Produced by Finneas, Billie Eilish has released her second album, Happier Than Ever.
Words by Molly Openshaw
Starting with the first song, I have delved into the meaning behind each song and discussed the themes and stories behind Billie’s fresh music.
With the foundation of this song almost coming across as clashing, this melody is continued throughout. This seems to stand out as an imperfect but stable undertone to this song, adding playful touch. Billie recently turned eighteen and this song is in keeping with this theme of the album: looking forward to her future, calling out her past and people no longer in her life.
“Things I once enjoyed, just keep me employed now, things I’m longing for someday, I’ll be bored of. It’s so weird that we care so much until we don’t”
I appreciated this chorus because it discusses this part of life where you’re deciding what you want to do with your life. We find something that we enjoy and that becomes our vocation, seemingly taking the enjoyment out of it. However, this reinforces this idea of the future in Billie’s album because it adds to the attainability of her future goals and solidifies the fact that her career is only going up. This merged sense of elusive positivity is a theme well employed throughout Happier Than
I Didn’t Change My Number:
On first listen, I loved the vibe of this song. With a more casual, up-tempo beat mixed with Billie’s soft and breathy voice, it was a stark contrast to the previous song. I think this song describes the method of dealing with the issues presented in the song before. Focusing on communication and choice, Billie explains her experiences of becoming more exclusive with her contacts and becoming more secluded.
This theme of a phone call has been previously employed in other songs such as When The Party Is Over and Party Favour, showing the continuity between Billie’s music and this continuous narrative. I think this allegory also serves as a reminder that Billie is a teenager, whilst her music does touch on wider issues such as environmental issues, politics and body image, her demographic still responds to the discussion of phone calls, communication and social media.
Billie Bossa Nova:
This song touches on the idea of privacy as a celebrity as well as torture, obsession and privacy. Mixed with the lo-fi, casual beat of this song, there are quite haunting, creepy lyrics.
“Nobody saw me in the lobby (Saw me in the lobby) Nobody saw me in your arm”
This beat reminds me of the one used in Billie’s Bellyache from her debut EP. This is because of the almost synaesthesia between the chilling message and the upbeat tune.
There is also this end focus on this idea of sentimentality that adds to this idea of privacy and lacking space to be sentimental and hold onto your life fragments. Billie describes this song as “Fantasy, romanticised, glorified dream”.
Initially, the slower and melodic vibe is reminiscent of a siren song with the movement up and down her vocal range. Mixed with the theme of love and looking towards the future it is magical and enthralling. This song was released as a single, the first single since her No Time Left To Die single. We can see this continuation of the theme of getting older and looking to the future.
With the switch halfway to a more upbeat tempo with the same melodic vocals, this song mixes this idea of the future with the grief of the past. I think this song epitomises this album as it has the hauntingly truthful realisations of Billie’s past mixed with her youthful optimism for the future, creating a melodic ode to becoming an adult in the twenty-first century.
Being my favourite song in the whole album, this song is exciting and mysterious and seductive. Being titled after the hormone of female reproduction, responsible for breastfeeding, childbirth, orgasms; alternatively, being known as the ‘love hormone’. In this song, Billie represents God as being female similar to in All the Good Go To Hell, this reiterates this female empowerment as being at the forefront of this song. I think there is a hugely sexual aspect to this song, but also a sense of emotional abuse and this blurred line usually shown throughout media in portraying sex. In Male Fantasy, the final song in this album, Billie also touches on the media’s representation of sex, showing how this idea of growing up in an industry that hypes up sex appeal has been influential in Billie’s career.
“If you find it hard to swallow, I can loosen up your collar, ‘Cause, as long as you’re still breathing, Don’t you even think of leaving”
This track tells the tale of the woman on the street, the feeling of being watched and prayed upon. A feeling, known by Billie as a well-known individual but also many women. This idea of someone who is not exploited or traumatised being angelic, mythical and almost portraying false hope. The introduction to this song has been influenced by Gustav Holst’s translation of an ancient Hindu poem, which reiterates this role of choral, religious and almost sanctity.
With the fairly heavy drum-heavy beat, this allegory of an angel walking down the street is mirrored. This is through the contrast between beauty and the urban, contamination and innocence being portrayed.
I found this song to be one of my least favourites of the album. Merely because it was a little bit slower and seemed quite a similar vibe to No Time Left to Die. It does blend in nicely with the other songs in the album and it is quite reminiscent of some of Billie’s earlier releases.
