Billie Eilish, one of the biggest pop stars in the world right now, is one of the best examples of how the industry landscape has radically changed in the last few years. Rather than being surrounded by innumerable songwriters and producers, Billie's music is largely (totally?) created by herself and her brother, producer FINNEAS. Two years ago, the duo released one of the most exciting pop records to hit the mainstream in quite some time, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?. On that record, Billie's breathy vocals accented Finneas's forward thinking electropop in such a refreshing way when contrasted with other records clearing the multibillion stream benchmark. All of the ideas presented on that album were great, but it felt like Billie still had a lot of room to grow and expand upon. Thankfully, her sophomore record Happier Than Ever proves that she's still in control of her own lane, and is a direct improvement over her debut.
Detractors of Billie's sound may be disappointed to find that Happier Than Ever largely features the same ideas found on her debut. However, this time around Billie's vocals are much more present and commanding. They're still very airy and understated, but with a fuller, more serene quality that demands more attention rather than being a vehicle for the electropop production. This gives the record a totally different atmosphere than before. Many of the tracks are absolutely gorgeous ballads, and Billie's voice manages to carry so much passion while still being restrained. Finneas's production this time around complements the vocal performances exceptionally well. Lyrically, this record tackles some heavy themes - abuse, the industry, fame, and how they all tie together. All of the success Billie has achieved has come at a cost, and album's contradictory title is put on full display with each dive into the trauma the music industry can cause.
The only real problem I have with this record is that it's a tad long, and the ballads might bleed into each other on your first couple listens, but man, what an exceptional growth for Billie Eilish. I'd say my personal favorite tracks are the more up-beat electropop-adjacent tracks (the big single Therefore I Am still slaps, and the beat on Oxytocin is NUTS), but everything on here is very well written and well produced. I do want to give a particular shout out to the title track, too, as it's absolutely stunning. I genuinely hope the rest of the pop mainstream takes cues from this record, because Happier Than Ever is truly something special. I think Billie Eilish's career is going have some incredible achievements in the future, and I'm certain that this will be included in that list.