Billie Eilish is Unapologetically Herself on Third Album ‘HIT ME HARD AND SOFT’

There’s something so beautiful about someone being authentically themselves, uninhibited by expectations and unafraid to embrace their true spirit. Billie Eilish’s third studio album HIT ME HARD AND SOFT is exquisitely honest. 

After writing their Oscar winning Barbie anthem “What Was I Made For?,” Billie and her brother Finneas were hit hard with writer’s block. “Honestly, we were so uninspired for so long,” Billie told triple j. However, “when we started working we were kind of like we have to start somewhere, so we just have to give up on the idea that it’s ever going to be perfect.” 

That understanding allowed the duo to just write, at times even bolder than they expected. 

Unlike past albums, Billie and Finneas chose to write until inspiration ran out, instead of forcing creativity. For example, the chorus of the pop dance track, “Lunch” was written in October 2022, but the song itself wasn’t completed until the following Fall. This method kept the writing process fresh, and created an expected benefit of allowing the songs to evolve and mature with Billie and Finneas, as noted by Billie on Booker & Stryker

However, there was one session where the lyrics and the melodies just flowed. “We wrote all of “Skinny” and that was like the first full song that we wrote. As soon as we wrote it we were like this is the opening track,” Billie told Booker & Stryker. 

“Skinny” is a raw and honest reflection on downsides of fame, especially as a woman. In the span of her nearly decade long career, Billie hasn’t been able to avoid the side effects. She confides in the lyrics and the lullaby melody about feeling trapped in fame’s “birdcage” and being fed a steady diet of unwarranted opinions and invaded privacy. She specifically shares her reconciliation with the public’s fascination with her body “People say I look happy/Just because I got skinny,” she sings, “But the old me is still me and maybe the real me/ And I think she’s pretty.” 

This raw reflection and honesty runs deep through the entirety of the ten track album as Billie rediscovers the “real me.” 

Part of that self-discovery was learning to embrace her sexuality. On track 2, “Lunch,” Billie sings about oral sex. “I wrote some of it before even doing anything with a girl,” Billie told Rolling Stone, “I’ve been in love with girls for my whole life, but I just didn’t understand – until, last year, I realized I wanted my face in a vagina.” 

Track three, “Chihiro,” refers to the young, rosie -cheeked brunette lead from Hayai Miyazaki’s award winning film Spirited Away. In an interview with Vice Australia on the release of When We All Fall Asleep Where Do We Go, Billie shared, “I feel like I owe most of it to Spirited Away and Miyazaki… just the way that all that animation is.” 

In the film, Chihiro is faced with navigating a world full of spirits and demons to set her and her parents free. There are several internet theories about how the song’s Studio Ghibli reference and the “open up the door” lyrics could refer to her coming to terms with her sexuality. However, even beyond the meaning, the 90s club sound is a completely different realm for Billie and feels just as much a part of that self-discovery journey. 

Much of that journey was spent outside the vocal booth in Finneas’ home studio. “It was basically me and him both sitting up at the desk…we wrote basically the entire album with handheld mics like this sitting in the room on the couch doing this.” For “Chihiro,” that meant that “the speakers are feeding back what you’re hearing so you can kind of hear it in the background. So when I play the isolated vocals of “Chihiro” you can hear the whole beat because I was just singing it in the room,” Billie told Booker & Stryker.

“Birds of a Feather,” “Wildflower,” and “Greatest” find Billie falling in and out of love through cinematic instrumentation lush with live strings and drums. 

On Booker & Stryker, Billie also shared how Finneas and her worked to incorporate live instrumentation into their work for the first time ever. This comfortability with experimentation was in part due to Finneas’ growing knowledge of film scoring.  

That live instrumentation is not only a callback to film scores, but to Billie’s own musical inspirations from Etta James to Frank Sinatra. Their inspiration is heard on “L’Amour De Ma Vie,” “the jazziest song on the album,” Billie told triple j, “and anytime I get to sing in the realm of jazz, I am so happy.”  

That joy also came from accepting the uniqueness of her voice. “It’s so funny because I grew up with people talking about how soft voices and delicate voices are not as good as big loud powerhouses, and that’s just not true. All voices are beautiful, there’s different kinds. I really grew up thinking I was a bad singer because I didn’t belt, because I didn’t use my voice like that. When I think about it and I look back, all of the singers that I adore had deeply precise, beautiful, delicate control over their voices and that’s what I always gravitated towards…When you listen to that compared to something from my first EP Don’t Smile At Me, it’s a completely different person.”  

After “The Diner” and “Bittersuite,” The album fades to “Blue,” as HIT ME HARD AND SOFT plays out its final symphony.

Upon the album’s release, Billie posted to instagram “@finneas and i put so much into this album and have never ever ever loved something more.” That passion is evident from the first note to the very last, and makes Billie’s decision to release the project as a whole instead of teasing it with singles is warranted.

HIT ME HARD AND SOFT is unapologetic and cathartic, and exactly what Billie Eilish and Finneas were made for.

Featured Photo Credit: Petros Studio