Roundtable Discussion: A Review of Billie Eilish’s ‘HIT ME HARD AND SOFT’

HIT ME HARD AND SOFT - Billie Eilish
HIT ME HARD AND SOFT - Billie Eilish
Atwood Magazine’s writers dive into Billie Eilish’s refreshingly intimate and impassioned third studio album ‘HIT ME HARD AND SOFT,’ a self-described “family of songs” that finds the 22-year-old artist at her boldest and most exposed.
Featured here are Atwood writers Christine Buckley, Danielle Furman, Josh Weiner, Kevin Cost, and Minna Abdel-Gawad!

HIT ME HARD AND SOFT - Billie Eilish

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To start, what is your relationship with Billie Eilish’s music?

Josh Weiner: I have the least innovative “This is how I discovered Billie Eilish” story imaginable, but here goes: I got introduced to her five years ago in 2019, when “Bad Guy” was on the radio constantly. Since then, I’ve continued to follow and listen to her as much as the next chap, and I’m glad to see she’s put out yet another record, which I’m sure is going to be another big hit.

Danielle Furman: I always loved the lushness and the texture of her sound. It feels like she has the unique ability to show us the inside of her brain. She knows how to masterfully curate an experience and make each song a tiny world of its own, and leaves it up to you to decide if you connect. “&burn” with Vince Staples was what started me on Billie. I listened to that song on repeat when ‘don’t smile at me’ came out. There have always been at least one or two songs per project that I could not get enough of.

Minna Abdel-Gawad: I was in middle school when Billie Eilish was on the rise and I became deeply obsessed with her debut EP as she was going on her very first tour. I was lucky enough to see her in Washington, DC in an 800-person capacity venue in her best neon green outfit, surrounded by fellow Billie-obsessed teenagers screaming as we watched Billie and FINNEAS’ captivating choreographed dances and ukulele mashups. Over the years I’ve more casually kept up with her as I knew she was on an exponential rise (aka I’d never be able to afford tickets again) so I kept an eye on her projects

Christine Buckley: I’m mostly acquainted with hearing her stuff on the radio, but I also remember her beautiful “Ocean Eyes” duet with Alicia Keys that really put to bed a lot of those “she can’t sing, she just whispers” haters. I’ve always appreciated the dark, unafraid side of her music – the sinister “call me back” in “When the Party’s Over,” stuff like that.

Kevin Cost: I cannot say I have or ever will have a relationship regarding Billie’s music, but one day, I realized her potential influence when the billboard towering over Sunset Boulevard gave me a shock because it was dark and undeniably curious, and I did sort of shrug to see what would happen once the debut dropped. I gave it a shot like anyone else would. It was fun, different, and heading in the right direction, but the feeling faded, and I waited to see what could or would happen next. During that time, after several listens, it faded out, only chatter of the name was brought up, social media exploded “Bad Guy” to the nth degree and I still only remember the very first image I noticed on the boulevard, until now.

Billie Eilish © William Drumm
Billie Eilish © William Drumm



What are your initial impressions and reactions to HIT ME HARD AND SOFT?

HIT ME HARD AND SOFT - Billie Eilish

Josh: I like it! It’s impressively energetic all the way through. I predict it’ll fare well when it comes time for us all to rank our best albums of 2024 in six months’ time.

Danielle: It was so honest and the artistry was so present – I was impressed that she was able to dig that deep in the wake of two massive, critically-acclaimed albums. Artists feel so pressured to fit a certain image, especially after two superstar albums, that they can fall into the trap of becoming a caricature of themselves in an attempt to give people what they want. I was so heartened that the lyrics were deep and the style felt like she was still trusting herself to innovate.

Minna: I had received a text from a fellow Atwood writer friend (shoutout Sophie Severs) telling me that this album had absolutely no skips. So on release day I spun the record and was floored. I felt as though Eilish’s maturity (in her vocals, storytelling and lyricism) was sonically palpable and that the production shone through in this album like no other. It truly had no skips. Her range in terms of vocalization, instrumentation and experimenting with genre was refreshing and exciting. Hit Me Hard and Soft had me sat and intently listening to all 10 tracks of this project like it was a meal I was ravenous for.

