Final Grade: 7.2/10
Ahlgrim: As a music critic, I know I’m meant to judge an album holistically. But all I have is my truth, and right now, my love for the title track has superseded all other impressions.
I have listened to “Happier Than Ever,” the album, once. I have listened to “Happier Than Ever,” the song, 18 times. I feel like it’s the moon and my brain is the sun and there’s a solar eclipse.
Thus is the pleasure and challenge of a first-listen review: It requires immediate honesty, which perhaps requires some oversimplification. I’m eager to see how the rest of these songs grow on me over time, like “Your Power” and “Lost Cause” surely have. I can already tell that “Oxytocin” and “Halley’s Comet” will enjoy prominent spots on my Spotify Wrapped come December.
But I also believe that truly great albums — most, if not all — reward immediate honesty. They tend to demand your attention from the jump, even if you can’t explain why you love it yet. You just know you will.
Obviously, this isn’t an exact science. But for me, Eilish’s sophomore album lacks that seductive mystique. I know it’s objectively good, yet I’m not itching for another whirl. More likely, I will harvest the juiciest crops for my favorite playlists and leave the rest to dry.
Larocca: “Happier Than Ever” promises to deliver on real vulnerability, but never quite gets there.
Far too often, Eilish tells you she’s upset or has trauma to unpack, without ever showing what those experiences look like. It’s frustrating, considering the best songs (“Happier Than Ever,” “Oxytocin,” “Halley’s Comet”) are the ones where she gives into the emotion she’s trying to express (rage, horniness, love).
That’s not to say the rest of the album is bad — there’s nothing on “Happier Than Ever” that’s greatly offensive to my ears. But without tactile imagery or vocal variety, songs like “NDA” and “Everybody Dies” only contribute neutrality.
Unfortunately, about half of this album is made up of anodyne moments, making for a mostly bland listening experience. It’s disappointing, because on the very same tracklist, Eilish proved she can wield her power to enchant listeners and spark a fire within.
I came away from this album feeling fine. But I wanted to come away feeling happier than ever — or sadder than ever, or madder than ever. I wish Eilish had given us more to feel.
Worth listening to:
“Billie Bossa Nova”
“Therefore I Am”
“Happier Than Ever”
“I Didn’t Change My Number”
“Not My Responsibility”
*Final album score based on songs per category (1 point for “Worth listening to,” .5 for “Background music,” .5 for “Split decision,” 0 for “Press skip”).