Billie Eilish On 'Happier Than Ever,' Changing Styles And Growing Up In Public With lyrics poking at the ways young women are scrutinized and exploited, Happier than Ever finds Eilish in some dark corners — but the pop supernova tells NPR she's got lots to feel hopeful about.

Billie Eilish Can't Wait To See The Future

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/1022878842/1023393437" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Billie Eilish has a message for the world.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THEREFORE I AM")

BILLIE EILISH: (Singing) I'm not your friend or anything, damn. You think that you're the man. I think, therefore, I am.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: The supernova singer has won seven Grammys in the past year alone, and now she's out with her second album. Billie Eilish joins us now to talk about it. Hello.

EILISH: Hello. How you doing?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I'm doing pretty well. This album is called "Happier Than Ever." And so I guess how are you? I mean, are you happier than ever? Why did you call it that?

EILISH: It's got lots of different meanings going on. And it's - I just - I mainly wanted a title for my album to be, like, unmisprouncable, I feel - strong, easy to pronounce, easy to say, can't get it wrong, you know?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: The thing about this album is it, of course, it is your second one. You had huge success with your first. There's always kind of a lot of pressure for the second album after something like that. Did you feel that?

EILISH: Yeah. You know, what's funny is for the making of the album, I felt no pressure. I wasn't worried. I was super confident. I didn't stay exactly doing the same thing. But I also didn't change into something else. I, like, grew. When pressure started and, like, nerves started, it was when I started releasing music from the album and putting out singles. And, like suddenly, I was like, wait.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You mean people are going to listen to this?

EILISH: Yeah, people are going to listen and tell me how they feel? No. But it's OK. It's all good. It's really just about me liking it and the real fans liking it.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, one of the things about your music and this album, in particular, is that it also is a very personal album. You are now 19. You've been in the public eye for a while. I want to listen to "Overheated."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "OVERHEATED")

EILISH: (Singing) I don't really even know how it happened. I started talkin'. They started laughin'. I don't really even know how it happened. I started watchin' them photographin'. I don't really even know how it happened. Instead of stoppin', they still were flashin'.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Tell me about this song.

EILISH: I think it was just a moment of being really pissed off as a young woman in the public eye. You know, it's infuriating. You know, it's hard enough to be a young woman not in the public eye.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What have you learned about coping with that glare, though? I mean, what do you do to remain you?

EILISH: Just take baths and, like, sleep in and, like, eat food. It's like you just have to keep living. I think that's all you can do. I wish I would take my own advice in that realm of just like - it doesn't matter. Like, you can change, and you can change your mind, you know, too, which - I think the Internet forgets that you can change your mind, I think.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And I mean - and you are changing. I mean, you've changed your look recently. I want to ask about sort of your aesthetic, and how you see sort of clothes and appearance playing into your art.

EILISH: It's all just for the eye - album promo and the photo shoots being a certain style. That doesn't change you. It's just a choice for something that you wanted to accomplish visually. I did the same thing for my first album. I wanted that to be kind of creepier, and a more, like, horror and dark and, like, monsters and under your bed. And for this one, I wanted the theme of, like, old Hollywood and beautiful and classy. And, you know, it's just funny that I see people call me Blonde Billie - like Blonde Billie said this, but Green Billie didn't say this. And I'm like, what the hell? I'm not a category of a person. I'm a - the same person for my whole life.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: There is a lot about sort of womanhood on this album. Let's listen now to "Your Power."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YOUR POWER")

EILISH: (Singing) Try not to abuse your power. I know we didn't choose to change. You might not wanna lose your power. But havin' it's so strange. She said you were a hero. You played the part. But you ruined her in a year. Don't act like it was hard.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: When the song was released, I sent this to a bunch of my female friends and relatives because it speaks to, I think, something that a lot of girls and women have dealt with. When did you start to realize that sort of every girl past puberty, every woman has a story where they were sort of taken advantage of?

EILISH: I don't even know when I realized it. The song is kind of from the perspective - like, this wasn't an actual situation of my life, but I thought it would be interesting to write it as if it was me talking to somebody that I was friends with or in my family or somebody that I knew. And they were abusing their power. And I was having a, like, heart-to-heart with them trying to tell them not to.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YOUR POWER")

EILISH: (Singing) You might not wanna lose your power. But havin' it's so strange.

It's about many, many different situations that I've witnessed. Some lines are about my life. Some lines are about things that I've seen. Some lines are just kind of a in-general thing that I've noticed about women being taken advantage of. And it's a crazy thing. And I wish that I, when I was younger, had a song like this to listen to. I don't know.

(SOUNDBITE OF BILLIE EILISH SONG, "YOUR POWER")

GARCIA-NAVARRO: We should say, though, that there is also happy songs about love, the good part of connecting. I want to actually go to "Billie Bossa Nova" because I used to live in Brazil, so I was real happy to hear this.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BILLIE BOSSA NOVA")

EILISH: (Singing) I'm not sentimental. But there's somethin' 'bout the way you look tonight, makes me wanna take a picture, make a movie with you that we'd have to hide. You better lock your phone and look at me when you're alone.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Have you been to Brazil?

EILISH: No, I haven't. It's like the main place...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: ...You got to go.

EILISH: ...That I should go (laughter). The first fan account I ever had was Billie Eilish Brazil, for real. I have a very special place in my heart for Brazil. And I just love a little feel good, you know, move around feeling, you know, sexy little song. And that's really what it is.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BILLIE BOSSA NOVA")

EILISH: (Singing) Nobody saw me in your arms.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And you've just made a lot of people in Brazil happy. I can tell you right now (laughter). The last song I want to listen to is "My Future."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MY FUTURE")

EILISH: (Singing) But I, I'm in love with my future. And you don't know her.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: In this song, there's a line that says, I'm in love with my future. I can't wait to meet her. I haven't been able to stop thinking about it. What does it mean?

EILISH: I think it means a lot of things - the future me, you know, the future world that I'm going to live in and the future friends I'm going to have and the future people that I'm going to surround myself with. And I can't wait to see. You know, it's really about, like, just being hopeful and content with the idea of change and, you know, future.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, what do you want now? I mean, you kind of conquered the world in every possible way.

EILISH: I want to feel better about myself, I guess. And I really want to do shows, mainly. Oh, there is no feeling like the feeling on stage in front of people that just truly adore you and that you adore. I never want to spend this much time away from doing shows ever again. Thank you very much.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Billie Eilish. Her new album is Happier Than Ever. Thank you very much.

EILISH: Thanks so much. It was good talking to you.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GETTING OLDER")

EILISH: (Singing) I'm gettin' older. I think I'm agin' well. I wish someone had told me I'd be doin' this by myself.

Copyright © 2021 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.