Kevin: I’m a sucker for an artist who takes their time to release a piece from time to time, so I always gravitate towards those artists to see what they do differently. This is something else, yet I don’t know. It’s so Billie that it feels too familiar, but too the same?

Christine: Well, when I agreed to do this review I think I said something like “are you sure I should do it because I don’t uhhhh love it as much as everyone else.” And I might have been worried about getting run through. But yeah: It took me a few listens to warm up to it. The songs are all good, but for me the album didn’t start to give me what I specifically like about Billie Eilish until “The Greatest.” With the exception of “Lunch,” the first half of the album was full of beautiful ballads that are just that, beautiful, and well-written, and really nice to listen to. But the whole time I was waiting for some unexpected drop or grisly record scratch or demonic robot voice. I know, Eilish can make whatever music she wants, and she absolutely does not have to stay in any lane. But that’s what I’ve always loved about her stuff, and the first half left me missing it.



How does this album compare to Happier Than Ever and When We All Fall Asleep… – what are the most striking similarities or differences?

HIT ME HARD AND SOFT - Billie Eilish

Josh: Billie Eilish albums typically have a mixture of slow burners and upbeat songs, and Hit Me Hard and Soft is no exception – the title alone indicates that much, if you think about it. I also feel like it leans more heavily towards the upbeat side than her previous two albums did. Personally, I’m a fan – this is the most overall exciting record that she’s put out thus far as a result.

Danielle: Her moody, emotional essence runs clearly through all three projects, but each has its own flavor. This album feels a little edgier than the last album and less edgy than the first. Hit Me Hard and Soft feels raw but mature.

Minna: I definitely agree with Danielle, the LP feels like a great middle ground between the previous albums where fans of any of her eras could find tracks they liked. I feel like this album in particular though showed a lot of emotional maturity in terms of her introspection and clear self awareness and healing journey she has been on in the last few years.

Christine: One thing I do really like about this album is that it has a few big voice moments. I feel like there weren’t as many of those on the previous records. That was pretty satisfying. It’s hard for me to be objective – although I guess music criticism is supposed to be subjective – I didn’t like it as much as her others, but I totally and completely know that’s just my taste, and that this album is chock full of good songwriting, lyrics, and production. It’s just less for me than the others.

Kevin: Happier Than Ever did not turn my head to say, oh? Billie Eilish has so much talent that even within previous albums, it makes me want to scream, “COME ON.” We are all rooting for her! I will say that the newest feels so hopeful. She is stopping the purse ballads and having a little more fun. Also, the synths are perfect.

BILLIE EILISH IS BACK AND ‘HAPPIER THAN EVER’

:: ALBUM REVIEW ::



When you expect her to zig, Eilish often zags. What surprises you about this album?

HIT ME HARD AND SOFT - Billie Eilish

Josh: Maybe just that it was louder and brasher than her first two LPs were, as I mentioned in the answer above. One reason why I didn’t see that coming is that, in the three-ish years since Happier Than Ever came out, the standalone singles that she has released have often been on the slow side– most notably her two Academy Award-winners, “No Time To Die” and “What Was I Made For?” And now all of a sudden, Billie Eilish comes up and dials up the adrenaline like never before on Hit Me Hard and Soft – some cool stuff, yo!

Danielle: Her reflections on fame were surprising. I wasn’t sure she was ready to analyze her superstardom publicly, and the earnestness of her processing was exciting and heartening to me as a listener. At the risk of sounding obvious, I was also surprised by how unequivocally gay the album was.

Minna: I think this album was one where I could tell how much love and care was put into it, every track was incredibly rich where you could hear the layers upon layers of production whether it was sighs and whispers you could hear in the background of “LUNCH” or “BLUE” or the way FINNEAS weaved together different textures and vocals in “BIRDS OF A FEATHER” or “THE GREATEST” to keep us in the emotional whirlwind of a world the pair was creating. It was less shocking or surprising but rather very refreshing.

Christine: It’s interesting how people can hear such different things in the same songs! Josh is here saying it’s louder and brasher, and while it does have the loudest brashest moments of her career, it also has a lot of ballads that to me sound a little bit alike.

