Happier Than Ever is the title track from Billie Eilish’s second album, released in 2021. It’s a really unusual song. Have a listen …
There are so many reasons why this song is unusual. Most obviously is its production, which starts as a dreamy, very retro, jazzy ballad and migrates into a distorted, almost punk-like rant before returning to its origins. In the process, it shifts from 4/4 time to 6/8, which is not a time signature you see often in modern music.
As if that wasn’t enough, take a look at the song’s structure. The same basic chord sequence is repeated throughout – C major to E major to A minor to F major, with a number of variations on the last chord. What’s interesting is that I have counted nine very different melodies to go with the same chords. In the very rough score below, you’ll see each of the different melodies separated by double bar lines:
This is not how songs are usually written – very few of the melodies are repeated and it’s not obvious what’s a verse, a chorus or a bridge. It’s just an insistent, repeated sequence of chords with different melodies to reflect the emotions expressed in the lyrics.
What a great piece of work, which shows that, in musical composition, you can break all the rules and it only serves to make the song better.