If you think you know Billie Eilish, think again. After a smash hit debut album, seven Grammys and almost instant worldwide fame, the 19-year-old singer is reintroducing herself to the world with Happier Than Ever.
The pop star’s sophomore album deals with the pressures that come with finding fame at such a young age, as well as being subject to exploitation by those in power. From the media to her haters to her ex-boyfriends, no one is safe from Eilish’s scorn. Her newfound confidence shines through on tracks like “Therefore I Am,” “Lost Cause,” and “I Didn’t Change My Number.”
But it’s not all assurance and boldness here. Eilish also reflects on a relationship she had with a presumably older man—one that doesn’t seem to be as healthy as she would have liked. Now that she’s older, she’s able to recognize that she was taken advantage of and abused, and now she has to reckon with that trauma.
Happier Than Ever features themes of maturity, self-improvement and confidence. But it also provides in-depth descriptions of her abusive relationship, as well as profanity, suggestive content, and almost explosive spite.
At the end of the album’s opening track “Getting Older,” Eilish sings, “I’ve had some trauma, did things I didn’t wanna/Was too afraid to tell ya, but now, I think it’s time.” And so she does on Happier Than Ever.
After beginning her transition into adulthood, Eilish recognizes her need for self-improvement, while also realizing that her immaturity has led her to make mistakes. On “Getting Older,” she sings, “I’m getting older, I’ve got more on my shoulders/But I’m getting better at admitting when I’m wrong.” Later, in the same song, she’s able to acknowledge, “(Wasn’t my decision) to be abused.”
The album also describes Eilish’s attempts to overcome her insecurities and be confident in herself following her abusive relationship. On “my future,” she’s hopeful that what comes next for her in her life and career will be better than what came before (“’Cause I, I’m in love/With my future/Can’t wait to meet her.”) She also recognizes that she doesn’t need to be in a relationship in order to be happy (“I know I’m supposed to be unhappy/Without someone/But aren’t I someone?”)
Eilish’s meteoric rise to fame—and her unconventional public image—caused her to be subject to incredible media scrutiny and, sometimes, criticism. The singer calls out these criticisms on multiple tracks, most notably on spoken word interlude “Not My Responsibility.” Eilish addresses those who speak out against her by saying, “We make assumptions about people based on their size/We decide who they are/We decide what they’re worth.” “OverHeated” also features her being candid about her body and attempting to deconstruct societal beauty expectations (“(Is it news? News to who?)/That I really look just like the rest of you?”)
Eilish’s newfound confidence can be inspiring and praiseworthy—but only to a point. On “Therefore I Am,” she’s dismissive and spiteful to those who criticize her (“Cause I hate to find/Articles, articles, articles/Rather you remain unremarkable.”) On “I Didn’t Change My Number,” she cuts her haters out of her life by singing, “Don’t take it out on me/I’m out of sympathy for you.”
In her 2021 documentary The World’s a Little Blurry, Eilish opened up about being involved in an abusive relationship as a minor. The trauma she suffered as a result forms a heavily influence on the album, which features some uncomfortably raw lyrics. “Oxytocin” is even told from the perspective of her abuser (“I wanna do bad things to you/I wanna make you yell/…You should really run away.”) On “Your Power,” she reflects on the relationship with hurt and regret, calling out her ex by singing, “I thought that I was special/You made me feel/Like it was my fault, you were the devil.” “Lost Cause” describes a relationship in which Eilish felt unloved and unappreciated (“Gave me no flowers/Wish I didn’t care/You’d be gone for hours/Could be anywhere”). “NDA” features strong references to physical abuse, as Eilish sings, “You hit me so hard/I saw stars.”
Suggestive references are also featured on several of the tracks. On “Oxytocin,” she sings from the perspective of her abuser, “If you only pray on Sunday, could you come my way on Monday?/Cause I like to do things God doesn’t approve of if She saw us,” even going so far as to refer to God as female. “Billie Bossa Nova” describes the beginning of a relationship using strong sensuality (“You better lock your phone/And look at me when you’re alone/Won’t take a lot to get you goin’”). On “Male Fantasy,” Eilish describes the unhealthy ways in which she deals with her heartbreak by singing, “Home alone, tryin’ not to eat/Distract myself with pornography.”
Eilish uses the f-word three times on “Happier Than Ever” and once on “I Didn’t Change My Number.” The s-word is heard once on “Lost Cause” and “NDA,” then three times on “Happier Than Ever.” Eilish uses “d–n” eight times on “Therefore I Am,” and the word “b–ches” appears on “OverHeated.”
On “Happier Than Ever,” Eilish calls out her ex-boyfriend for driving drunk (“You call me again, drunk in your Benz/drivin’ home under the influence.”)
Confidence can be a tricky thing. Recognizing your value is important for everyone to do, but it’s incredibly easy to let the right amount of assurance boil over into too much.
Happier Than Ever shows that while Eilish has grown significantly since the start of her career, she’s still struggling with confidence. Sometimes, it seems like she’s let it go to her head and feels empowered to spitefully dismiss anyone who contradicts her, but other times, it sounds like she’s crumbling under the weight of her insecurity.
In more ways than one, she’s the perfect embodiment of the young, social-media-obsessed generation.
Happier Than Ever is clearly Billie Eilish’s attempt to come to terms with the abuse she suffered as a teenager while struggling with the incredible pressure her sudden fame has brought. There are themes here worth exploring, such as from where young people—especially young women—should look for validation and the dangers of media exploitation. But there’s so much profanity, sensuality and other problematic content surrounding those messages that they’re almost impossible to get to without getting burned.
Lauren Cook is serving as a 2021 summer intern for the Parenting and Youth department at Focus on the Family. She is studying film and screenwriting at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. You can get her talking for hours about anything from Star Wars to her family to how Inception was the best movie of the 2010s. But more than anything, she’s passionate about showing how every form of art in some way reflects the Gospel. Coffee is a close second.