Image courtesy of Stereogum
By Ryn Cole
Billie Eilish has consistently impressed with her songwriting skills and vocals throughout her six years of releasing music, and her new album Happier Than Ever is no exception. Released on July 30, 2021, her second studio album left audiences surprised, heartbroken, hopeful, and nostalgic. Each song is flawlessly produced and filled with personal lyrics.
In order for a pop album to gain success, the lyrics, production, and sound all need to be polished and purposeful. Eilish’s lyrics in each song were written with care and are full of poetic metaphors about her personal struggles and thoughts. While relating closely to her personal life, the lyrics are also easy to relate to and evoke emotion from the listener.
Eilish works alongside her brother Finneas O’Connell to create many of her songs. O’Connell is a well-known producer and singer/songwriter, and he produced both Eilish’s last album When We All Fall, Asleep Where Do We Go? and Happier Than Ever. O’Connell also co-writes many of his sister’s songs. Because they are related and spend so much time together, the two are able to compose extremely personal lyrics in Elish’s songs.
The first song on the album, “Getting Older,” serves as a look into Eilish’s secret diary. This song is about growing up in the public eye. For a 19-year-old, she has received an immense amount of popularity and recognition from all types of people around the world. We as listeners get to hear a bit of how this affects her and how growing into an adult is different for each person.
Eilish receives mixed reviews on every piece of music she releases, but she handles the criticism like no other. One main reason for criticism includes that she sings too softly. Although her voice is well trained, fans wanted to hear something different.
In her single “Happier Than Ever,” Eilish changes genres halfway through the song. She goes from singing softly with acoustic guitar in the background to using her chest voice with a full rock band behind her. Needless to say, this genre switch surprised audiences, and it fully succeeded in satisfying the craving for a Billie song with a different sound.
Finally, the order of the songs in the album was carefully chosen and creates a story for the audience when listened to in the intended order. She begins with discussing how she is growing in both the music industry and her self-exploration. She transitions to a section of sensual songs (“Billie Bossa Nova” and “Oxytocin”) and heartfelt love stories (“Halley’s Comet” and “Your Power”).
In the middle of the album, she includes a song called “Not My Responsibility” which is a stark contrast from the rest of the album. In this song, Eilish speaks rather than sings and creates a narrative where she shames the people who have negative and demanding opinions about her and her femininity. The decision to speak these words rather than sing them leaves the audience with a more impactful confession of her feelings. It feels as though she is speaking directly to us through a phone call.
She continues the other half of the album with personal songs rather than ones about other people. She focuses on herself and her actions to finish out the album. “NDA,” “Therefore I Am,” “Happier Than Ever,” and “Male Fantasy” all precede “Not My Responsibility,” and in each one of these songs, she speaks unapologetically about herself and the way that others view her, whether it be males, the press, or society in general.
This album as a whole shows that we all go through different experiences that shape us into who we are. Billie Eilish’s unapologetic personality and complex emotions shine through each and every song on this album, creating an evocative listening experience for her audience.