Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Billie Eilish: Happier Than Ever [Darkroom/Interscope, 2021]
Because she enjoyed the incomparable distinction and suffered the incomprehensible burden of sweeping the Grammys at 17, ordinary life will be out of her reach for a long time. So unless and until she elects to go public with romantic encounters I hope she enjoys and applaud her for concealing via "NDA," quote unquote because "NDA" is an actual song title here, that leaves her with one subject: stardom and its discontents, a privilege and dilemma it would seem impossible to say anything new much less interesting about. Only then out of sheer candor she does. "Things I once enjoyed/Just keep me employed now/Things I'm longing for/Someday I'll be bored of/It's so weird/That we care so much until we don't." Nor is this the only new truism she pulls out of her thoughtstream. How about "I sure have a knack for seeing life more like a child"? Or the meditation on the objectified female body that is "Not My Responsibility"? No wonder the music Finneas comes up with for her is calmer and less sprightly than the stuff that converted the world. But because I'm old enough to feel both concern for a youngster's well-being and awe at her unguarded resourcefulness, that's fine with me. Let's hope her fellow teens feel the same. A