In her second studio album, Billie Eilish showcases a diverse range of talent from smooth jazz vocals to headbanging electronic rock. With blunt honesty and heart wrenching vocals about her hardships as a celebrity, “Happier Than Ever” proves why Eilish is a household name in the pop genre.
Throughout the album, Eilish sings of her struggles in stardom. “Not My Responsibility” is the most explicit example of this — a spoken word track in the middle of the album dedicated to calling out the controversies around her choice of clothes.
While Eilish rose to fame, she was known for her baggy clothes, which she wore to avoid harassment and over sexualization of her body. Yet she recently released a photoshoot in lingerie, sparking controversies on her reasoning: pressure or female empowerment? With her song “Not My Responsibility,” Eilish addresses the comments by stating, “While I feel your stares, your disapproval or your sigh of relief / If I lived by then, I’d never be able to move.” By the end of the song, in a mic drop fashion, Eilish argues, “Is my value based only on your perception? / Or is your opinion of me not my responsibility?”
The album also has its share of heartbreak songs, one being the title track “Happier Than Ever.” The start of the song is light and acoustic, with soft jazzy vocals. But, about half way through, the song picks up speed and turns into an electric rock and punk groove with a heavily distorted drum line and simple guitar solo. Eilish belts painful lyrics of heartbreak with a hint of resolution and personal empowerment, such as “I don’t relate to you, no / ’Cause I’d never treat me this shitty.”
Instrumentally, the album takes a different direction than what Eilish is previously known for. “Happier Than Ever” does not stick to any single style, ranging from acoustic, jazzy pop to EDM beats. The third song on the album, “Billie Bossa Nova,” brings a mellow, bossa nova, samba, jazz style that features some unique snapping samples. Eilish uses a soft vocal vibrato and soprano, creating an overall calming mood for the song.
In addition to some jazzy pieces, the album contains several acoustic songs as well, such as “Your Power” — an emotional song about the damage of an abusive relationship. This calm, stripped down track would fit perfectly in an acoustic playlist. It is not a song one would think to associate with Eilish before this album, who became famous for more electronic style dance music like “Bad Guy,” yet the track is fantastically executed with passionate vocals and a catchy melody.
Some of the slower songs on the album, like “Everybody Dies,” drag on a little. The excitement level in the song feels flat throughout. While Eilish’s vocals demonstrate power and emotion, it is not quite enough to keep the listener from losing interest as it goes on.
As a whole, Eilish and Finneas, co-writer, producer and brother to Eilish, demonstrate exceptional songwriting and production throughout the album. Even if you are not a huge fan of Eilish’s previous work, this album offers a whole new side of Eilish with styles outside the electronic realm.