Billie Eilish — Happier Than Ever — Album Review
Alternative | Pop
To say that Billie Eilish has taken both the music industry and the world by storm feels like wasted breath. Quite frankly, almost everyone probably knows this already.
As an off-brancher of sorts to the old saying “with great power, comes great responsibility”, Billie is very much at a stage where she is facing a kind of crossroads in her musical career. The crossroads I speak of, make themselves fully apparent on Eilish’s highly anticipated sophomore album, Happier Than Ever.
With the release of the singer-songwriter’s 2019 debut album, WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?, Elish’s musical career skyrocketed. Countless new listeners were becoming swift fans of her work, and popularity came flooding in at an overwhelming pace.
Billie’s debut album was one of the projects I decided to review as part of my Last Minute Reviews Week at the end of 2019. With that, I was at least able to appreciate her for really breaking the mould when it came to solo artists in the pop sphere.
That debut album definitely convinced me to keep my eyes peeled for whatever studio album follows it, and of course, review it. The sweet spot of two years would be what it took for Billie Eilish to release her widely anticipated sophomore effort, Happier Than Ever.
Right off the bat, Happier Than Ever offers a contradiction, that being that the album’s title is a blatantly sarcastic one. When comparing said album title to the album cover, displaying (a not so happy) Billie Eilish, it was quite easy to see where this album was going in a narrative sense.
Even with the teaser tracks, that span across from this time a year ago, to this July just gone, it felt as if Billie Eilish was coming of age, but straying away from her more unique roots towards something more accessible in the process.
But while this set up a worry that Billie’s sophomore would not nearly be as unique, Happier Than Ever makes perfect sense as a next step. Eilish has always been perceived as somewhat of an “industry plant”. And with the message that’s conveyed through this new album, Billie seems to be aware of this herself.
In a nutshell, this album spills its narrative out on the table for everyone to see. It’s about Billie getting deeper into her success, and struggling with the loneliness and anxiety that comes with it. The spotlight now shines down on Billie Eilish. And with that, all eyes are on her.
It also highlights the idea that Eilish doesn’t feel the same way towards her musical success as before. And with this, it leaves me with mixed feelings. On one hand, we have Billie Eilish getting easily bored of the kind of success people would do anything for. But on the other, we have a cautionary tale, that warns us that this success isn’t everything it’s hyped up to be.
The narrative is indeed the strongest aspect of this album. But it doesn’t necessarily make for the most enjoyable listen, for obvious reasons. And while I’m not as simple-minded as tho think every album needs to be fun and upbeat, the narrative of Happier Than Ever is so sharply focused on Billie Eilish herself, that I found it hard for me to fully connect to the otherwise amazing narrative.
It felt much more like an album about Eilish’s own experiences, as opposed to the bigger picture of how young girls are treated in the music industry, for instance. I reckon if you had a drink for every time “I” or “me” is mentioned, you’d die from alcohol poisoning midway through.
On top of this, the more “accessible” musicality does feel apparent on Happier Than Ever, especially in the midsection of the album. At points, it felt like I wasn’t even listening to Billie Eilish anymore. And this made me feel like the industry had full control of a project whose narrative detests said industry. Obviously, this left me with a large dose of confusion.
While I still believe that Happier Than Ever is still a brilliant project, especially in its main narrative focus, everything surrounding it opens a real can of worms. This sophomore album is far, far away from being the representative of her “flop stage”, I have rarely felt as conflicted towards an album like this one.
I am pleased for Billie that she has been bold enough to come out with this message. However, I can still see signs of the industry’s firm grip. I highly doubt that people would stop listening to Billie if she went more independent, so why not try it out?
Favourite Tracks: GOLDWING | Your Power | Therefore I Am
Least Favourite Track: Lost Cause
Darkroom | Interscope Records
Enjoyment: 6/10 | Memorability: 7/10 | Atmosphere: 8/10
Uniqueness: 7/10 | Satisfaction: 6/10 | Narrative: 10/10