand. I mean just look at the lyrics below
I’m not sentimental
But there’s somethin’ ’bout the way you look tonight, mm
Makes me wanna take a picture
Make a movie with you that we’d have to hide
It’s a dark sexy track that you can’t help but feel seduced by.
Next, is the first single on the project “My Future”. A song that starts off slow like a morning haze then gives away to warm afternoon sunshine. The same goes for how the lyrics read with Billie coming to a beautiful realization with production following suite with a neo soul vibe. All of this along with Billie’s harmonized vocals builds this bright new world.
One of my favorite tracks on the LP is “Oxytocin”. The production is thumping with a clubby electric instrumental carrying it that feels like you’re staring straight into a strobe light. Reminds me of something Trent Reznor would make and has a grittiness feel to it reminiscent of Nine Inch Nails “Closer” but way more clean lyrically. That’s saying a lot considering this track still has an S&M like subject matter.
After “Oxytocin” we are cleansed with the holy “GOLDWING” where Billie starts out with singing an ancient Hindu poem in choral hymn fashion. I found the looped vocals that repeat throughout the entire track to be an interesting stylistic take that I don’t believe pays off. The chorus here is catchy and simple as Billie paints this picture of a gold winged angel roaming around while potentially being prayed upon. The structure of the song feels slightly left unfinished at only 2 min 30 seconds.
Happier Than Ever starts to trend downward around this moment.
For me “Lost Cause” just comes across so average in its delivery. The bass guitar instrumentals are intriguing at first but doesn’t quite hold my attention. We also dive into some more of the issues Billie faced in her relationship such as her ex being selfish and not being around at times. This song just comes and goes for me, not really anything keeping me here to dive more into.
Reaching the middle of Happier Than Ever Billie really slows it down with “Halley’s Comet” a piano ballad love song. I’m not sure if it’s the most well written love song but it does the job. One of the redeeming qualities is the lullaby dreamy tone it gives off. The back end of this track features this washed out production that adds on to the dream like atmosphere. Yet, again, I can’t help but feel underwhelmed thinking there should be more to this moment. It comes across as a little half baked and not fully built out.
“Not My Responsibility” is a touchy subject. It mainly, features spoken word and drone instrumentals with some voice effects. While, yes, the things Billie speaks about are serious and important topics, I’m just not sure if this is the best way to convey these thoughts. It feels like it’s taking itself super seriously with a runtime of 3min and 47 seconds. I’d rather Billie find a way to use the ideas expressed here with more of a melodic structure.
“OverHeated” is a perfect example of getting your message out that doesn’t disrupt flow or seem to drag. Billie describes how photographing or commenting on the way she looks from the paparazzi or news media makes her feel. She offers up some slick thoughts such as in the lines
Stop bein’ flirty
It’s kinda workin’
Did you really think this is the right thing to do?
(Is it news? News to who?)
That I really look just like the rest of you
And even while Billie has a strong personality she cant help but question herself as she acknowledges body enhancements in others. On another note the electronic instrumental that comes in on the chorus gave me a nice nostalgic reminder of something off Justin Timberlake’s Future Sex/Love Sound.
My least favorite song follows with “Everybody Dies”. This track is just boring with an extremely scaled back production that is just faint drone synths. This is all encompassed by the shockingly surprising notion that everybody dies *sarcasm*. The subject matter doesn’t really go much deeper then that.
The slow quiet tracks start to add up with the next one being “Your Power”. An acoustic guitar instrumental with Billie’s voice and message being at the forefront. It works in this case because she conveys the topic of grooming/(someone using their status to take advantage of another person) with such care.
The final stretch of songs picks back up starting with the swarming “NDA”. Here Billie delivers her vocals in a monotone style where she brushes off unnatural things that are apart of her life now due to fame such as having to save money for security or when she has a boy over on the way out he has to sign an NDA. It’s this low key humble brag kind of attitude. Abruptly, all of this breaks into an effects heavy vocal on the hook with a crashing of synths swarming you that you can’t escape making you feel as if you’re trapped in a downward spiral. “NDA” is fashioned in a way we only see Billie expressing emotion while she mentions her past relationship and everything outside of that comes across as lackluster in her eyes. Making it a fantastic use of showing both ends of an emotional scale.
“Therefore I Am” has Billie’s personality all over this track with attitude and laughing it’s what we love to see. This to me is the way better version of “Lost Cause”.
“Happier Than Ever” is how a imagine a well contrived Billie song sounds making it one of my favorites on the album. Starting out with a ukulele instrumental providing a carefree atmosphere while Billie’s vocals sound so calm. Even with this style an unsettling aspect still lingers. Thoughts about her past relationship keep reoccurring as she reassures herself she’s better without her ex in her life. As this moment seems to die out what comes next is shocking in terms of a Billie Eilish track. All this calm gives away to a building rock instrumental where we hear her departing from the iconic whisper vocals. It’s a grand ending that is incredible! Some people reference Lorde but to me is comes across like a My Chemical Romance inspired song.
To wrap everything up “Male Fantasy” comes with an acoustic guitar instrumental resorting back to a calmer tone. Billie, in the end, comes to the conclusion she doesn’t hate this person she references at all. Not necessarily the most climatic ending but one Billie felt the need to tell.
Happier Than Ever plays its part in the world of Miss Eilish. Some moments left me so excited for what’s to come and at the same time I realized it’s still a record trying to find its footing. Songs like “I Didn’t Change My Number”, “Oxytocin”, and “NDA” feature jaw dropping production while other track such as “Lost Cause”, “Not My Responsibility” and “Everybody Dies” come across mundane or lack creativity. The lulls on this record break up some of the flow and to reengage a passive listener takes work that some may not be willing to do. Personally, I was able to look past these moments and see this record for what it is and it is a progression for Billie as she takes on harder/more intriguing topics and growth in general. I’m loving the path she’s on and can’t wait to hear how her career continues to play out.