Billie Eilish's 'HIT ME HARD AND SOFT' Pulls No Punches

BY Rachel KellyPublished May 21, 2024


In today's sound-bite-driven music landscape, releasing an album without singles is a swing that only the industry's heaviest hitters will take, and Billie Eilish has now entered that echelon. Her third studio album HIT ME HARD AND SOFT is all hits, no features, no filler.

In content, the album touches on the familiar themes of many early-20s artistic missives — the messiness of love, lust, yearning, self-discovery and heartbreak. But much like Lorde's Melodrama, the handling of these familiar woes skirts cliché and instead breathes immersive, dramatic and heart-wrenching life into the music. It manages to inject Eilish's signature sound with new stylistic elements and elevated lyricism.

The most notable change is in Eilish's voice. While HIT ME HARD AND SOFT still has plenty of her famous soft, breathy vocals, the singer has expanded her vocal lexicon to include power and depth, and her producer/brother FINNEAS employs artful distortion in parts to play with her new talents. The album includes belting, chest-voice depth, and some unvarnished, raw takes that bring humanity to the pair's meticulously produced, high-drama arrangements. The effect is a tight, cohesive project where every detail feels intentional.

"LUNCH" is a funky, sexy introduction to Eilish's new skills as she slides effortlessly from her comfort zone of whispered, suggestive vocals up to a big chest-voice hook then back down to her rumbling bottom range. The most surprising song on the album is the light-as-air, lovestruck "BIRDS OF A FEATHER," only because it's the closest thing to a traditional, upbeat pop song that Eilish has ever recorded. While bright on the surface, the dark lyrics of the verse contrast with the addictive percussion and lush chorus to create an off-kilter dreamscape of an all-consuming romance.

On the eerie "THE DINER," Eilish takes an unconventional approach to talk about her supernova-level of fame, writing from the perspective of a stalker as they invade her home and get arrested, a reference to her recently obtained restraining order against an obsessive fan. The demented funhouse arrangement evokes the style of her first album and underscores punchy, creepy lyrics with buzzy bass, jumpy accordion and techno-goth synths. 

The album's triumph is "THE GREATEST," a slow-build ballad that mourns an unreciprocated passion. The beginning resembles Eilish's Oscar-winning "What Was I Made For," with melancholy vocals over simple acoustic guitar, but then the song builds to a chill-inducing belt backed by a massive arrangement of swelling choral harmonies, crashing guitars and cinematic strings. The final track "BLUE'' encapsulates synesthete Eilish's colour inspiration for the album and delivers on the promise of the title — soft vocals soaring over hard percussion, moving to soft piano under lyrical gut-punches like "I don't blame you, but I can't change you / Don't hate you, but we can't save you".

Eilish is a master of subtlety, and this album is no exception. At only 10 tracks, HIT ME HARD AND SOFT features no afterthought; every beat, lyric, synth and vocal run is artful and deliberate. It's obvious why Eilish elected to release the album all at once; any one track on its own wouldn't suffice. For 43 minutes straight, she forces the listener to consider every facet of her sound without wasting a second of their time. Her self-assurance in her craft lays the foundation for an album that feels like a signature triumph.


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