After putting out one of the most stunningly successful debut albums in modern pop history with When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? — which finished as the No. 1 album on the 2019 year-end Billboard 200 chart, and led to a sweep of the Big Four categories at the 2020 Grammys — Billie Eilish had a lot to live up to. But instead of either rising or falling to the occasion, she simply sidesteps the occasion altogether with Happier Than Ever, a sophomore record that stands on its own and mostly ditches the calculated dramatics of her previous work, while embracing her personal and musical growth.
Eilish’s previous album saw an artist who very quickly found her sound, while Happier Than Ever shows her taking the first steps to hone and expand upon it. Rather than clinging to the horror-inspired landscapes that helped make her debut album so massive, Eilish and brother/producer Finneas opted for sonics that elevated the heaviness of her lyrics rather than the other way around. The result is a sensitive deep dive into the psyche and secrets of a young woman maturing in front of the entire world.
Below, Billboard ranks every track on Billie Eilish’s sophomore album.
16. “Not My Responsibility”
This spoken-word track finds Eilish calmly cataloguing all the ways the public picks her apart, from her body to her clothes to her brazen personality, ultimately concluding that those opinions aren’t her responsibility. It’s a strong message, albeit a little belabored.
“Overheated” serves as the followup to “Not My Responsibility,” with Eilish writing for Spotify that she took the latter’s production and constructed a beat around it to create the former. This song touches on similar themes as its counterpart, namely Eilish wondering about the ridiculous public upset over her body. “And everybody said it was a let down I was only built like everybody else,” she sings over a slightly lackluster beat. “But I didn’t get a surgery to help out.”
14. “Lost Cause”
This track, which served as the fourth single for Happier Than Ever, is an easy listen in spite of its frustrating topic. As appealing as its easy-going melody and nonchalant bassline are to the ear, the song is missing the crescendo its lyrics demand.
“NDA” is a fairly unrelatable song about what it takes to have a relationship and personal life when you’re an ultra-famous celebrity — but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a fun listen. The plucky string theme and Eilish’s distorted vocals are engineered to sound intense, an effect the theatrics-loving singer has been playing with since the creepier songs on When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?.
12. “Everybody Dies”
The full album feels very contained to Eilish’s singular frame of view — her love life, growing pains, traumas. On “Everybody Dies,” however, we find the young star toeing the edge of something bigger than just herself: mortality and the meaning of life. This track reflects her first steps into writing about broader, more complex themes, which it would be interesting to hear her expand upon on future projects.
11. “Therefore I Am”
This track feels emblematic of Eilish’s new era. It’s confident and self-actualizing, and backed by trademark Finneas production — a simple beat interspersed with a select few eccentric sounds and a groovy bassline.
10. “I Didn’t Change My Number”
“I Didn’t Change My Number” is a swaggering assertion of control, marked by heavy-handed production and a quick appearance from what sounds like Eilish’s dog, Shark. The track doubles as a fun slow-jam and an empowering reminder that it’s okay to stop talking to intrusive people.
Last year, Eilish penned the sweeping ballad “No Time to Die” for the yet-to-be-released James Bond film of the same name, and “GOLDWING” feels like its sequel. It begins with a gorgeous choral arrangement that isolates Eilish’s pristine vocals and transitions into an anxious-sounding hook. “Better keep your head down down, da da down down,” she repeats over a heavy beat.
8. “Your Power”
Eilish held an image of being a young, fresh new face in music from the time she began her career with her EP Dont Smile at Me and throughout the release of her debut LP, but “Your Power” proves that she’s graduated from that innocence in a devastating way. The song’s heavy lyrics reveal she’s no longer naive to the power imbalances between men and young women present in the industry, thanks in part to her own experiences.
7. “Billie Bossa Nova”
This sauntering track illustrates a vivid scene of late night rendezvous and hotel rooms. It’s a cool, sensuous, shoulder-bopping song that thankfully doesn’t have too heavy a hand with its titular musical influences.
“Oxytocin” feels like a rarity from Billie Eilish for two reasons. First, it’s an overtly sexual song — and second, we get to hear the pop star raise her usually low-decibel voice to a feral shout as she belts “You should really run away.” The production intensifies into a hungry, pounding beat in tandem with Eilish’s lyrics, which get progressively more desperate.
5. “Getting Older”
“Getting Older” is the perfect setup for an album full of Eilish’s most mature, thoughtful content yet. The bounciness of this opening track’s synthesized beat disguises a little what the lyrics give away: the 19-year-old has dour feelings about her fame, career and personal life. “The things that I enjoyed just keep me employed,” she sings. “Wasn’t my decision to be abused.”
4. “Male Fantasy”
Though it’s just slightly alarming to hear a song by someone who famously hit it big as a young teenager start with thoughts on pornography, the record’s closing track delivers a poignant snapshot of Eilish’s mindset once you get past that first mild jolt of shock factor. Simple guitar backs her up while she ponders the abstract, transitional space between past versus present love. “This is exactly how I wanted the album to end,” she wrote for Spotify. “Nothing should end on an angry note.”
3. “My Future”
Finneas’ production keeps this song moving as Eilish once again claims her life for her own. The best part of this song is that it doesn’t feel cheesy — it wasn’t forced into being an over-the-top pop ballad, which is often the sound assigned to songs with deliberately empowering self-love lyrics.
2. “Halley’s Comet”
“Halley’s Comet” is a song that sounds like a classic from the instant those first piano notes tinkle. Eilish’s famous breathy vocals are put to good use on what’s easily the most lighthearted track on the album, with the singer hesitantly confessing that although she “comes around” even less than the aforementioned galactic phenomenon, she still finds herself believing she’s in love.
1. “Happier Than Ever”
Be sure not to form a take on this album’s title track until you’ve listened to it the full way through. In simpler terms, “Happier Than Ever” wouldn’t have made it to the No. 1 spot on this list without its back half — a characteristically soft-voiced Eilish goes full punk rock mode in the final two minutes, complete with delicious electric guitar and super cathartic lyrics like “you made me hate this city!” screamed at the top of her lungs.