Billie Eilish
Hit Me Hard And Soft

Billie Eilish has had quite the run of fortune recently. Having picked up major accolades, including her second Oscar for Best Original Song for her contribution to the Barbie movie for the heart-wrenching “What Was I Made For?”, to multiple Grammy awards for her continued collaboration with her brother, Finneas, Eilish seemed poised to deliver an album that felt like the truest form of her identity. Hit Me Hard And Soft is an album that feels like the more logical successor of Eilish’s breakthrough, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? and she shines all over the record. While the “knock” on Billie Eilish has been that she “doesn’t sing, she whispers,” that all gets put to bed once in for all on this third studio album that has some of the best vocal moments in the young artist’s career to date. Having chosen to not release any singles prior to the album launch, Billie Eilish was daring her fans to embrace the album format and listen to it, traditionally, from front to back. She accomplishes that goal in more ways than one, by creating her most cohesive and daring work of art to date on Hit Me Hard And Soft.

Thematically, the new record starts off gently enough with the song, “Skinny” that finds Eilish explaining the media’s focus on her physical appearance as a barometer for her overall well-being. Eilish croons, “People say I look happy / Just because I got skinny / But the old me is still me / And maybe the real me / And I think she’s pretty,” and it’s a vulnerable opening statement to say that she is embracing her physical beauty while still growing into the prospect of being comfortable in her own skin. “Lunch” follows the soothing opener, and was chosen as the lead single from the set upon the record’s release, and it’s easy to see why. It’s got a steady beat and bounce to it that is meant for solid radio placement, and it hits the sweet spot of delivering the goods just around the three-minute mark. The song is largely about how Eilish formally came out during a Rolling Stone interview, but she delivers little doubt as she sings, “I could eat that girl for lunch / Yeah, she dances on my tongue / Tastes like she might be the one.” It rocks along with a brooding sense of self-confidence and it’s the best version of Eilish’s sound.

”Chihiro” follows in the sequencing with a synth-heavy beat that expands as the song gets going. Eilish’s vocal highs on the chorus are truly breathtaking, and the production from Finneas accentuates the right moments in the track to ensure it leaves the right impression on listeners. In the repetitious bridge of, “Wringing my hands in my lap / And you tell me it’s all been a trap / And you don’t know if you’ll make it back / I say, “No. Don’t say that,” Eilish invites the audience into her personal life while still taking a worldly view of everything around her.

My personal favorite song comes in the middle of the sequencing with “Birds of a Feather.” Eilish’s vocals sound like a million bucks, and she quickly showcases why she’s one the key cogs of what makes today’s pop scene so interesting. Eilish gushes on the chorus, “I’ll love you till the day that I die / Till the day that I die / Till the light leaves my eyes / Till the day that I die,” over some carefully strummed guitar chords to put the spotlight directly on her vocal performance. It’s truly a stunning song, and one that I didn’t think she was capable of creating at this stage in her career. But damn, I’m glad she went for it here.

The other songs in the middle of the tracklisting like the largely acoustic guitar ballad of “Wildflower,” that gradually adds in more instruments as it accelerates through the storytelling, begin to give a clearer vision to the sound Eilish and Finneas were going for. “The Greatest” was marked as a key gateway for Eilish finish this record, and it does a solid job of closing out the front half of the LP with some breathy vocals that bleed away into the dark abyss, much like the cover art of Eilish falling into the depths of the sea, as she admits, “Man, am I the greatest / God, I hate it,” to put emphasis on the point that she’s confident, yet not quite at the stage of accepting the endless accolades.

The French-titled “L’amour De Ma Vie,” or “Love Of My Life,” finds Eilish explaining what she adored most about her former love interest as she sings, “But I wish you the best for the rest of your life / Felt sorry for you when I looked in your eyes / But I need to confess / I told you a lie (Told you a lie) / When I said you (Said you, ooh) / You were the love of my life.” The song turns on its head at the 4-minute mark when the jazzy ballad bleeds away for a club-ready anthem of empowerment in the closing stages of the track. This sets the table nicely for “The Diner” that has a similar vibe to Eilish’s debut LP, and yet still feels a bit like an improved version of the sound she went for on that album.

”Bittersuite” finds Eilish hopelessly in her quest for love as she sings on the dark-laden chorus of, “But I gotta be careful / Gotta watch what I say / God I hope it all goes away / ‘Cause I can’t fall in love with you / No matter how bad I want to.” The song kind of stays in one lane and never really goes anywhere else, but luckily things improve in the closing song, “Blue,” that is preceded by a synth outro to find Eilish painting with the most vivid hue of the color. The vivid lyrics of, “You were born bluer than a butterfly / Beautiful and so deprived / Of oxygen / Colder than your father’s eyes / He never learned to sympathize / With anyone,” are a night and day improvement from the “Bad Guy” singer.

Billie Eilish has crafted a remarkable album here on Hit Me Hard and Soft that lives up to its name: it has some hard-hitting moments paired with sequences of self-reflection and vulnerability. Eilish is getting remarkably better at creating a cohesive work of art from start to finish, and I think she’s only going to improve as she goes forward in her career. When the brightest of lights were shone on her, she didn’t embrace the darkness. Instead, she stepped stage center in the spotlight and proved that she belongs. For now, that’s incredibly remarkable and definitely worth praising.