Logo for Byte Magazine at Ball State University

Billie Eilish takes a vulnerable leap with 'Happier Than Ever'

By Arianna Sergio Billie Eilish has been in the public eye for all of her adolescent life. She received praise from listeners in November 2015 after releasing her song, “Ocean Eyes” on SoundCloud at a mere age of 13. Ever since then she has been releasing hit after hit with guidance from Finneas O’Connell—her older brother, producer, and co-writer. Her debut EP, Don’t Smile at Me, was released in August 2017 and she began to grow a larger, more loyal fanbase. She then released her first full-length studio album When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? in March 2019. This album was very well-received by critics and fans alike. It even went on to receive several awards, including the Grammy Award for Album of the Year Of course, fame goes hand-in-hand with unwanted and often negative attention. She has been dissected and picked apart from social media for almost half of her life, given the fact that she is arguably the most distinguished teenage girl in the world. Eilish is notorious for her oversized, statement outfits and putting forth a cultural reset for what the “norm” is for women’s fashion.  In March 2020, Eilish started including a short film at the beginning of her concerts titled, “Not my Responsibility,” in which she focuses on the public’s view and personal opinions of her clothing choices and body. In this, she unzips a black cotton jacket and reveals more of her body than she typically does. This was the beginning of a new era of Eilish. She ditched the bright green roots and dark black hair for bleach blonde swapping her trademark baggy clothes for a softer, more sophisticated look. She debuted this look on her Instagram, and further on a British Vogue photoshoot for their June cover story, and on her Happier Than Ever album cover

Tackling Sensitive Topics

“Getting Older” has Eilish reflecting on her past, specifically her past trauma, an expanding amount of responsibilities, and her own personal discoveries along the way, all over a gentle and elegant synth beat. The first track is the most revealing song on the album, which definitely sets the tone for how the rest of the album is.  Eilish released five singles before the release of her much anticipated sophomore album: “my future,” “Therefore I Am,” “Your Power,” “Lost Cause,” and “NDA.” “my future” is a heartfelt letter to Eilish from Eilish—with lots and lots of love. She opens up about her enthusiasm toward her future, singing that she's “in love” with it and can’t wait to see what’s in store. This song has a more optimistic and lively sound, compared to the others on the album. This sound creates a nice break for the listener amongst all the heaviness. This song's change in tone impacts the overall construction of the album by helping it. It still shows the listener that raw side of Eilish, but in a refined happier way.  “Therefore I Am” Eilish is blunt and demands that the people saying that they're "friends" with her and using her name for attention stop with her saying, "I'm not your friend/ Or anything, d***/ You think that you're the man/ I think, therefore, I am." Her vocals are conversational and natural. It’s as if she is having a direct conversation with the person accused, with her singing, “Stop, what the hell are you talking about? Ha/ Get my pretty name out of your mouth.” “Your Power” is about someone abusing their power. She longingly and emotionally sings to the listener in this stripped down, acoustic guitar anthem. Eilish even admitted that this song was one of her “favorite songs” she’s ever written. She said in an Instagram post, “i feel very vulnerable putting this one out because i hold it so close to my heart. this is about many different situations that we’ve all either witnessed or experienced. i hope this can inspire change. try not to abuse your power.” “Lost Cause” is about someone who isn’t worth pursuing anymore, because they have no desire to change, so at the end of the day it’s just hopeless. Something that is noteworthy that Eilish is doing more on this album is that she’s adding more of her personality. This is even evident in the music video she released for “Lost Cause.” She’s becoming more confident and comfortable with herself and her music. This shift impacts how you listen to her music and view her, because of the deepened connected to her and what she writes. “NDA” Eilish details her troubles with her ever-growing fame, even discussing how every romantic partner she has ever had has to sign an NDA. Eilish wishes her life was different and that she didn’t have to jump through all of the hoops that come with being a celebrity. This song feels sneaky, almost like she is walking on her tiptoes singing these lyrics. I haven't heard this from any artist before, so this element pushes the song to a new level of artistry that I hope to see more of in the future. Lessons Learned “I Didn’t Change My Number” is an immediate standout. Eilish sings about a past relationship and how she intentionally doesn’t respond to that person, due to how poorly they treated her. This song has a hip hop-esque beat. When Eilish sings the line, “Maybe you should leave/ Before I get too mean/ And take it out on you/ And your best friend, too,” she whispers the last fragment and that one minor technical change in the song sets this song over the top. You can literally hear the sassiness in her tone, which adds much more personality to it, similarly to "Lost Cause." “Halley’s Comet” is about falling in love. Eilish details every minute detail that makes one feel euphoric and on cloud nine when they are in love. She compares this love to Halley’s Comet, which is visible from Earth every 75-76 years. The love she is describing is a once in a lifetime type of love. It’s melody is tenderhearted and leaves Eilish sounding angelic.  “Happier Than Ever” begins with Eilish’s signature breathy vocals. She shares with the listener that she is indeed happier than ever. The sound is a bit muffled, which gives it the vibe of a 30’s -40’s love song that you could slow dance to with your loved one. Then halfway through, the song is flipped on its head and changes to a more crisp sounding, punk-rock ballad with her screaming, “You make me hate this city!” The listener is submerged into Eilish’s loud, passionate vocals and drowned in the heavy guitar. This contrast in genres makes this song the best on the album. Although the punk-rock style isn't her typical style of music, it works marvelously for the album. For the short period of time that Eilish sings this genre, she executes it extremely well, which gives her album a bit of an edge.  Eilish ends this 16-track album with “Male Fantasy.” This is another strictly acoustic guitar song, which works in favor of the song, considering the content matter. This song is about Eilish trying to get over a past lover and reflecting on their time together. She leads the song by examining the typical “male fantasy.” Throughout, she distinguishes the difference between real love and fake love, along with the nature of each. This song closes the album out very well. I feel closure after listening to the entire album, due to how Eilish left her heart on her sleeve in every single song. 

Top Tracks:

Happier Than Ever Male Fantasy I Didn’t Change My Number

Recommended if you like:

Halsey Alessia Cara King Princess
Sources: SoundCloud, Metacritic, Metacritic, Grammys, YouTube, Instagram, Instagram, Instagram, Instagram, YouTube, Phys Org Featured Image: Genius

Comments

Comments