Monday 17 June 2024

Review of 'Hit Me Hard And Soft' by Billie Eilish

Billie’s new album is more mature, lusher, prettier and sadly more boring.

2024 has been a busy year for female pop. We’ve had new albums from Ariana Grande, Beyonce, Taylor Swift, Dua Lipa – and now Billie Eilish. I was looking forward to this one the most. Billie’s minimal, intimate and often bleak sound is so different to her contemporaries. But after my first listen of Hit Me Hard And Soft, I could barely recall any of the songs. So, I listened to it again. And still, a lot of the song just aren’t sticking.

Sure, there’s ‘Lunch’ which is a groovy horny lesbian banger about wanting to eat a girl for lunch (yes, that’s right, Billlie is a cannibal). There’s also ‘Birds of a Feather’ which builds up around an addictive Everybody’s-Talkin-flavoured synth riff into a truly gorgeous chorus about being terminally in love (I like even though it’s a soppy love song, Billie still gives it her signature macabre gloom with lyrics like ‘til I’m in a grave/ til I rot away’). Almost six minute closer ‘Blue’ also has an interesting progression to it with its spacey lull in the middle. However, that’s about it.

The other songs see Billie rejecting edgy and unusual subject matter for more old-fashioned themes of love and heartbreak. Her brother, FINNEAS, handles the production again, but this time we see a departure from loopy synths and skeletal arrangements. Instead, most of these songs are backed by acoustic guitars and string arrangements. A generous amount of reverb has meanwhile been added to Billie’s voice. Consequently, it’s quite a different vibe to the digital minimalism of her debut – part of what made her so unique.

In some ways, it’s nice to hear Billie moving into a more sophisticated sound. The instrumentation is very pretty. Billie’s voice has also greatly improved and there are moments in ‘Chihiro’ and ‘The Greatest’ where it sounds truly angelic. However, this album doesn’t feel as varied or as risky as Happier Than Ever – an album that cycled through genres ranging from bossa nova to bassy electro and covered topics ranging from the male gaze to the fear of death. The songs are also a lot longer and the production is less intimate. As a result, these songs hit soft rather than hard.