Two years ago, we started a feature called ‘I Get it Now’, and honestly, we missed it. Sometimes an album you now treasure was once something you couldn’t bear. We owe a lot to second listens.
Billie Eilish is the prime example of an immensely talented young musician catapulted into the spotlight. Winning five Grammy Awards in 2020 – when she was just 17! – for her debut album, WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO, I had high expectations for the follow up, Happier Than Ever.
The album cycle began when the first promotional singles were released, with pandemic release ‘my future’ in July 2020. From this single, I could tell that Billie was taking a turn away from the glitchy, angsty pop sound driving her prior releases, and at this point I had no qualms with it. In fact, I enjoyed the confidence she exuded in her next track, ‘Therefore I Am’, and the acoustic and socially important stance defining ‘Your Power’ showed her consciously using her platform for good, whilst calling back to her guitar-led roots shown on 2017’s don’t smile at me EP.
What drew me to Billie’s music at 16 was these lighter, pop-driven sounds, with don’t smile at me being one of the defining releases of my teenage years. I associate her music with a nostalgia of sorts, so the shift in tone of Happier Than Ever did not sit well with me upon its release – simply put, it wasn’t what I was used to.
I was naive to believe Billie’s music would stay the same…
‘NDA’, another pre-release, was – and still is – extremely underwhelming to me, and when the full album was released, my initial feelings mirrored that. Billie’s vocals seemed to blend into the distorted synth backings, and many songs felt repetitive. ‘GOLDWING,’ ‘I Didn’t Change My Number’ and ‘OverHeated’ were songs I didn’t even bother giving a second listen to. After just one full listen, I didn’t touch the record for months.
Yet, once I had been through some things in my personal life, somehow this album clicked with me towards the end of 2021. Deciding to listen through again one day, I processed the wisdom Billie imparted upon listeners, as she tackled tough subjects on ‘Not My Responsibility,’ ‘Getting Older’ and the aforementioned ‘Your Power’. ‘Halley’s Comet’ was a song I loved when I was in love, ‘Male Fantasy’ resonated when I fell out of it, and ‘Billie Bossa Nova’ was key in a period of my life when I needed to get my own confidence back. As I matured, and my taste in general strayed away from pop, I grew to appreciate the quieter synth-led productions on the record.
I was naïve to believe Billie’s music would stay the same as, like myself, she is in the defining years of her young life where everything around you is changing. It’s only fitting to be open to change from your favourite artists.