Kevin: This is different in a sense. I am glad it is becoming a more fluid sound for her, and distinguishing, but I cannot lie and say it is different in the aspect of your favorite indie rock band coming out with a rap album, but it is different.



Eilish has described this album as a “family of songs” meant to be experienced from beginning to end. What is the album listening experience like, for you?

HIT ME HARD AND SOFT - Billie Eilish

Josh: Well, I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t follow Billie Eilish’s desires all the way through in that respect. Given what my commute to work is like, my first two times making my way through the whole album have consisted of me listening to the first 30 minutes of it in the morning and then the remaining 20 minutes of it later on in the afternoon.

However, since that still technically counts as listening to the album chronologically (even if not all in one sitting), I see where Ms. Eilish is going with that statement. Yes, when you go to the album from start to finish, the experience is stronger and more fulfilling than simply shuffling through the tracks individually.

Danielle: I think the album shows Billie’s incredible range. She really is tough and soft all at once, and the album feels like a thorough journey through her multifaceted emotional world.

Minna: Billie Eilish has been on a massive (and very public) journey since the launch of her career. This record discusses the plights of growing up in the public eye, the feeling of betraying yourself and those around you, giving too much to another person, finding the people you feel seen by. Those are all highs and lows that life serves you, moments that hit you both hard and soft. I think the album is a “family of songs” in the way that they each encapsulate a specific period of her own life yet seamlessly bleed into one another.

Christine: Typically I’m an album listener who likes to experience what the artist intended in its own way. But I find that with this album, when I put it on, I skip to “The Greatest” and listen from there on out. The ballads are nice and “Lunch” is a banger if not lacking in nuance – see below. But I effing love “The Greatest” and the rest.

Kevin: I actually appreciate the artistry of being able to understand the importance of first-track-to-last-track, but I do not understand the term “family of songs.” Is that not… an album?

Billie Eilish 'HIT ME HARD AND SOFT' © Petros
Billie Eilish ‘HIT ME HARD AND SOFT’ © Petros



This album didn’t have any advance singles, but “LUNCH” arrived with its own music video and is already a clear favorite amongst fans. What do you think of this track?

HIT ME HARD AND SOFT - Billie Eilish

Josh: It’s a banger! Finneas delivers another stellar synthy beat, and Billie drops her most candid lyrics about her same sex attraction to-date. Fans have indeed taken note, as the track has already become another Billboard Top 10 hit, and hopefully will stay put in the upper rankings of the chart for the time being.

Danielle: Super fun track, insanely catchy, well-done. I like her signature ethereal sound over this indie-pop beat (which reminds me a bit of 2010s groups like The Neighbourhood or Portugal. The Man). I adored the warped beat moment as well. Truth be told, it’s not one of the songs I ended up gravitating to on the album when listening alone, but it’s such a vibrant, sexy track that I can see myself partying to this summer (and I’m not mad at that one bit).

Minna: Billie served up a sapphic classic! I love to see fun, upbeat and unabashed sapphic bops that celebrate the joy and liberation that can come alongside being in a queer relationship. Oftentimes queer art centers around queer struggle which is absolutely apart of the experience but I’m so glad to have so many mainstream wlw artists (Chappel Roan, Kehlani, Reneé Rapp, Janelle Monáe etc.) that want to center the joy of their queer experiences and are here to make fun bops for all the girls who want to eat other girls for lunch.

Kevin: Radio hit, that is it.

Christine: I am of two minds on this and will try not to take too much space. On one hand, I love that she is being open and sexy and telling us what she likes. I love the lyric “I’m pulling up a chair and I’m putting up my hair” – so simple and yet so evocative. And I know that many in the LGBTQIA+ community love getting this exposure. And this beat is undeniably catchy, and you must dance to it, and yes, that part is great. Yet, there were pieces that seemed trite to me. “I could buy her so much stuff” and “Clothes on the counter for you, try ’em on / If I’m allowed, I’ll help you take ’em off”… those lyrics just weren’t for me, I guess.



Which song(s) stand out for you on the album, and why?

HIT ME HARD AND SOFT - Billie Eilish

Josh: I’m digging tracks like “The Greatest,” with its impressive guitar riff; “Lunch” with its risqué lyrics; and “L’Amour de Ma Vie,” maybe just because I’m a big Francophile and the title attracts me (it’s a good song too, though!)

