Billie Eilish’s highly anticipated second album, “Happier Than Ever”, is poised to further solidify her place in pop stardom, while exploring the effects this celebrity has had on her.
After releasing her first viral single in 2015, Eilish transformed pop music with her 2019 debut album, “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?”, Which she performed at home with her brother. Critics praised the emotional transparency and the unsettling, bewitching tone amid the sweeter, sweeter albums that typically dominate the pop scene. She broke several records, including becoming, at age 18, the youngest artist to ever win a Grammy in the top four categories. But since then, she has also become one of the youngest artists to consider the scrutiny that this kind of attention brings.
On “Getting Older,” the opening track for “Happier Than Ever,” which released Friday, 19-year-old Eilish sings, “Things I Enjoyed Once / Keep Me Employed Now. Growing old isn’t usually easy for anyone, but throw in Eilish’s life as one of the world’s biggest pop stars and the words take on greater meaning.
Indeed, throughout “Happier Than Ever”, reflections on the isolation and stress of celebrity appear. “Getting Older” also mentions “deranged” strangers who show up at its doorstep. “NDA” tackles the cost of security and the emotional burden of being a famous teenager. In the song, she even sings about a secret house she bought when she was 17, then despondently explains that she was never able to throw a party there. However, the most jarring ruminations about celebrity restrictions come from the track “Not My Responsibility”, a monologue addressing the constant criticism surrounding her body and her sexuality. A line from the track asks, “The body I was born with / Isn’t that what you wanted?”
Ever since bursting onto the scene as an electro-pop sensation at age 13 with her song “Ocean Eyes”, Eilish has been known for her voice around body positivity. Her choices to wear loose clothing to reduce focus on her body drew both praise and criticism. Her hair dyed green and black drew similar reactions. Eilish, in turn, said being in the spotlight is a no-win situation and women should just be themselves.
In her recent coverage of British Vogue – which topped the Twittersphere for days after its release – she decided to swap her hair colors for a blonde and her baggy clothes for a corset. She explained in the story that she knew it would draw criticism (as it did; she was quickly accused of “selling herself”) but that she did it anyway because women don’t. should not be chained to a dress style.
In her new album, the singer draws something significant from her struggles against fame, judgment and criticism. Eilish paints a picture of the freedom that comes from just saying shit, a feeling she expresses in a more colorful way by ending the title track “Happier Than Ever” with “Just f — ing leave me alone”.
Maybe part of that bliss is that she refutes the “whispered singer” criticism she faces, saying her soft vocals on her albums are proof that she lacks vocal talent. In the snap and ring of “Happier Than Ever”, the singer highlights her voice and challenges these claims.
On Instagram, Eilish explained that this album “means the world” to her and asked her fans to “please take care of this project”. But the album seems like a promise she made to herself to take care of herself.