Billie Eilish’s: Music Review zealous outsider pop Hit Me Hard and Soft

Billie Eilish’s Music Review

Am I acting my age now?” Billie Eilish, 22, ponders out loud in the opening track of her ambitious third album, “Hit Me Hard and Soft.” She follows up with another poignant question,

“Am I already on the way out?

The 10-track album showcases a unique pop artist redefining boundaries once more. Billie Eilish’s debut brought us her distinctive horror-pop, complete with dark humour, unconventional rhythms, and adolescent quirks. Her second album shifted to pop ballads and bossa nova, reflecting on the pressures of stardom.

Her third album blends elements from both styles, introducing daring new twists along the way.

“Hit Me Hard and Soft” establishes Billie Eilish as a distinct presence in modern pop music for several reasons. Unlike the current trend favouring single tracks, this album is designed to be experienced as a cohesive whole.

A richer sound supports this approach, thanks to her brother and long-time collaborator Finneas O’Connell, along with contributions from drummer Andrew Marshall and the Attacca Quartet on strings

The opening track, “Skinny,” begins with a sweet falsetto reminiscent of her acclaimed “Barbie” ballad “What Was I Made For?” The song delves into themes of body image, capturing sentiments like “People say I look happy / Just because I got skinny,” which resonate with the themes explored in her 2021 short film. and spoken word piece “Not My Responsibility” from the album “Happier Than Ever.

A string section guides “Skinny” to its conclusion, reminiscent of Billie Eilish’s 2024 Oscars performance of her “Barbie” song, where an orchestra accompanied her.

From that moment, everything shifts. “Hit Me Hard and Soft” is characterized by unexpected twists. Just when you think you know where a song is headed, it takes an unforeseen turn.

In the final moments of “Skinny,” pulsating drums emerge, seamlessly transitioning into the sapphic anthem “Lunch,” which is poised to become a fan favourite.

Next, “Chihiro” features a passive bass and airy refrain with the words “away from me,” likely inspired by the 10-year-old heroine of Hayao Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli classic, “Spirited Away.” This track, like many others on the album, starts gently and builds to a powerful climax. An intense crescendo of thumping techno-house creates a level of auditory euphoria reminiscent of “Challengers.”

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Happier Than Ever

“The Greatest” continues the thematic essence established in “Everything I Wanted” from her 2019 album.

When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?

This new track introduces a lively nylon-string guitar and evolves into atmospheric arena rock around the three-and-a-half-minute mark. The dynamic guitar elements resonate with the style showcased in the 2021 title track., “Happier Than Ever.

“I said you/you were the love of my life.”

“L’amour De Ma Vie” maintains a deceptively cheerful sound, remaining faithful to the jazzy, lounge-like ambience found in her previous album. Billie Eilish sings with striking honesty, “But I need to confess / I told you a lie,” followed by, 

Later in the song, it evolves into synth-pop euphoria, featuring autotuned and distorted vocals reminiscent of hyperpop and Eurodance rave styles. This serves as a reminder of Billie Eilish’s versatility as the same pop artist who penned the industrial track “Oxytocin.

So where does the “bad guy” singer make an appearance?

In “The Diner,” of course. Here, her signature haunted carnival sound makes a comeback. Opening with a gothic vaudeville vibe, she now commands, “Don’t be afraid of me,” a shift from the questioning tone of “Why aren’t you scared of me?” in 2019’s “Bury a Friend. She playfully teases, “Bet I could change your life / You could be my wife.

While some artists may draw from their past to create derivative, impressionistic representations of their former selves, Billie Eilish instead evolves alongside her ghosts.

This sentiment holds in the ethereal finale “Blue,” which serves as a sonic homage to Billie Eilish’s enduring admiration for Lana Del Rey’s music before veering into a trip-hop detour reminiscent of Massive Attack. It’s a reminder that two, perhaps contradictory, feelings can coexist, just like the colour blue suggests.

Strike Me and Soft marks Billie Eilish’s boldest vocal performance yet. She departs from her usual preference for delicate, whispered tones layered beneath innovative production and has developed the confidence to sing more assertively, raising her voice above the mix.

Album, Billie Eilish

The only potential skip could be found in the penultimate track, “Bittersuite,” which somewhat falters due to its subtlety—a quality that Billie Eilish skillfully sidesteps on the predominantly acoustic “Wildflower.”

In this latter track, her melodic charm shines, though it becomes slightly muddled after a crisp drum fills midway through. While understated, it leaves a lasting impact. Lyrically, Billie Eilish explores her fascination with her current partner’s past lover, expressing introspective lines like, “Every time you touch me, I just wonder how she felt.”

Across the album, Billie Eilish embodies the essence of a bird: confined in a cage in “Skinny,” expressing a desire to remain united on the baroque pop track “Birds of a Feather,” and by the album’s conclusion in “Blue,” she realizes that they were never indeed “birds of a feather” and finds herself back in the cage once more.

It’s a refreshing departure from the tarantulas that characterized “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?,” but it also serves as an apt metaphor for Billie Eilish’s third album.

Here, she’s driven by a longing for liberation. With “Hit Me Hard and Soft,” she grants herself the space to express this tension and let it soar.

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