Billie Eilish has always delighted in subverting expectations, but HIT ME HARD AND SOFT still, somehow, lands like a meteor. “This is the most ‘me’ thing I’ve ever made,” she tells Apple Music’s Zane Lowe. “And purely me—not a character.” An especially wide-ranging and transportive project, even for her, it’s brimming with the guts and theatricality of an artist who has the world at her feet—and knows it. In a tight 45 minutes, Eilish does as she promises and hits listeners with a mix of scorching send-ups, trance excursions, and a stomping tribute to queer pleasure, alongside more soft-edged cuts like teary breakup ballads and jaunts into lounge-y jazz. But the project never feels zigzaggy thanks to, well, the Billie Eilish of it all: her glassy vocals, her knowing lyrics, her unique ability to make softness sound so huge. HIT ME is Eilish’s third album and, like the two previous ones, was recorded with her brother and longtime creative partner FINNEAS. In conceptualizing it, the award-winning songwriting duo were intent on creating the sort of album that makes listeners feel like they’ve been dropped into an alternate universe. As it happens, this universe has several of the same hallmarks as the one she famously drew up on her history-making debut, 2019’s WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?. In many ways, this project feels more like that album’s sequel than 2021’s jazzy Happier Than Ever, which Eilish has said was recorded during a confusing, depressive pandemic haze. In the three years since, she has tried to return to herself—to go outside, hang out with friends, and talk more openly about sex and identity, all things that make her feel authentic and, for lack of a better word, normal. “As much as Happier Than Ever was coming from this place of, like, 'We're so good. This sounds so good,' it was also not knowing at all who I was,’” she tells Apple Music. FINNEAS agrees, calling it their “identity crisis album.” But HIT ME HARD AND SOFT is, she says, the reverse. “The whole time we were making it, we were like, 'I don't know if I'm making anything good, this might be terrible…’ But now I'm like, 'Yeah, but I'm comfortable in who I am now.' I feel like I know who I am now.” As a songwriter, Eilish is still in touch with her vulnerabilities, but at 22, with a garage full of Grammys and Oscars, they aren’t as heavy. These days it’s heartache, not her own insecurities, that keeps her up at night, and the songs are juicier for it. “LUNCH,” a racy, bass-heavy banger that can’t help but hog the spotlight, finds Eilish crushing so hard on a woman that she compares the hook-up to a meal. “I’ve said it all before, but I’ll say it again/I’m interested in more than just being your friend,” she sings. The lyrics are so much more than lewd flirtations. They’re also a way of stepping back into the spotlight—older, wiser, more fully herself. Read below as Eilish and FINNEAS share the inside story behind a few standout songs. “LUNCH” BILLIE: “One of the verses was written after a conversation I had with a friend and they were telling me about this complete animal magnetism they were feeling. And I was like, ‘Ooh, I'm going to pretend to be them for a second and just write...and I’m gonna throw some jokes in there.’ We took ourselves a little too seriously on Happier Than Ever. When you start to embrace cringe, you're so much happier. You have so much more fun.” “BIRDS OF A FEATHER” BILLIE: “This song has that ending where I just keep going—it’s the highest I've ever belted in my life. I was alone in the dark, thinking, ‘You know what? I'm going to try something.’ And I literally just kept going higher and higher. This is a girl who could not belt until I was literally 18. I couldn't physically do it. So I'm so proud of that. I remember coming home and being like, ‘Mom! Listen!’” “WILDFLOWER” BILLIE: “To me, [the message here is] I'm not asking for reassurance. I am 100% confident that you love me. That's not the problem. The problem is this thing that I can't shake. It’s a girl code song. It's about breaking girl code, which is one of the most challenging places. And it isn’t about cheating. It isn’t about anything even bad. It was just something I couldn’t get out of my head. And in some ways, this song helped me understand what I was feeling, like, ‘Oh, maybe this is actually affecting me more than I thought.’ I love this song for so many reasons. It's so tortured and overthinky.” “THE GREATEST” BILLIE: “To us, this is the heart of the album. It completes the whole thing. Making it was sort of a turning point. Everything went pretty well after that. It kind of woke us back up.” FINNEAS: “When you realize you're willing to go somewhere that someone else isn't, it's so devastating. And everybody has been in some dynamic in their life or their relationship like that. When you realize that you'd sacrifice and wear yourself out and compromise all these things, but the person you're in love with won’t make those sacrifices, or isn’t in that area? To me, that's what that song is about. It's like, you don't even want to know how lonely this is.” “L’AMOUR DE MA VIE” FINNEAS: “The album is all about Billie. It's not a narrative album about a fictional character. But we have always loved songs within songs within songs. Here, you've just listened to Billie sound so heartbroken in ‘THE GREATEST,’ and then she sings this song that's like the antibody to that. It’s like, ‘You know what? Fuck you anyway.’ And then she goes to the club.” “BLUE” “The first quarter of ‘BLUE’ is a song Finneas and I made when I was 14 called ‘True Blue.’ We played it at little clubs before I had anything out, and never [released it] because we aged out of it. Years went by. Then, for a time, the second album was going to include one additional song called ‘Born Blue.’ It was totally different, and it didn’t make the cut. We never thought about it again. Then, in 2022, I was doing my laundry and found out ‘True Blue’ had been leaked. At first I was like ‘Oh god, they fucking stole my shit again,’ but then I couldn't stop listening. I went on YouTube and typed ‘Billie Eilish True Blue’ to find all the rips of it, because I didn't even have the original. Then it hit us, like, ‘Ooh, you know what'd be cool? What if we took both of these old songs, resurrected them, and made them into one?’ The string motif is the melody from the bridge of ‘THE GREATEST,’ which is also in ‘SKINNY,’ which starts the album. So it also ends the album.”

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