Billie Eilish – Hit Me Hard And Soft

On her third album, the Los Angeles artist settles into her sound and identity...

Following up two GRAMMY-acclaimed albums at the age of 22 is a tough feat, but it’s one Billie Eilish has managed with gusto on her third collection, ‘HIT ME HARD AND SOFT‘. Announced a little over a month ago with no pre-released singles, fans didn’t know what to expect from the singer’s new era. On her debut ‘WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP WHERE DO WE GO?’, dark and clamorous, synth-toned production defined most of the tracks, but this record abounds in a more organic-sounding repertoire, with guitars, drums and gorgeous strings complementing Eilish’s soft vocals. She succeeds with the onus being on the collection as a whole, as opposed to throwaway hits.

It wouldn’t be a Billie Eilish album without a twist though, and the record takes the listener on a journey of two halves. Up until track four, ‘WILDFLOWER’, the album seems to take the format of a (mostly) traditional pop album, reliant on acoustic guitar punctuated by resplendent string sections, yet halfway through ‘THE GREATEST’, there’s a pivot to electric guitars and drums.

Some tracks could be more editorially precise, at times the runtime doesn’t feel warranted. Still it’s intriguing when songs like ‘L’AMOUR DE MA VIE’ shift from a brooding Parisian thriller score to an electronic synth creation, and to discover ‘BLUE’ ending the album with a shift from up-tempo to a string-laden crescendo. Credit must go to Eilish’s brother, Finneas – who once again is at the helms of production – and to the talented string players: since ‘No Time To Die’, I’ve been waiting for strings to be a key element of her sound.

Aside from this, Eilish’s expanded vocal range is the attention-grabbing element at play here. On ‘CHIHIRO’, she taps into an ethereal range of runs and trills, and ‘THE GREATEST’ sees her pushing her voice to the extremities against the rock-sounding backing. Pure passion exudes out of this track and reminds you of Eilish’s ability to stun the listener with both hushed inner monologues and anthemic grandiosity.

The album as a whole build’s on the premise of 2021’s ‘Happier than Ever’, which saw Eilish begin to map out and document an identity in flux. ‘HIT ME HARD AND SOFT’ expounds upon the revelations made in her recent Rolling Stone interview. She explores her sexuality on ‘LUNCH’, relationship breakdowns on ‘BLUE’, and thorny bodily transitions on ‘SKINNY’. These coming-of-age reflections are balanced with up-tempo moments, particularly on ‘LUNCH’, which has already emerged as a fan favourite on TikTok.

The hidden details tie the ‘HIT ME HARD AND SOFT’ together with an invisible string; ‘BIRDS OF A FEATHER’ has a carefully crafted instrumental with mythic declarations like “I love you till the day that I die’, whereas closer ‘BLUE’ documents the death of a relationship with the aching line, “I thought we were the same, birds of a feather, now I’m so ashamed.” On ‘HIT ME HARD AND SOFT’, it’s evident Eilish is conveying a musical restraint beyond her years, moulding a musical identity to her image and not the ephemeral pop game.

8/10

Words: Amrit Virdi

-
Join the Clash mailing list for up to the minute music, fashion and film news.