On July 30, Billie Eilish released her greatly anticipated second record “Happier than Ever.” Which leads us to the most important question we will ever have to answer in our lives: is she actually “happier than ever” or is it all a ruse?
When doing an initial run-through of this experimental whirlwind of a tracklist, I found that the songs had a dreamy yet sobering quality to them. It encompassed the feeling of waking up from a deep sleep.
As a stark contrast, ‘When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?’ —quite the mouthful— released in 2019 was symbolic of things that go ‘bump in the night’. This was especially evident since the title track was about sleep paralysis and other night terrors, as stated in Rolling Stone’s review.
Present day Billie tackles stalkers, body shaming and growing pains. In this way, her troubles have left the darkest corners of her mind and are now seeing the light of day.
The album has 16 tracks, including one unconventional track, titled “Not My Responsibility” which is based off of a short film on body shaming she debuted during the world tour of her first album, —later postponed due to the pandemic. If you listen to the track, you would hear the same speech from the film over a hip-hop style beat.
When listening to her regular tracks, I had to remind myself that even record-breaking albums have a few skippable tracks, and this one was no exception.
“Lost Cause” is an R&B style track, released as a single prior to the album that is far too redundant to be enjoyable. I can tell that Eilish is going for something more sassy and upbeat with this track, but I find it to be a bit of a snooze fest.
With songs like “Getting Older,” I find it’s something I need to be in the mood for, otherwise it’s slightly underwhelming. The instrumentals are a bit too subdued, and the vocals are a bit too mumbly. As a side note, Eilish is a flawless singer and despite me using “‘mumbly” to describe her vocals, I would never compare them to ASMR (as a former roommate of mine once stated). Either way, I’ve listened to the track at least five times, and I still find that I’m forgetting some of the tune.
Now to prove that I actually do enjoy this album, I need to discuss one of her other singles: “NDA” or Non-Disclosure Agreement, a song about a severe lack of boundaries. In an interview with Rolling Stone, she recounts a time in 2020 when a man came to her house seven times and rang the doorbell incessantly. It’s chilling to think of how many more times he would’ve stopped by if she hadn’t gotten a restraining order.
In regards to the tune, while I don’t normally love overly auto tuned vocals, it’s what makes it all so enticing. The pulsing synths and grinding beats make me imagine a car engine revving —and not just because of the music video.
Another track I keep coming back to is “Goldwing.” It is so unique. I don’t know how else to put it. If you play the song without knowing what to expect, the first few seconds will make you think you accidentally clicked on a choir recording. It somehow eases perfectly into some hip hop EDM hybrid. I will admit that I wish it was more bass heavy, but I fear that would overshadow her vocals too much.
A song with a similar vibe, and by similar I just mean within the electronic realm, is “Oxytocin,” named for the love hormone. There is a lot to unpack in this song, but I will keep it brief.
Eilish sings of having a steamy love connection with some unknown person. Honestly, the best word to use here would be ‘victim.’ The chorus is my favorite part because of its peculiarity. The brash beats contrast perfectly with her overly breathy tone, hinting at some type of tension. Towards the end of the song, you can hear faint screaming as the instrumentals elevate and then stop abruptly. I can’t wait to hear all the dance club remixes that will be born out of this track.
If you’re in the mood for an existential crisis, I recommend the track, “Everybody Dies.” Her high notes glimmer under a melancholic haze, so pure and haunting. She sings the verse like she’s void of emotion but brings on the waterworks in the chorus. According to entertainment news site The List, Eilish finds comfort in the inevitability of death, because it adds a certain beauty and richness to the time you have. She also said, and this is an exact quote, “This track is blue and smells like rain for sure.”
After you’ve pondered over this for a bit, I want you to live life to the fullest, but you need to listen to the title track first.
“Happier Than Ever” has such a drastically different sound than anything Eilish has ever made. I won’t go into too much detail, because if you haven’t heard it yet you won’t want a spoiler. Trust me. Regardless, it’s a glorious track about letting go of toxic people and prioritizing your own self-fulfillment.
According to Rolling Stone, during a conversation with her mom, Eilish said, “When you’re happier than ever, that doesn’t mean you’re the happiest that anyone’s ever been. It means you’re happier than you were before.” In fact, in ‘Getting Older,’ she claims that being happier than ever is her endeavor. I’d say that sums up the album perfectly.
Follow Lauren Johns on Twitter, @lje2017
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