Billie Eilish effortlessly balances tragedy, joy on ‘Happier Than Ever’

Illustration of Billie Eilish
Emily Bi/Senior Staff

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Since her rise to stardom in 2017 with the EP Don’t Smile at Me, Billie Eilish has found herself in the spotlight, quickly relinquishing her privacy as a teenager. Regardless of fame or status, growing up is tumultuous in itself, but keeping a level of authenticity while simultaneously being in the eye of the media is what makes Eilish so enchanting. Whether in her songwriting about relationships and mental health or her experimentation with fashion, she confides in her generation, which is ever-so-willing to listen and relate. This is especially true with the release of Happier Than Ever, Eilish’s second studio album, which illustrates the pop star’s vulnerability in growing up and dealing with heartbreak, fame and coming of age. 

Happier Than Ever is long; it consists of 16 tracks, where each has a life of its own while remaining cohesive to the others. Most of the album is a vulnerable insight into Eilish’s personal life, but it also dives into themes of discovering self-respect and confidence throughout the whirlwind of growing up. It could be difficult to be relatable to an audience who mostly does not understand the upward battle of becoming a young pop star, yet the earnestness in Eilish’s voice while singing on tracks that deal with toxic relationships, being body shamed and mental health is universal. 

The album’s introductory track, “Getting Older,” begins with Eilish singing over a softer beat as she whimsically discloses the difficulties of fame and the loneliness that comes with it. Eilish’s unhappiness could easily come off as whiny, yet it is candid and references how her fame is a privilege. Lyrics such as “Things I once enjoyed/ Just keep me employed now ” and “Things I’m longing for/ Someday, I’ll be bored of,” display her struggle of relishing in success while still suffering under its pressures. Eilish approaches the listener like a best friend who is ready to sit down for a long, therapeutic chat. 

“I Didn’t Change My Number” and “Happier Than Ever” find Eilish out for vengeance against those who have wronged her in past relationships. On “Happier Than Ever,” Eilish’s quiet, low vocals shine through a softer backing until the song switches into a faster beat: She stings the listener with lyrics such as “I don’t relate to you, no/ ‘Cause I’d never treat me this shitty” and “Made all my moments your own/ Just fucking leave me alone.” The duality between the two parts of the song mirrors that of the mixed emotions that often come with walking away from a relationship — the buildup and sadness of realizing that it’s time to walk away, and the power that comes with doing so. Eilish’s ability to find and deliver this complicated feeling so clearly to listeners is what makes the track so powerful.

Lately, Eilish has often been at the forefront of discussion surrounding body image. The singer is known for wearing large, baggy clothing, covering herself from outside perception to avoid discourse about her body from media outlets and the public. She tackles this head-on in “Not My Responsibility,” more an interlude than an actual song. It is a mastery of using a creative platform to speak about an issue: Eilish could have made a poppy, upbeat song, but she speaks directly to the listener instead. 

Eilish speaks behind a slow-sounding beat, “Some people hate what I wear/ Some people praise it.” Throughout the track, she acknowledges her image in the public eye, and at the track’s end she asks, “Or is your opinion of me not my responsibility?” It is a chilling piece of art that elicits an important conversation surrounding the judgment young celebrities receive through being in the spotlight. 

Happier Than Ever is without a doubt Eilish’s strongest work. Its sensitivity in discussing difficult topics is sure to tug on the heartstrings, but in all of its seriousness, it still finds itself to be a fun, youthful album that will surely be relatable to many. 

Contact Kaitlin Clapinski at [email protected].