Billie Eilish: Happier Than Ever review – inside pop stardom’s heart of darkness
The Guardian says “I’m getting older,” sings Billie Eilish, who’s 19, on Happier Than Ever’s opening track. “I’ve got more on my shoulders”, she adds, which is certainly true. Her debut album When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? wasn’t just a huge global hit, but an album that significantly altered mainstream pop music. Two years on, streaming services are clotted with bedroom-bound, teenage singer-songwriters dolefully depicting their lives: anticipation for what the genuine article does next is understandably running very high.
When We All Fall Asleep … was an album that turned universal teenage traumas – romance, hedonism, friendship groups – into knowingly lurid horror-comic fantasies, in which tongues were stapled, friends buried, hearses slept in and marble walls spattered with blood. That playfulness is less evident on its successor. It flickers occasionally, as on Overheated’s exploration of stardom in the era of social media, complete with death threats (“You wanna kill me? You wanna hurt me?” she mumbles, before giggling: “Stop being flirty”) or on NDA, where the “pretty boy” she entices home is required to sign the titular legal agreement before he leaves. But the overall tone is noticeably more sombre.
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