Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

Billie Eilish’s Hit Me Hard and Soft is a luminous treasure

"Hit Me Hard And Soft"

Release date: 17 May 2024
Billie Eilish Hit Me Hard And Soft cover
17 May 2024, 13:40 Written by Tanatat Khuttapan

Billie Eilish places herself on the centrestage this time, a tale of romance in her hands, waiting to be unravelled.

Her music since 2017’s dont smile at me has reserved an area for vocalising social issues. “xanny” denounces the interpersonal effects of smoking; “Not My Responsibility” jabs at body shaming; “TV” disapproves of the social media’s obsession with a divorce trial instead of the overturned abortion law. She’s become the mouthpiece of Gen Z’s political criticisms, wearing pins and giving speeches wherever possible. On Hit Me Hard and Soft, however, all the spotlights are redirected to herself. Only “Skinny” and “Blue” appear to have an undertone, the former nodding to the internet’s appetite for gossip while the latter’s last line, if not about the double album theory, lampooning their overconsumption.

What stands before us is a 21-year-old songwriter with well-packaged anecdotes on every stage of love – some of which reflect on her identity as an individual and an artist. These ten dense, luxurious-sounding songs form a chronological narrative redolent of Eilish’s debut, except her lyricism that fascinatingly dissolves further into obscurity, opening the door for boundless interpretation. “The Greatest” may be a plea for concord with the partner at first glance, yet the opening lines (“I’m trying my best / To keep you satisfied”) and teary-eyed repetitions of “Man, am I the greatest?” invite another take: can this be about the double-edged relationship with her fanbase?

“Lunch” is in the same alley. Ripe with visceral imagery (“I could eat that girl for lunch / Yeah, she dances on my tongue”), the song outwardly documents her first experience with the same sex, but this piece was evidently in part written before that, thus remoulding the story into a journey of self-discovery that listeners will find uplifting. Her evolving approach to songwriting defies straightforward understanding, making each re-listen feel refreshing and rewarding. A couple of contemporary artists with a similar method come to mind: Caroline Polachek and Christine and the Queens. Like their celebrated works, Hit Me Hard and Soft is equal parts nuanced and multidimensional.

During the recordings, Eilish found herself reminiscing and rekindling the fire that shaped her former self. “It feels like who I was as a kid,” she remarked in a recent interview. Nonconformist at heart, Hit Me Hard and Soft’s sonic realm she constructs alongside Finneas adds even more bizarre quirks to the definitive palette. The Spirited Away–inspired “Chihiro” has a hypnotic bassline that soon disintegrates into a gratifying EDM spasm. You can sense both denial and desire as blaring noise silences her voice; someone’s in between the violent rupture of two conflicting minds. Perhaps this indecision encapsulated her youth, and she now uses it as a base for wild experiments.

It’s a daredevil undertaking. An electro-drop that many consider dated shouldn’t sound as intoxicating, and the baffling autotune on “L’Amour de ma vie” shouldn’t feel as reinvigorating. A handful of songs have swashbuckling transitions midway, introducing inventive instrumental techniques, the majestic Attacca string quartet, and Eilish’s formidable vocal range. “Blue”, the transcendent reimagining of an eight-year-old demo, swaps soft-rock tunes for oppressive trap and euphoric strings. The O’Connell siblings tiptoe across a perilous pathway overflowing with pitfalls and, rather miraculously, land upon an astounding record that sounds as alien as deep sea creatures in pitch-black trenches.

American novelist Zelda Fitzgerald once said, “Nobody has ever much the heart can hold.” Eilish, now one of this generation’s greatest left-field stars with already two Oscars on the shelf, makes an ambitious attempt on Hit Me Hard and Soft. Despite having the least innovative sound, “Wildflower”’s resonant grip on queer romance brilliantly depicts a woman in question with her sexuality and love interest: two things that a heart can hardly handle at once. This heartbreak album proves the emotional capacity of oneself vast if time pitches in with the healing of mental anguish. Although her rhyme scheme can get stale in places, their joint creativity is a luminous subterranean treasure in the misty and at times arid mainstream.

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