Billie Eilish’s “Happier Than Ever” and the costs of fame.

Billie Eilish’s Sophomore album details her newfound struggles with fame across its 56-minute run time. Photo by Matthew Siciliano-Salazar | The Signal

Fame is dangerous. That is the theme of Billie Eilish’s sophomore album, “Happier Than Ever.”  Eilish knows the struggles of being thrust into stardom before hitting their 20s better than most. 

Across the album’s 56-minute runtime, Eilish comes to terms with every part of her newfound fame, both good and bad. While “Happier Than Ever” does tackle a much more intimate subject matter than her debut album, it suffers in terms of cohesion as a result.

Eilish and her brother Finneas are no strangers to pushing the boundaries of mainstream pop. Their signature style blends electropop and hip-hop influences, complemented by introspective lyrics. 

In contrast to her debut album’s opening track, “bad guy“,  her sophomore album opens with “Getting Older,” a low-key and soft song in which Eilish cynically addresses her previous passion getting turned into a job.  

The cynical side of fame is a recurring motif of the album. The track “Billie Bossa Nova” sees Eilish sing about needing her desire for privacy with the line “Some information’s not for sharing,” referencing her attempt to hide her relationships. 

Eilish is no stranger to her private life being out in the open, with her relationship with Matthew Tyler Vorce making the news for months after the two were spotted together. A brief reprieve from the cynicism comes in the song “my future.” 

In contrast to most of the album,”my future” is an idealistic song in which Eilish glides effortlessly over a minimalistic drum beat to address her hope for her future. It is the antithesis of “Getting Older” and works well in the album’s context.

Oxytocin” is a stylistic return to the hard-hitting, industrial-influenced bangers of her debut album.  “We had all these songs, and I was like, the only thing we’re missing is a song that’s going to be insane live,” said Eilish, about “Oxytocin.”  

The contrast is evident, and while the song sticks out relative to the rest of the project, Eilish’s high-pitched delivery alongside the hard-hitting bassline justifies its existence.

Your Power” is easily one of the hardest-hitting pop tracks of the year. A raw, emotional track with a stripped-back guitar instrumental in which Eilish sings about an abusive relationship is incredibly heartbreaking. Amidst the #MeToo movement, it hits incredibly close to home for many. 

This harshness makes it confusing that she follows this song up with “NDA,” whose instrumentals sound like they came from an underground level in a “Super Mario Brothers.” It is a somewhat jarring contrast sonically.

Therefore I Am” sees Eilish refute the notion of people using her name for clout and an apparent disregard for the world’s perception of her.  This song also leads into the title track, “Happier Than Ever,” which starts with a single, minimalistic guitar instrumental before giving way to a cacophony of guitars as the song progresses. 

Eilish directs her righteous fury towards her abuser, and it is wildly satisfying. Billie telling her abuser to “Leave her the f*ck alone” is the final lyric that satisfyingly ends the album. 

At least it would if it was the closing song instead of “Male Fantasy.” The song sees Eilish address a recent heartbreak while crooning over an acoustic guitar melody. It is a fine song in a vacuum, but it is underwhelming after the epic title track.

“Happier Than Ever” is not as cohesive of a listen as “WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP WHERE DO WE GO,” but it still demonstrates Eilish’s mastery of pop music as a 19-year-old up and comer in the industry.