Billie Eilish Dives Headfirst on Her Next Chapter on  “HIT ME HARD AND SOFT”

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“Twenty-one took a lifetime”. 

As Billie Eilish begins her third album, “HIT ME HARD AND SOFT”, she has plenty on her mind. Earlier this year, she won a Grammy and an Oscar along with her brother Finneas O’Connell for the emotionally captivating and crushing ballad “What Was I Made For?” from the Barbie movie soundtrack. Playing over the emotional climax of the film, Billie’s emotional lyrics perfectly convey the deep melancholy of depressive thoughts and existential ponderings of Barbie and maybe even Billie herself. Her public image has been consumed with conversations of her fashion choices, body image  and more recently, her sexuality following what was considered a public outing by a Variety reporter late last year. She tackles all this and more on an album that is authentically her without much regard for what others may think. 

The opening piano ballad “SKINNY” is explicit in the way Billie feels about her public image and how society views women’s bodies. The lyrics “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.” flips a common narrative when it comes to body image as it relates to happiness. She opens up about fame being another insecurity describing her life as being in a cage once she steps off the stage. As to who created that cage, she believes it’s the internet which is “hungry for the meanest kinda funny”. From clickbait to memes, many would agree that the internet does more harm than good for artists who are constantly in the spotlight like Billie. The closing lyrics, “somebody’s gotta feed it” could be read as her giving in to the toxicity the internet breeds. Yet, Billie is no stranger to dark humor so she shrugs it off and dives right  into the intoxicating song that instantly took off with a life of its own, “LUNCH”.

The decision not to have songs released in advance was intentional by Billie and Finneas as they wanted the album to be experienced as a fully completed project. With a few songs teased at a DJ set at Coachella, fans went wild with speculation on Eilish hard launching her queer identity in the upcoming album. “LUNCH” is widely considered the unofficial single of the album and an opportunity to come out on her terms. With lyrics “I could eat that girl for lunch, yeah she dances on my tongue, tastes like she might be the one”, Billie delights in expressing the desire for a girl as a “craving not a crush”. The bassline she sings over is hard-hitting and persistent, making every lustful wordplay hit that much harder. The music video for the song harkens back to a Y2K-era style music video where Billie freely and joyfully dances over stark backgrounds. On “LUNCH”, Billie is confident, powerful, and having the most fun. 

The album cover for “HIT ME HARD AND SOFT” shows Billie falling underwater through an open door. The production of the album does often feel submerged at times switching between lo-fi electronica club beats and the piano ballads Billie had become known for. Songs like “BIRDS OF A FEATHER” and “WILDFLOWER” are more gentle sonically as Billie sings about a love that lasts beyond death and comforting someone after a breakup. The emotional depth Billie is able to reach with the brutally honest depictions of heartbreak and desire carved out a specific niche that she became known for. However, she and Finneas make time to experiment on “L’AMOUR DE MA VIE”. She begins singing wistfully about wishing a lover the best following a confession that they were not the love of her life. The emotional vulnerability gives way to an unexpected pulsating beat switch complete with vibrant keys and a healthy amount of autotune on Billie’s vocals. The dark, pulsating beat and screaming vocals serve as the final punctuation of her feelings toward the relationship. “You were so mediocre, and we’re so glad it’s over now.” While the use of autotune had been previously mocked and criticized for its exaggerated robotic effect compensating for a lacking singing ability, Billie stands in defiance of those notions as she sounds no less raw or vulnerable on the second part of the song. As she breaks down, it’s only fitting that she disassociates from the gentle vocals from part one to the robotic screaming in part two. 

As the album ends, Billie continues to explore themes of falling out of love among other insecurities. “THE DINER” sees her take the perspective of a stalker who goes to great lengths to ensure they are together. Her lyrics range from unsettling to terrifying. Beginning with “Don’t be afraid of me. I’m what you need.” sets the tone for the anxiety-ridden pop sound. Her vocals fade in and out but are clear when describing someone coming through the kitchen window and intentionally leaving a calling card. While the encounter is harrowing, it coincides with the idea of a lover who would do anything to be together. “BITTERSUITE” sees Billie once again freely splitting a song in two, this time taking the title of the song literally. The song begins dark and broody and progressively moves lighter and poppier before ending with an ominous keyboard. The final song “BLUE” follows a similar pattern where the song is sonically broken into separate parts where the emotionally-wrenching lyrics are accompanied by a piano ballad following a contrasting lighter pop beat. The bridge where Billie describes sleeping only 3 hours a week is distorted to emphasize the effects of forlorn love on her own health. The orchestral outro is befitting of a final let go coinciding with the album artwork as Billie sinks deeper into the abyss. 

The last line heard on “HIT ME HARD AND SOFT” is a simple question. “But when can I hear the next one?” As Billie Eilish dives into her emotions and identity, she cannot help but feel pressure from her fanbase and those outside her fanbase to deliver a follow up. The question is asked plainly, as if brushing off the past 43 minutes in anticipation of the next one. Over the years, we have seen Billie Eilish as a teenage provocateur that delighted in blending horror elements and pop which gave way to being recognized for her songwriting ability that attracted her to soundtrack movies like “No Time to Die” and “Barbie”. Amidst all the scrutiny Billie has faced since her meteoric rise, she remains authentic from working with her brother once again to her taste in fashion. 

On “HIT ME HARD AND SOFT”, Billie Eilish answers only to herself, resulting in introspective lyrics and funny one-liners that make listeners rewind to make sure they heard her right. She recognizes the power in not holding back and does it all with a smirk on her face.