Happier Than Ever is a spiritual journey into Billie Eilish's mind.
Billie Eilish is no stranger to discussing hard-hitting issues through music, serving what can only be described as contemporary art in each and every one of her songs. As such, Eilish leaves the comprehension of both her and brother Finneas‘ lyrical genius up to the interpretation of the listener, with the latest album Happier Than Ever being no different in this sense. What is new, however, is the embodiment of a growing sense of maturity within her music, translating to themes such as fame and traumatic love discussed within this new release.
Choosing to embark on the enhanced album on Spotify, the artistry begins before the songs are even played, with three modes for listeners to choose from.
The first – ‘Billie Mode’ ensures that the album can be listened to the way that Billie intended (and prefers) for it to be heard from start to finish. The second – ‘Fan Mode’ provides a glimpse into how her supporters have influenced her latest release, while the final version ‘Lyric Mode’ delves deeply into the meaning of what is meant by the lyricism of her work in personalised voice notes playing after each and every song on the album.
For the purpose of this review, I listened to the album in ‘Lyric Mode’ to gain a more authentic and emotional insight into how the album constructed itself.
As the opening song on the album, ‘Getting Older’ highlights the deep reflection taking place mentally, with particular reference to the insecurities Eilish continues to face in…well, getting older.
Eilish discusses the idea of displacing responsibility of other peoples’ actions away from yourself, and the need to feel comfortable within your own decisions to grow. It is ultimately a song reflecting on the lessons she has learnt from her past actions, as supported by the accompanying voice note, in which Eilish claims “you sometimes don’t realise what is going on around you, until a really long time later”.
‘Getting Older’ ultimately brings with it a sense of nostalgia, and enables you to reconnect with yourself to appreciate the personal journey you have been on so far in life. It forces you to evaluate the current circumstances you find yourself in, and their true importance in the grand scheme of concerns you feel. It serves as a reminder on darker days to appreciate how far you have come mentally, and is one that I shall return to time and time again, to do just that.
‘I Didn’t Change My Number’
‘I Didn’t Change My Number’ discusses the “last straw” moment in a situationship or relationship in which you become empowered to stand against the negative behaviour being used against you, and in consequence, regain your self-worth. “I didn’t change my number, I only changed what I believed in” is my personal take-away lyric within the song, as it embodies an all too familiar shift in mentality to feel empowered in who you are, rather than confining yourself to the harmful actions of others, which often impacts you mentally when building future connections. For sure, a hearty anthem for anyone who has ever been entangled in a toxic relationship.
‘Billie Bossa Nova’
Described by Billie as “a fantasy, romanticised, glorified dream”, ‘Billie Bossa Nova’ describes the immediacy of change that takes place when falling in love unexpectantly. It describes the overwhelming need to be with that person romantically, and the fantasised imagery that replays in wanting to experience those feelings on repeat as a result. I absolutely love the way the chorus is sang in this – playful, curious and a little bit cheeky are all words that spring to mind. The breathy singing and delicate instrumental additions further add to this dream-like convention, perfectly depicting its lyrical contents.
Released before the album, ‘My Future’ delves into “the beginning of a new world” for the singer, which she describes as the happier version of herself she has since become today, following the recording the track over a year ago – “the girl singing it, which is me then, is singing about me now, which makes me feel good”. This track talks candidly about the fact that at present the version of Eilish singing the song does not feel complete within her mental or physical state, but optimistically looks forward to the future without doubting that better days will occur.
My personal favourite song of the entire album. ‘Oxytocin’, named after the hormone that is released when in love, has a beat that makes you feel simply drugged up, replicating the state of being you enter when loving somebody else. It leaves you feeling empowered and wanting a piece of this addictive emotional state. As a girl that uses her heart rather than her head most often, I could quite simply listen to this song all day.
Resembling the idea of a gold-winged angel, ‘GOLDWING’ was metaphorically written for a young woman who is “pure”, in the sense of not yet being caught up in toxicity or in an environment that is pressuring and exploitative. The song sets itself up to feel like that of a choir, heavenly and divine, before encompassing a contrasting beat that serves as almost a warning to innocent listeners that trouble is always lurking around the corner. It presents life as being intersectional, in that bad and good are always in each others company, no matter the proportion to which they merge.
‘Lost Cause’ discusses the ending of a relationship that should have ended well before its official conclusion. It represents the idea of meeting someone who you begin to idolise, only to discover the toxic traits that they truly possess, which were only revealed once in the relationship. It presents the hope felt by Eilish for her lover to be more than the reality of what is presented in front of her, mirroring the honeymoon phase of every relationship that blooms into something toxic.
