Friday July 30th 2021
Second album by the high-flyer
Billie Eilish exudes lovely sadness
By Kai Butterweck
With her long-awaited second studio album, Billie Eilish is taking the next step. Instead of just picking up where she left off with her über-debut, the young singer adds a pinch of positivity to her repertoire.
When Billie Eilish was asked by a BBC reporter in 2017 whether she was the new pop hope, the then 16-year-old newcomer just unsuspectingly shrugs her shoulders. Four years later, Billie Eilish cannot be ignored. Seven Grammys, two Brit Awards and a 53 (!) Platinum number one debut album speak for themselves.
Probably nothing is more eagerly expected by friends of sophisticated mystic pop in the summer of 2021 than the second studio album by a singer who felt “unsure” and “disoriented” a few years ago. Now the second Eilish work is finally on the table and the author is “Happier Than Ever”.
More mature and contoured
But the first impression is not really happy. On the cover, Billie Eilish poses in the style of a 70s mannequin looking sleepily into nowhere. It’s good that appearances are sometimes deceptive – as in the case of “Happier Than Ever”. The five album appetizers published in advance sketch an overall sound-lyric picture that peels through the speakers more mature, more contoured and, at the end of the day, more positive. It’s about self-love, self-discovery and nondisclosure agreements.
The cool, always mystical atmosphere, which already set the direction on the debut album, pushes itself into the foreground this time as well. But there are many positive vibes slumbering beneath the sad and dreary surface. The rest of the album follows that.
Much major under the minor cover
The opening “Getting Older” marks perhaps the thickest exclamation point in this regard. If you replace the hip hopping and bubbling in the background with classic guitars, then you would suddenly have lovely sounding folk pop in your ear. Also on the move with subliminal positivity: “Billie Bossa Nova”, squinting in the direction of the cocktail bar. The sobbing piano ballad “Halley’s Comet” also hides a lot of major under the protective minor cover.
Everything sounds a bit as if a slowly developing positive perspective is trying to venture out of the dark and into the light. Billie Eilish announced a few weeks ago that the creation phase of the album was characterized by “relaxation, joy and a lot of fun”. After the second run at the latest, you nod to the singer.
A first attempt to break out
Sure, the expected suspects such as the swirling organ drama “Not My Responsibility”, the “OverHeated” tripping on overheated beats and the grieving still life “Everybody Dies” bring back many memories of the months just before the start of the pandemic, when the name Billie Eilish suddenly in everyone was talking about. “Happier Than Ever” is more than “just” a stylistically similar “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?” Successor. The second studio blow from Eilish is a first attempt to break out.
If you listen carefully, you will notice a young singer who has matured. With “Happier Than Ever” Billie Eilish doesn’t reinvent himself. But the young style and sound icon with the pronounced Be-yourself! Attitude is expanding her repertoire. Suddenly the sun now and then shines through the window of the darkened Eilish base. And what you see and hear is pleasing.