HIT ME HARD AND SOFT by Billie Eilish

3 mins read

Grade: A-

On May 17th, Billie Eilish dropped HIT ME HARD AND SOFT, her highly-anticipated third studio album. This release follows Eilish’s mellow, reactive sophomore album Happier Than Ever, which solidified her record-breaking legacy after becoming the youngest artist to win Album of the Year at the GRAMMYs in 2020 for her debut. 

After announcing her third album on social media, Eilish also shared that she would not be pre-releasing any singles so that fans could hear the songs “all at once.” The album is connected and consistent as a full body of work, benefitting from a Goldilocks length and great attention to detail for each of its ten tracks. However, this consistency gets tiresome at points when cliché themes are repeatedly recycled, though almost always recovered by interesting instrumentals.

Although the song titles are written in all-caps, Eilish’s signature quiet vocal style prevails. This is evident in the forgettable but necessary opener, “SKINNY,” featuring gorgeous harp interludes that supplement troubling lyrics, opening the door to a thematic delve into fame and romantic loss. 

A satisfying transition blends “SKINNY” into the new single “LUNCH,” which is sensual and purely sensational. Eilish had already teased that the song was about lusting for a girl through snippets on social media over the past month, and its superficial themes and not-so-subtle one-liners prove that the track explores exactly what was advertised and nothing deeper. Lyrics backed by harsh synths and dreamy strums like “You need a seat, I’ll volunteer” are funny at first but feel ridiculously out of place and get old fast.

Accidental or not, an annoying continuity across Eilish’s three albums is a microphone that is sometimes way too quiet. The instrumental didn’t need to be turned up at the end of “CHIHIRO” to drown out Eilish’s vocals; no casual listener could hear them before anyway. This production choice detracts from otherwise well-constructed lyrical narratives. Comparatively, “BIRDS OF A FEATHER” is another version of the aching love song that everybody has heard time after time, and that’s totally fine: it’s the perfect length, has a pretty melody, fits well into the album’s story, and is easily its best track.

“WILDFLOWER” is intimate and ambient, putting the listener in a room with Eilish, whose reverberated, harmonized vocals are sometimes complemented by only a guitar. This atmosphere, supporting deeply confessional and self-questioning lyrics, gives the track a sense of sweet despair. 

The raw, sarcastic “THE GREATEST” builds up in anticipation toward an emotional and instrumental release with angelic, satisfying melodies. Eilish’s exasperated singing, in lyrics like, “Just wanted passion from you / Just wanted what I gave you,” signifies the album’s climax. Intense feelings of resentment and heartbreak fizzle from the track near its end, not to return for the rest of the album.

In “L’AMOUR DE MA VIE,” French for “love of my life,” the grieving perspective present for much of the earlier album translates into a matured and retrospective outlook on supposedly the same relationship. As one of the longer songs on the album at five minutes and 33 seconds, it’s also cut into two parts; the first is catchy and transparent, and the second part is a brash, autotuned, synth-packed celebration of the breakup, underscored through lines like “You were so mediocre / And we’re so glad it’s over now.” Packaging two dramatically different sounds into one song clarifies their thematic continuity, rather than appearing as two delinked pieces.

“THE DINER” is frightening, featuring Eilish singing from the perspective of an obsessive stalker. While somewhat unsettling, the song itself is more sonically fun than much of the album and thus narrowly avoids redundancy.

The final two tracks have many parallels to the rest of the album and each other, building a solid sense of overall cohesion. “BITTERSUITE” and “BLUE” are both split into two parts and between them feature a tireless slew of lyrics about lost sleep, a theme that has come up before in Eilish’s discography.

“BLUE” carefully slips in many references to earlier songs: it mentions “birds of a feather,” some lines are sung in French which alludes to “L’AMOUR DE MA VIE,” a recognizable melody is borrowed from “THE GREATEST,” the line “open up the door” is taken from “CHIHIRO,” and the “bird in a cage” metaphor is also employed in “SKINNY.” The mildly electronic harmony at the end of “BITTERSUITE” mirrors Eilish’s vocal pattern in part one of “BLUE,” sounding infectiously great both times. While not a superb song by itself, “BLUE” is a closer that thrives in the context of the album, with Eilish neatly showing how she has become content with the finally coherent themes described throughout the project: “It’s over now,” she repeats.

HIT ME HARD AND SOFT is impressively intentional, carrying the listener through a layered though sometimes repetitive emotional journey. Eilish’s evolution as an artist and a person is apparent as her perspectives and portrayals of fame and heartbreak slowly develop throughout the tracklist. While occasional mumbly singing, long instrumental interludes, and multiple lengthy, complex songs make it difficult to fully absorb on the first listen, the album is clearly trying to tell a story and does so in flying shades of blue. 

Allegra Hoddie is a junior in her first year of journalism. She enjoys covering current events and the arts. She also manages the Chronicle's social media accounts, drinks coffee, and copyedits.

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