Danielle: “CHIHIRO,” “THE DINER,” “BLUE.”

“CHIHIRO” is just so vibey with that intoxicating bassline. I love a song with a depressing message that you can’t help but dance to—such a power move. The build and the way she genre-bends into almost EDM is fabulous, and the song’s potential for crazy remixes is massive.

“THE DINER” feels like Billie at her truest. I’m a sucker for the sexy stalker genre that she basically pioneered.

“BLUE” was surprisingly honest – totally captivating and just kind of swallows you whole. It’s real and thought provoking, and I hear a Radiohead-inspired experimental influence at points.

Minna: As an opening track, “SKINNY” truly left me a little shattered and really stuck with me as I continued to listen because I felt that it didn’t sound like most of the other tracks, it doesn’t have a sonic switch up like “THE GREATEST” or “BITTERSUITE” or “BLUE” rather this track is an intimate reflective ballad with a gentle looping guitar melody. “THE GREATEST” was the track that had me gasping for air! It reminded me of the title track of her previous album “Happier Than Ever” in the way that it starts with a lonesome acoustic instrument before spiraling into an impassioned bridge that showcases FINNEAS’ soul shaking production and Billie’s best belting. This track left me with chills: From the string instruments, her pained vocals, the track stopping for a beat as she sang the final “I waited and waited.” I felt the amalgamation of her grief and anger and sadness in every word she sang. Both of these songs felt so raw.

Christine: “The Greatest” is the greatest, heh. This acoustic beginning, the build, the transition to a polyrhythm or whatever they’re doing throwing in extra beats at the end. Love it.

Kevin: “Chihiro” bounces like a regular pop record, but I do appreciate the use of synths. It feels different for Billie, but something she might need to lean into. The album cover solidifies her diving deep in a sense, diving deep into this experimentation perhaps?



Do you have any favorite lyrics so far? Which lines stand out?

HIT ME HARD AND SOFT - Billie Eilish

Josh: I’m a fan of the lyricism on “Wildflower.” There are a lot of breakup songs out there, but how many songs are there about comforting a dear friend post-breakup? It’s nice to see Billie’s nifty twist on the classic song formula:

“She was cryin’ on my shoulder, all I could do was hold her
Only made us closer until July
Now I know that you love me, you don’t need to remind me
I should put it all behind me, shouldn’t I?”

Danielle: “And I could say the same ’bout you, born blameless, grew up famous too, just a baby born blue now.” PHEW! Deep! Come on, Billie!

Minna: The two sides of Billie’s lyrics to me were her cheeky ones and her truly heartbreaking ones so I’ll give one that exemplified each of those sides.

“LUNCH”:

“She dances on my tongue
So now she’s coming up the stairs
So I’m pulling out a chair
And I’m pulling up my hair”

“WILDFLOWER”:

“But every time you touch me, I just wonder how she felt
Valentine’s Day, cryin’ in the hotel
I know you didn’t mean to hurt me, so I kept it to myself
And I wonder
Do you see her in the back of your mind in my eyes?”

Christine: For me it’s “all my love and patience, all my admirations – all the times I’ve waited for you to want me naked, made it all look painless, man am I the greatest?

Kevin: “In the back of mind, I’m still overseas” from “Blue.” That right there shows me she knows how to write.



Where do you feel HIT ME HARD AND SOFT sits in the pantheon of Billie Eilish’s discography?

HIT ME HARD AND SOFT - Billie Eilish

Josh: It just may be her best one yet! When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? is up there, though. Happier Than Ever is good too, but at 56 minutes it’s not as sharp a listen as the other two albums are, both of which clock in at 43 minutes. I would rank them #2, #3 and #1 overall, in the order of their release.

Danielle: This album artfully captures where Billie is at in her artistic evolution. She knows who she is, yet she’s open to evolving. She’s incredible at shifting with musical trends while maintaining her integrity. She’s an artist that’s going to be around for a long time, and HIT ME HARD AND SOFT establishes that she’s still able to surprise us.

