Title: Happier Than Ever
Artist: Billie Eilish
Label: Interscope
Genre: Pop / R&B
Released: 30 July 2021

Tracklist

1. Getting Older
2. I Didn't Change My Number
3. Billie Bossa Nova
4. my future
5. Oxytocin
6. GOLDWING
7. Lost Cause
8. Halley's Comet
9. Not My Responsibility
10. OverHeated
11. Everybody Dies
12. Your Power
13. NDA
14. Therefore I Am
15. Happier Than Ever
16. Male Fantasy

BILLIE EILISH

Happier Than Ever

"Cause I, I'm in love
With my future
Can't wait to meet her"

Billie Eilish has quickly become one of the biggest names in the music industry, ever since the release of her absolutely huge debut record, “WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?”. And while I liked that album quite a lot, I haven’t really kept up with the material she’s been putting out since. I thought her Bond theme for No Time To Die was great, but besides that, most of the tracks that I’ve recently heard from her I’ve been fairly underwhelmed by, not really giving them much of a second thought. And when I saw the runtime and track listing for her follow-up album “Happier Than Ever”, I became a little worried. I wasn’t overly thrilled by what I’d heard from the record so far, and seeing that the album was pushing an hour in length, across 16 tracks, I was even less enthused. But thankfully, when “Happier Than Ever” actually released, I found my concerns to be completely laid to rest.

This really is a fantastic sophomore release from Billie. Despite a couple of dud tracks, there’s hardly any fat to trim here, and its 56-minute runtime somehow never feels long-winded. Listening to this record for the first time was genuinely quite a surprise for me. It wasn’t that I don’t think Billie and Finneas are talented, they clearly are; but for some reason my expectations had been left strangely low. As I mentioned, apart from ‘NDA’ and ‘my future’, the singles for the album had really failed to grab my attention. However, they probably just needed some more time to grow on me, because upon my very first listen of the actual record, these tracks seemed to fit in perfectly, making for some really fantastic moments. And while “Happier Than Ever” is far less over-the-top in its sound than her debut, I actually found this to be one of its strengths. While it might be easy to write the record off as sounding relatively one-note, as its far more subtle in its execution than Billie’s previous work, there’s a lot of nuance that Billie and Finneas manage to capture within the softer sound of the album.

On top of this, “Happier Than Ever” is just absolutely gorgeous. Finneas’ production is immaculate on every single song here, and Billie’s vocal performances are as beautiful as ever. And while it feels more restrained than “WWAFAWDWG”, it’s also more finely tuned, exercising a surprising amount of versatility across the duration of the album. The first six-or-so tracks on the record are especially impressive; Finneas delivers incredible instrumentals in each and every one of these songs, from the soft and pulsating ‘Getting Older’, the hard-hitting ‘Oxytocin’, and the fantastic ‘I Didn’t Change My Number’, which feels oddly reminiscent of Genesis Owusu’s ‘Centrefold’, from earlier this year. ‘my future’ is another clear highlight, featuring an especially smooth and entrancing performance from Billie, which is backed by a delicately beautiful instrumental. And while I think this first stretch of the album features some of its strongest moments, they continue to appear throughout the entirety of “Happier Than Ever”. In particular, the title track is by far the most effective moment on the entire record, delivering its musical and emotional climax in a thunderous, noisy conclusion. And it’s made even more effective within the context of the album. Where the rest of “Happier Than Ever” thrives in the warmth and comfort of its sound, to hear it culminate in something so explosive is surprising, but also immensely satisfying. It also provides some closure for a lot of the themes that are presented throughout the album; struggling relationships, personal mental health issues, and the curse of fame on her private life.

Billie has clearly grown up quite a lot since “WWAFAWDWG”, and “Happier Than Ever” reflects this maturity in spades. She emphasizes it as a central theme of the record from its very opening moments, in the aptly titled ‘Getting Older’, as she highlights various aspects of her life that have been affected by her rise to fame. While she looks to her future with a sense of pride and optimism, she also describes the adversities that she’s had to face. And this is discussed even further in tracks such as ‘my future’ and ‘Not My Responsibility’. Although she’s received a huge amount of acclaim and support over the last few years, she’s also dealt with innumerous amounts of backlash, sexism, and generally hateful comments towards her and her music. Especially since she recently turned 18, there’s been a disgusting amount of discourse on the internet about her body, and the expression of her sexuality, neither of which should be the concern of anyone but her. And Billie addresses this head on in the soft, spoken-word centrepiece of the album, ‘Not My Responsibility’. She acknowledges that even as such a prominent figure, she has no control over the perspectives that the public have on her. It’s centred around the understanding that people’s prejudices reflect their own weaknesses, rather than her own, and refusing to allow other’s negative views to influence her personal image is the only way to combat that. The track feels as though she’s reclaiming her autonomy, and despite lacking the vocal power of the rest of “Happier Than Ever”, it remains its most poignant moment.

I don’t really have many gripes with “Happier Than Ever”. While I don’t think its one of the best releases of the year, it’s still an incredibly solid record, and my only real issues with the album lie within some structural decisions. A couple of the tracks on here feel a little underbaked, such as ‘Halley’s Comet’, which honestly feels as though it’s missing a proper conclusion. And in terms of macrostructure, while I don’t think the album feels overlong, it reaches its climax during the second-to-last track. Because of this, ‘Male Fantasy’ has the record ending on a far lower note than it really should. It’s the same as if, after the crushing finale of ‘I Know the End’, Phoebe Bridgers suddenly decided to wedge another soft guitar ballad into the final moments of “Punisher”. It really didn’t need to happen here. And while it doesn’t diminish the emotional weight of the title track, it leaves the record feeling a little anticlimactic.

“Happier Than Ever” is hardly a sophomore slump. In a lot of ways, it’s a stronger album than Billie’s debut, and despite sounding a lot more homogenous throughout, its strengths lie in the subtle nuances that it achieves with this sound. It’s a gorgeous record, with incredible production from Finneas and consistently fantastic vocal performances from Billie, and I’m extremely happy that it managed to catch me by surprise while my expectations were low. There’s a lot to love about “Happier Than Ever”, and while it doesn’t entirely stick the landing, this is yet another great release from Billie’s growing discography.

"When I'm away from you
I'm happier than ever
Wish I could explain it better
I wish it wasn't true"

Reviewed by Layton Bryce - 05/08/21
8/10
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Comments

Aiden

6/9/21, 8:39 am

Loved it 😍

tamara

5/9/21, 8:53 am

another great review, so proud of u x

Aiden

31/8/21, 3:24 am

Great review!

tamara

25/8/21, 11:55 am

yay!!! i love this review 🤍

tamara

12/8/21, 11:55 am

yay another great review!!! i love it!!!

tamara!!!

5/8/21, 9:00 am

a very thoughtful and great review!!!

tamara

31/7/21, 12:55 am

such a good review!!!

Taylah

31/7/21, 12:53 am

God I have been waiting on this review since I first watched Inside and you put it in words perfectly! (I personally would've rated it a 10/10) This review and this special are both amazing!! love love LOVE it!!

tamara

27/7/21, 8:56 am

yay!!! love olivia and this review!!!🤍

Taylah

27/7/21, 6:40 am

Love your reviews! Keep em coming