Billie Eilish’s emotional and catchy album, Hit Me Hard and Soft, hits listeners hard

Billie Eilishs Hit Me Hard and Soft album cover shows the artist submerged in a pool, facing a door.
Billie Eilish’s Hit Me Hard and Soft album cover shows the artist submerged in a pool, facing a door.
Promotional material courtesy of Darkroom and Interscope Records

On Friday, May 17, Billie Eilish released her third studio album, Hit Me Hard and Soft. The album features 10 tracks in which Eilish and singer-songwriter FINNEAS, her brother and producer, use a variety of genres and production elements to capture love, heartbreak, identity, and the pressures of fame. 

Eilish began transforming the music industry with her debut album, WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?, which won Best New Artist, Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Album of the Year at the 2020 Grammys. She continued to impress listeners by releasing her ethereal second album, Happier Than Ever, which signified her shift to more self-reflective songwriting. Most recently she released “What Was I Made For?” a Grammy and Oscar-winning single for the Barbie (2023) movie soundtrack.  

Hit Me Hard and Soft’s vulnerable lyrics describe Eilish’s experiences with love, heartache, and identity. Her previous album, Happier Than Ever, introduced the theme of heartbreak, but Hit Me Hard and Soft takes it to new depths by showing the crushing pain of lost love with tracks like “Bittersuite” and “Blue”. These tracks capture the sorrow and devastation that follow the end of a meaningful relationship. 

The album also reflects Eilish’s journey of self-discovery. Some songs, including “Skinny,” address the contrast between her self-perception and the public’s view of her creating one of the most enjoyable and devastating tracks on the album. 

FINNEAS combined a wide range of genres; pop, hip-hop elements, alternative, R&B, electronic dance pop, and a variety of production elements in Hit Me Hard and Soft, giving the album a unique vibe. Many songs feature mid-track beats and instrumental shifts. With the addition of majestic string sections, performed by the Attacca Quartet and EDM dance-pop music, FINNEAS seamlessly blended a variety of genres to create an emotionally jarring yet cohesive listening experience. Eilish’s vocals captivate listeners as she moves between soft, featherlight whispers and powerful belting. 

Hit Me Hard and Soft opens with “Skinny,” a song featuring hushed, fingerpicked guitar and light, breathy vocals reminiscent of those on the single “What Was I Made For?” In the first verse, Eilish addresses the complexities surrounding her self-image and the public’s perception of her, with 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.” 

In the second verse, Eilish continues discussing social media’s demand for more content, often at the expense of someone’s feelings. She sings, “And the internet is hungry for the meanest kinda funny / And somebody’s gotta feed it.” This song resonates deeply because of the relatable lyrics about social media and perceptions of yourself. 

She titled the third song on the album “Chihiro,” inspired by the protagonist in Hayao Miyazaki’s film Spirited Away. Spirited Away is a movie about the adventures of a ten-year-old girl named Chihiro, who discovers a secret world where humans are transformed into beasts and where gods, witches, and spirits rule. FINNEAS demonstrates his mastery of production, pushing boundaries by switching between genres with a slow hypnotic R&B beat before switching mid-song into intense EDM with faraway echoing vocals. In an interview with Vice, Eilish credited some of the inspiration for her previous album, WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?, to Spirited Away.

Hit Me Hard and Soft ends with “Blue,” a nearly six-minute, transcendent song with intimate lyrics alternating between empathy and despair. This song is an altered rendition of two of Eilish’s previously unreleased songs, “True Blue” and “Born Blue.” It begins with a phrase repeated in Elish’s signature echoing whispering vocal delivery: “I try to live in black and white, but I’m so blue.” 

Similarly to other songs on the album, “Blue” shifts in tone part way through the song by going quiet for a beat before shifting into haunting strings, as she sings, “You were born bluer than a butterfly / Beautiful and so deprived of oxygen.”  

Hit Me Hard and Soft lives up to its title, smoothly shifting between soft, subtle whispers and dance-pop bangers. In 10 tracks, Eilish uses her transparent lyrics to incorporate themes of insecurity and heartbreak, as well as her struggle with identity and the pressures of fame, earning four and a half out of five feathers.

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