Minna: Every album had built upon the last one in terms of a sonic and lyrical evolution and I think this is her most mature and grounded project to date. I don’t feel like her albums are necessarily comparable but this one is definitely a new side to Billie that I have thoroughly enjoyed (and am hoping to continue to enjoy if all the fans are correct in predicting a double album!? But who knows.)

Christine: I agree with what Danielle said – it’s where she’s supposed to be right now and is pretty diverse. The lyric “twenty-one took a lifetime” really speaks to that.

Kevin: I think Billie Eilish understands her talent, and this album is getting there with her talent, but I can see her pushing it farther. I really, really, hope she does.

Billie Eilish 'HIT ME HARD AND SOFT' © Petros
Billie Eilish ‘HIT ME HARD AND SOFT’ © Petros



What do you make of Billie Eilish’s continued creative partnership with her brother, Finneas O’Connell? How is it manifested on this new album?

HIT ME HARD AND SOFT - Billie Eilish

Josh: I mean, they clearly have a good thing going, and the payoffs of that collaboration continue to surface on every project that they do together. So, why stop now? I’m glad that they managed to produce strong results together once again on LP #3.

Danielle: I think her artistic relationship with her brother is beautiful- it’s like they have a soul connection. She’s bringing sibling duos back. She’s just such a brilliant content creator, and the BILLIE BY FINNEAS concept is so genius. She just intuitively knows how to get fans to engage and has an incredible conceptual mind.

Minna: I absolutely adore their partnership, I feel like it is authentic to their creative process now and I honestly love to watch and listen to them talk about the way they ebb and flow naturally while creating. There is no Billie without FINNEAS and no FINNEAS without Billie.

Christine: I remember reading that for the last album – I think – they said in an interview that they wrote exactly as many songs as appear on the album. That they don’t write a ton of songs, then pick the best ones, like most artists do – they get an idea, then work on it until they love it. That’s got to be a rare thing to be able to do, and maybe that they’re siblings makes that possible. I don’t know if they’ve done that here. But I’m sure in awe of that approach.

Kevin: It’s time for Finneas to move on. I love my sister to death, she is my sister and has helped me through the thick and thin, but after all this time, it is your life and your music. Collaborate, mix different things, do not let ANYTHING hold you down, including your siblings.

A REVIEW OF BILLIE EILISH’S ‘WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?’

:: ROUNDTABLE ::



What are your predictions for Hit Me Hard and Soft: The Tour? Which of these new songs do you think would translate especially well to a live format?

HIT ME HARD AND SOFT - Billie Eilish

Josh: As one of the lucky ones who got to see a Michael Jordan-jersey-rocking Billie Eilish perform at Lollapalooza in Chicago last summer, I can attest that that girl puts on a really good live show! It’ll be great to see her continue to dazzle the crowds starting in the fall, and I imagine that the numerous rock-oriented tracks here (“The Greatest,” for instance) will function particularly well in the live concert setting.

Danielle: “LUNCH,” “THE GREATEST,” and “L’AMOUR DE MA VIE” would all go super hard live. Because Billie’s always ten steps ahead, I honestly can’t predict anything about the tour, aside from super hot female dancers who are going to break the internet.

Minna: I definitely agree with all of these picks, Billie fans love to scream along to dramatic ballads so “THE GREATEST” is definitely one I think fans are going to lose their minds to. Billie is also known to do a cheeky mashup of her songs so I’d love to see which ones she could interweave (maybe “WILDFLOWER” and “L’AMOUR DE MA VIE”)

Christine: Here’s the thing – with maybe the exception of “Birds Of A Feather,” they are all exquisitely written songs, as per usual with these two. Even the ones I’m not a huge fan of will absolutely go on a concert stage. They’ve all got a real backbone. I imagine crowds will be looking for “Lunch,” “Chihiro” and “L’Amour de ma Vie.” I’ll be there for “The Greatest”!

Kevin: As someone who probably would not go out of my way to see Billie Eilish, after this album release, I might.

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:: stream/purchase HIT ME HARD AND SOFT here ::
:: connect with Billie Eilish here ::



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HIT ME HARD AND SOFT - Billie Eilish

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HIT ME HARD AND SOFT

an album by Billie Eilish


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