One of the happier love songs on the album, ‘Hailey’s Comet’ is an oral representation of the sense of euphoria felt when falling in love, and the floating sensation gained from doing so. It has a sweet and gentle melody – almost like a lullaby – which reminds me of the musical classic ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ in certain areas of the song. Not my favourite song on the album, but the message is beautifully spoken non-the-less.
‘Not My Responsibility’
A non-song on the album,’Not My Responsibility’ talks candidly about body positivity, and Billie Eilish’s personal experience in growing up surrounded by the media, who openly and harshly scrutinise her appearance. This release was first revealed during Eilish’s tour, with a video of her showing parts of her body, later receiving great traction on the internet. It talks about needing to love yourself for you, as everyone is always going to have an opinion or assumption, particularly as a woman. “Other people’s opinions are not your responsibility” is the take-away message, which I think is so important to hear given the social media generation that we live in.
‘OverHeated’ candidly talks about the insanity of the media, including the ability to freely pass comment about others on social media without any repercussion for harmful impact these negatively spoken words can possess. Topically, it transitions well from ‘Not My Responsibility’, aiming to relay that Eilish in herself is a normal human being despite her celebrity status’, and should therefore be treated with the same respect and kindness as everybody else.
‘Everybody Dies’ talks about the existential fact that all things end, and the need to be aware that you only have so long to do what you want in life. It encourages you to make the most of it, while discussing the actions we take to make ourselves feel more comforted by the idea of endings, and consequently, death. Rather gloomy on a surface level, but highly poignant at its core.
‘Your Power’ is a feminst track which bravely talks about women being taken advantage of by men. Eilish voices this sentiment through her own experience, making the message of the song all the more vulnerable and honest. I feel the lyrics contained in this song are something that all women can relate to in one way or another, regardless of the extent to which you have been, or are currently, disadvantaged by the notion of patriarchy. It talks about how men who “abuse their power” only seem to care when their power is at risk of being weakened by their true actions being revealed and ‘outed’ to society. I think these experiences should be talked about more to help eradicate the shame felt by those who have been victimised by the actions of men, and this song opens the door perfectly for that kind of movement to take place.
A non disclosure agreement, which the song is named after, is typically created to prevent sensitive information from being publicised. ‘NDA’ is my second favourite song on the album, discussing the need for the hidden romances that occur as a result of Eilish’s celebrity status taking away the power to date normally. I love the beat of the song and the voiced inner-monologue, whereby Eilish questions whether she is doing the right or wrong thing. This is very relatable, particularly when looking at the complex nature of getting into and maintaining a relationship, even without the added complications of experiencing it in the public eye.
‘Therefore I Am’
I love the reckless nature of ‘Therefore I Am’, which can be further seen in the music video, which sees Eilish running through an American mall, stealing various food stuffs and generally doing as she pleases. She uses this song to represent types of people who think they are above the status quo, rather than actively maintaining understanding and empathy for others. I think this can particularly be reflected towards the divide between the younger and older generation, who often like to express that they are right as a result of their age, without regard for what is actually being advocated by the young.
‘Happier Than Ever’
As the penultimate song on the album – and original ending – ‘Happier Than Ever’ fittingly closes the emotional journey experienced thus far from the album, in addition to previously released songs by the singer. Eilish said that singing this song felt somewhat cathartic and theraputic, which I see as an almost rounding off of her journey with mental health and known experiences with depression and anxiety. She is evidently growing in her ability to cope with these negative thought processes, which is inspiring as a sufferer with mental health myself. It provides optimism amongst the chaos of negative emotions that become entangled when having such tendencies.
‘Male Fantasy’ ended up becoming the final song on the album, after it was decided by Eilish that it should not conclude on a feeling of anger, which I think in itself speaks volumes for the maturity of this album in dealing with emotional states as a whole. It delves into the sexualised view taken by men towards women, and how far from the truth this is, especially when viewing pornography and the glorified stereotypes in reality television, which are hyper-presented towards this generation.
Ultimately, what I love most about Billie Eilish is that she doesn’t need to scream or jump around on stage to have her emotion and message understood. She does not require gimmicks to provide such poignant societal notions, which are relevant to all in this generation. Her music makes you feel your emotions outright, even when you cannot possibly put what you are feeling into words. Her lyricism is simply genius and openly allows for interpretation, which – although can too bring criticism – helps provide a take-away feeling for all that choose to really listen to what is being conveyed; taking her albums at face-value is simply not enough to understand the true complexities intended.
Listening to Happier Than Ever was a spiritual journey, and one that I would willingly take time and time again, to gain deeper understanding into my own inner worth; and for that I say thank you, Billie.
Happier Than Ever is out now via Darkroom/Interscope Records. Watch the video for ‘Happier Than Ever’ below: