Billie Eilish evolves on 'HIT ME HARD AND SOFT' - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart

At just 17, Billie Eilish released her debut album, WHEN WE FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?, which quickly became a classic, and skyrocketed the young artist to stardom. After 2021’s Happier Than Ever and surprise 2023 hit single “What Was I Made For?,” Eilish is all grown up and reaching back towards her old self.

“SKINNY,” the first track on the album, was written even before 2023’s “What Was I Made For?,” yet feels like a companion piece. “People say I look happy / Just because I got skinny,” Eilish croons beside an acoustic guitar and string quartet that echo the Barbie movie track. The “Billie whisper” is still there, but Eilish’s vocals have grown and strengthened, and she’s more than ready to show you all she can do —

Including creating a banger of a pop track. “LUNCH,” which immediately follows “SKINNY,” is so much fun. With a thumping drumbeat and breaths on cue in a uniquely Billie take on club music, the music video is the epitome of a Gen Z-Y2K throwback, featuring bright backgrounds as Eilish sings into a fisheye lens. “LUNCH” is also her first explicitly queer track. “That song was actually part of what helped me become who I am, to be real,” Eilish said in a Rolling Stone interview. “I wrote some of it before even doing anything with a girl, and then wrote the rest after. I’ve been in love with girls for my whole life…”

Billie Eilish ‘Hit Me Hard And Soft’ cover art | photo by William Drumm

“CHIHIRO,” inspired by the main character in the 2001 Miyazaki film Spirited Away, has a clubby tension that’s contrasted by a gorgeously haunting refrain. “BIRDS OF A FEATHER” is an instant pop classic, a hopeful break midway through the LP. And in “THE DINER,” Eilish leans into her debut-style creepiness, knowing now that the monsters aren’t just lurking under the bed – they’ve been stalking her.

More than a few songs on this album such as “L’AMOUR DE MA VIE” and “BITTERSUITE” have a switch-up about halfway through the song. “L’AMOUR DE MA VIE” transitions from a bittersweet ironic ballad to an electronica celebration of letting go. “BITTERSUITE” does the opposite, moving from a steady synth beat to a bossa-nova part 2 to a synthy instrumental outro. Though the point may be to subvert expectations, defy traditional genres, or fit a full narrative into the song, I can’t help but feel a little “eh.” If this album is meant to be listened to as an LP, then we don’t need to fit three songs into one track, right?

“THE GREATEST” is HIT ME HARD AND SOFT’s crescendo. In just under five minutes, Eilish encapsulates all the album’s themes: grappling with being seen, both as a global star and as a young woman trying to figure out her love life. “THE GREATEST” hits both hard and soft, Eilish punching the air both when she belts out the chorus and when she whispers about everything she’s done for her subject. In a sneering irony, she congratulates herself for her efforts and the music splinters beautifully into powerful percussion and strings. The bridge is insane: “I loved you / And I still do / Just wanted passion from you / Just wanted what I gave you.” Speechless.


HIT ME HARD AND SOFT was really the first time that I was aware of the things that I could do, the ways I could play with my voice, and actually did that,” she said in an interview with NPR. “That’s one thing I feel very proud of with this album – my bravery, vocally.”

HIT ME HARD AND SOFT isn’t just a string of singles – it’s an album that’s meant to be listened to in full. It also marks a post-pandemic return to Eilish’s sound. Featuring Andrew Marshall on the drums and the Attacca Quartet, the album, produced by Eilish’s brother Finneas, is an evolution from the work the siblings have previously released. “This whole process,” Billie said, “has felt like I’m coming back to the girl that I was. I’ve been grieving her.”

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