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The Bold Mystique of ‘Hit Me Hard and Soft’

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“I find it really hard to write about the exact feelings in my life…”, Billie Eilish stated in an interview with Zane Lowe on Apple Music regarding her new song “What Was I Made For.” Despite this sentiment seeming like some sort of a songwriting curse to many, in Eilish’s third studio album “HIT ME HARD AND SOFT,” she brilliantly uses this quirk of hers to not make songs that feel an exact way per se, but an emotionally nuanced approach that hits you emotionally as the title suggests. The darker themes of the “WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP WHERE DO WE GO ERA” and the pop-punk title track of “Happier Than Ever” seem to only tease the amount of dedication Eilish puts into her craft, and the product of this is one of her most marvelous and personal projects to date, even if some of the accounts aren’t even hers. 

The album’s second track, “LUNCH,” is a sapphic electro-synth-pop anthem about a woman Eilish has an intense attraction to. This is one of the first songs in Eilish’s discography that directly mentions feelings of her same-sex attraction and serves as a sinister, risqué introduction to that aspect of her. Eilish personally describes her feelings towards this girl as a “craving, not a crush” and relates their relationship to a deer being attracted to the headlights of an oncoming car, giving a more carnal feeling to the song with implications of a predator-prey dynamic.

In the following song on the album, aptly named “CHIHIRO” after the main character of Spirited Away, Eilish pivots to mid-tempo experimental R&B and techno-house production in this Ghibli-inspired tour de force. As the song continues, it descends into an EDM-like atmosphere as Eilish repeats haunting refrains of “Did you take/ My love away/ From me, me/ Me?”, drawing parallels to somber moments within the movie and Eilish’s experiences with having someone close to her disappear.

While we have seen Eilish become more experimental with the production styles she tackles, like the soulful jungle-beat inspired track “BIRDS OF A FEATHER” and many other songs throughout the album, we also get to see Eilish return to her roots with acoustic and eerie dark pop tracks. “THE GREATEST” falls into the former category, being a harrowing ballad of the irony of her being “the greatest” for someone not willing to love her as passionately as she    them: “Man, am I the greatest/ My congratulations/ All my love and patience/ All my admiration/ All the times I waited/ For you to want me naked/ Made it all look painless/ Man, am I the greatest”. “THE DINER” treads more into the latter of Eilish’s genre roots mentioned, putting herself in the point of view of a former stalker, with terrifying anecdotes: “I memorized your number, now I call you when I please/ I tried to end it all, but now I’m back up on my feet/ I saw you in the car with someone else and couldn’t sleep/ If something happens to him, you can bet that it was me”.

The album closer, “BLUE,” is a thematic treat for those invested in the loose story of the album and for those who have been fans of Eilish since her beginnings, as it reworks the popular unreleased tracks “True Blue” and “Born Blue”. The song opens with an ethereal, chamber-pop atmosphere, making references to other songs throughout the album to tie the project together: “I thought we were the same/ Birds of a feather, now I’m ashamed (BIRDS OF A FEATHER)/ I told you a lie, désolée, mon amour (L’AMOUR DE MA VIE)/ I’m trying my best (THE GREATEST), don’t know what’s in store (CHIHIRO)/ Open up the door (Blue)/In the back of my mind, I’m still overseas (BITTERSUITE)/ A bird in a cage, thought you were made for me (SKINNY)”. Lyrically, the song centers around feelings of distress after losing a partner. The song then makes a stark transition and shifts gears production-wise into a more ambient, industrial pop direction with subtly critical yet sympathetic lyrics directed towards the hypothetical ex of the song with verses like “You were born bluer than a butterfly/Beautiful and so deprived of oxygen”, “I don’t blame you, But I can’t change you, Don’t hate you, But we can’t save you”, and “You were born reaching for your mother’s hands/Victim of your father’s plans to rule the world/Too afraid to step outside/Paranoid and petrified of what you’ve heard”. The song and the album as a whole close with a beautiful orchestral breakdown and a tease of new music at the dead end of the track: “But when can I hear the next one?”

While some may not be a fan of the more unusually melodramatic, opaque style of “HIT ME HARD AND SOFT” in contrast to previous Billie Eilish albums filled with more intense and danceable indie bangers, those who do (like myself!) will revel in this LP similarly to how Eilish revels within the truly blue pathos of the project in general. Despite the sort of minimalist appeal to this album, only being 10 tracks longs This project not only serves as a testament to Eilish’s progress as a singer but also to her impact  as one of the most influential artists of the 21st century.


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