Premature Evaluation: Billie Eilish Hit Me Hard And Soft

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Premature Evaluation: Billie Eilish Hit Me Hard And Soft


What do we want from Billie Eilish? Debut album When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? culminated a long string of EPs and singles that made Eilish a teenage star. It was the start of the alt-pop wunderkind’s career, but also kind of the end. An idiosyncratic inquiry into the dark side of modern girlhood, When We All Fall Asleep was a masterpiece that achieved a level of popularity that ruined Eilish’s life. Happier Than Ever was a navigation of the pain that came with that fame. Her music was still jittery, accented with eerie beats and unpredictable soundbites, but it was clear that the cost of her meteoric rise was the childlike wonder of her music. Something had been lost. This is true of Hit Me Hard And Soft, too.

When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? was designed for bedrooms; it was a collection of glitchy anthems for girls to doomscroll to in bed. Happier Than Ever was music for TikTok and radio play. Hit Me Hard And Soft strives for arenas. Some of these songs are big. But is that what we want from Eilish? Back-to-back tracks “Wildflower” and “The Greatest” both build into massive storms — reaching great heights, sounding colossal and towering — but there’s nothing about either song that’s striking aside from this sonic largeness, and therefore nothing to warrant it, either.

What comes before those tracks is much more pleasurable. The opener “Skinny” is a show-stopper, taking advantage of the beauty of her breathy vocal delivery that turned her Barbie ballad “What Was I Made For?” into an unlikely juggernaut. “Skinny” is incredibly moving. The guitar chords are despondent, and the lyrics hit like gut-punches: “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.” The poignant, confessional ballad finishes with a flourishing string arrangement before whirring synths transition into the titillating “Lunch,” an anthem about eating a girl out, much more upbeat than Chappell Roan’s “Casual.” It’s groovy and enticing; gasps are interspersed throughout, serving as bewitching instruments, and Eilish’s personality and attitude make the song worthwhile, as well as one-liners like “It’s a craving not a crush.”

Eilish’s strength has always been alluring atmospheres, and the following track, “Chihiro,” takes advantage of that. She’s best in this environment — minimalist, acerbic, futuristic. Along with her signature mumble-whisper, a mischievous bassline serves as the centerpiece, until a videogame-like synth slowly fades in and takes over the whole song as Eilish’s voice rises with it. It’s a five-minute journey that thrives off of unique ambiance; it’s much better than the aforementioned wannabe-hits at the center of the tracklist, which sound like manufactured attempts to recreate the viral moment of the “Happier Than Ever” climax (remember when “I don’t relate to you, no/ ’Cause I’d never treat me this shitty/ You made me hate this city/ And I don’t talk shit about you on the internet” was absolutely ubiquitous?).

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