This song represents dreams of love, passion and peace. It discusses a comet that is visible every 75ish years- twice in a lifetime. This song has a different feel to others in the album, happy but not in a poppy upbeat way, just simply content and sweet.
“What a drag to love you like I do”
Not My Responsibility:
About midway through this album, Billie has added in a spoken word. Originally spoken during her tour in early 2020 after some controversy surrounding Billie’s own image and sexuality. Billie has said that these are some of her favourite words that she has ever written, they are unapologetic and raw. This rack discusses the idea of shame, womanhood and living in the spotlight.
Using the same track from Not My Responsibility, this song reiterates this message about body image and sexualisation. Billie references a photo that sparked controversy of her in less clothing than is usually portrayed in a paparazzi shot soon after her eighteenth birthday. This idea of being overheated seems to exemplify this emotion of being overwhelmed, suffocated and aggravated, similar to how Billie has described her experience on social media following her change in style.
Billie has described this song as being associated with the colour blue and the smell of rain, this melancholy landscape that she creates with music is phenomenal. This song explores themes of abandonment and death. I don’t believe that it is an inherently sad song, exploring the beauty of life and the natural cycle that eventually comes to an end.
This song mirrors the overall theme of this album with the idea of sexualisation, responsibility and abuse.
Billie is implicit in showing off her experience while allowing the listener to picture their own experiences. This song acknowledges the universal truth of femininity and the media while allowing the mundane role of relationships to be at the forefront.
“She was sleepin’ in your clothes (In your clothes) But now she’s got to get to class”
This merging of the youthful and sensual shows the age Billie is at. I think that the role of power is so evident here with this idea of going from sexuality to school.
This song is another one of my favourites in the album. It epitomises obsession, safety and security, especially with the title NDA. The sterile imagery of the NDA legal documentation as an allegory of fame. Billie discusses her accomplishments such as being on the Forbes list, yet this emphasis on NDA highlights the less glamorous side of reaching fame at the age of 16.
Therefore I am:
Drawing off of Descartes’ maxim “cogito, ergo sum” (I think, therefore I am), Billie employs this idea of reinstating reality and sense of person through explanation. This seems to question whether the world is reality or a dreamlike illusion. This proverb explains how by the very act of thinking about existence with doubt, we are proving that we exist based on the simple idea that to think we need to exist. Billie employs this philosophical idea as an allegory of control on her in the industry and the extreme scrutiny she faces. Throughout this album, she has expressed the role of body shaming and unwanted comments on her sexuality. This song continues this theme and uses philosophy to entertain this idea of thought and consent. In this song, Billie also uses Plato’s Theory of Forms to discuss how we view the world and the idea of idealised truths and the abstract versus the perfect. Regarding the media and her fans, Billie uses these philosophies to remind listeners that what you perceive to be true from her music is idealised and not a true perception.
Happier than Ever:
In this song, Billie alludes to her ex-boyfriend, Brandon Adams. Billie first delved into this relationship in her documentary, The World’s a Little Blurry. She shows how this relationship was a lot more challenging than she originally portrayed.
“You call me again, drunk in your Benz
Drivin’ home under the influence
You scared me to death but I’m wastin’ my breath
‘Cause you only listen to your fuckin’ friends
I don’t relate to you
I don’t relate to you, no
‘Cause I’d never treat me this shitty
You made me hate this city”
Billie has described the creation of this song as therapeutic. I believe that this idea of airing some of the negative aspects of her past in a song titled Happier Than Ever highlights how far she has come, and how these incidents have led to where she is today.
The final song on her album reinforces this theme of sexuality, femininity and abuse whilst also discussing falsehoods, performance and loneliness. Voyeurism and male fantasies are discussed in the first verse with the role of porn and social media’s portrayal of sex being androcentric and defamatory to women as well as being completely false and idealised. Billie describes this song as a “hopeless realisation”, as, despite her work on changing the sexualisation of women in the music industry, she is still experiencing unwanted sexualisation. In her explanation of her album, Billie explained that she didn’t want to finish the album on an angry note and I believe this adds a sense of bathos to the album and the realisation that there is so much wrong with the industry and with body image and sexualisation in general. There is a sense of hopelessness in ending an album titled Happier Than Ever with a male centred song.
Billie’s second album is a beautiful representation of her coming to adulthood.
It portrays her achievements, regrets and hopes for the future. The mixing of more upbeat tunes alongside more haunting truths allows for a really enjoyable listening experience but also for learning and clarity on Billie’s truths.