Billie Eilish is no stranger to the Grammys.
Having performed at the 2020 and 2021 Grammy Awards, Eilish will return for what seems to be an annual performance at this year's ceremony, held a week after her performance at the Oscars. Eilish is nominated for seven awards for her song and album of the same title, “Happier Than Ever.”
Eilish, 20, already has seven Grammy wins under her belt. This year, Eilish’s “Happier Than Ever” is nominated for record of the year, song of the year, album of the year, best solo performance, best pop vocal album, best music video and best music film.
With Eilish’s anticipated Grammy performance just around the corner on April 3, let's take a look at the lyrics and meaning behind the heavily-nominated song, which she said was "therapeutic" to write and record.
"I just screamed my lungs out and could barely talk afterwards which was very satisfying to me ... I had wanted to get those screams out for a very long time," Eilish said, per official commentary on Spotify.
The meaning behind ‘Happier Than Ever’ lyrics
“Happier Than Ever” is stylistically unique in that it follows a “two act” format. The song's first half is slow, almost like a lullaby. Two minutes in, the tone shifts and Eilish’s light vocals shift to a powerful and emotional punch. The guitar comes in heavy, and Eilish screams in the background as she sings, “You make me hate this city.”
Why the change? The song tracks the emotions surrounding a break-up, which may be rooted in Eilish's real experiences.
The song’s opening lines, “When I’m away from you / I’m happier than ever,” may reference the singer’s relationship with rapper and ex-boyfriend Brandon Adams, whose stage name is 7:AMP.
Eilish first spoke about their relationship in her 2021 documentary “Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry," referring to him as "Q." In the documentary, she speaks to a friend about the strains on her relationship, and uses a phrase that echo the song's opening.
“I just, like, spent time away from him for a little bit and I was like ‘Wow, I’m missing so much because I’m like, worried about you all the time,” Eilish says. She adds, “I’m just not happy.”
Other lyrics show disinterest from one side of the relationship: “Do you read my interviews? Or do you skip my avenue? / When you said you were passing through, was I even on your way? / I knew when I asked you to be cool about what I was telling you / You’d do the opposite of what you said you’d do.”
These lyrics are also reflected in words Eilish uses in the documentary. “There was just a lack of effort, I think,” Eilish says of the relationships in the Apple+ documentary. “I was just like ‘Dude, you don’t even have enough love to love yourself, you can’t love me.’”
In the documentary, Eilish is seen fighting with Adams and reprimanding him for driving drunk. “I don’t want you to do that," she says. "I feel like you don’t take me seriously when I say that. I just want you safe."
Then, in the second part of the song, Eilish sings about drunk driving: “You called me again, drunk in your Benz / Driving home under the influence / You scared me to death, but I’m wasting my breath.”
The song may also reference the couple's age difference. Eilish sings, "Never paid any mind to my mother or friends, so I / Shut ‘em all out for you ‘cause I was a kid." Adams, 24, is five years older than Eilish.
The music video adds to the story
Accompanying the “two-act” style song is a similarly binary music video, aligning with the song's emotional shifts. In the first part, Eilish lounges in a lush pink apartment in a T-shirt and sweatpants, talking on the phone. She sings the lyrics into the phone conversationally, looking somber and almost numb, disconnected.
As the music begins to shift, Eilish walks to the door with lights flickering. Upon opening the door, water floods in and Eilish swims through a dark ocean to climb to the top of her roof.
For the remainder of the video, Eilish jumps around on the roof, dancing wildly and screaming at the storming sky as the rain soaks through her clothes. Quick-cut camera angles make the emotion of anger particularly palpable in this scene, as Eilish lies down on the roof and screams. At the end of the video, she falls backward and dives back underwater.
The duality of the video is purposeful. In the first half of the video, Eilish sings passive, yet emotional lyrics like, “Give me a day or two / To think of something clever / To write myself a letter / To tell me what to do,” while she sits and twirls the phone cord, looking dejected.
The tone is delicate, gentle and somber. Drops of water fall sporadically, almost like tears. As the video progresses, viewers see this is the prelude to a flood of water, inevitably bursting through.
As the song ramps up, so does the video. The video’s color palette reflects the change in tone, too: Pinks and creams give way to dark blue and violet in the latter half of the video.
The water pushing its way through seems like a release in energy — or in anger — as Eilish grapples with the emotional turmoil of her relationship. From her sporadic smiles at the end of the video, we can tell this was a much-needed release.
Read the full lyrics to 'Happier than Ever'
When I’m away from you, I’m happier than ever
Wish I could explain it better
I wish it wasn’t true, hm
Give me a day or two to think of something clever
To write myself a letter
To tell me what to do
Do you read my interviews?
Or do you skip my avenue? (My avenue)
When you said you were passing through
Was I even on your way?
I knew when I asked you to
Be cool about what I was telling you
You’d do the opposite of what you said you’d do
And I’d end up more afraid
Don’t say it isn’t fair
You clearly weren’t aware that you made me miserable
So if you really wanna know
When I’m away from you
I’m happier than ever
Wish I could explain it better
I wish it wasn’t true
You call me again, drunk in your Benz
Driving home under the influence
You scared me to death, but I’m wasting my breath
‘Cause you only listen to your f**king friends
I don’t relate to you
I don’t relate to you, no
‘Cause I’d never treat me this s---ty
You made me hate this city
And I don’t talk s--t about you on the internet
Never told anyone anything bad
‘Cause that s--t's embarrassing, you were my everything
And all that you did was make me f--ing sad
So don’t waste the time I don’t have
And don’t try to make me feel bad
I could talk about every time that you showed up on time
But I’d have an empty line ‘cause you never did
Never paid any mind to my mother or friends
So I shut ‘em all out for you ‘cause I was a kid
You ruined everything good
Always said you were misunderstood
Made all my moments your own
Just f--ing leave me alone