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Billie Eilish is a master of deception on mind-blowing new album ‘Hit Me Hard and Soft’: review

Music review

Hit Me Hard and Soft

Billie Eilish is a master of deception.

Her new album, “Hit Me Hard and Soft” (out Friday), starts off exactly as you’d expect: with soft vocals layered over an acoustic guitar on “Skinny,” a rumination on the toxicity of beauty standards with Gen Z-bait lyrics like, “The internet is hungry for the meanest kind of funny.”

But in its final seconds, the song takes an orchestral turn and then detonates into “Lunch,” a thumping lesbian anthem with a bassline so slinky it feels like “Bad Guy” on steroids. It’s the most deliciously perverted entry in Eilish’s catalog to date as the newly out superstar lustfully purrs with an insatiable swagger, “I could eat that girl for lunch / As she dances on my tongue / Tastes like she might be the one.”

The critical darling is a master of deception throughout the 10-track record. Getty Images for ABA

Multiple songs do a complete 180 midway through. Getty Images

Eilish’s sonic sleight of hand comes to play throughout “Hit Me Hard and Soft,” which does exactly as its title suggests: wavers between a sleek understatedness and total sensory overload.

Across an almost perfect 10 tracks (sorry, but “Bittersuite” adds nothing), the 22-year-old critical darling contorts herself to toy with tempos and genres as diverse as house and reggae — and somehow it works, thanks in large part to her brother and collaborator Finneas O’Connell’s mind-blowing production, which is at an all-time high here.

“The Greatest” builds upon the statement-making transition in the siblings’ 2021 hit “Happier Than Ever,” again crescendoing from the subtle plucks of a guitar to a full-band headbanger. A heartbroken Eilish hushes the claims that she only whispers in her songs by belting out, “I loved you, and I still do / Just wanted passion from you / Just wanted what I gave you.”

Eilish, who came out as queer in November 2023, sings about lust on “Lunch.” Darkroom

“Birds of a Feather” is her macabre take on “’til death do us part.” Instagram/@billieeilish

“The Diner” is told from the point of view of a celebrity-obsessed stalker. Getty Images for ABA

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“Chihiro” swells out of left field, too, with a muted trance beat that locks listeners in the claustrophobic bathroom of a pulsating nightclub. (Fittingly, Eilish repeats, “Open up the door” at various points in the track. Even she’s begging to hit the dance floor.)

“The Diner” is similarly all-consuming, eerily told from the point of view of a celebrity-obsessed stalker who begs, “Oh, please don’t call the cops / They’ll make me stop / And I just wanna talk.” Its rhythm lurks like a detective in a ’40s noir, concluding with an ominous threat: “I saw you in the car with someone else and couldn’t sleep / If somethin’ happens to him, you can bet that it was me.”

Eilish has always been a storyteller after all, one who isn’t afraid to twist an adage into something macabre.

Eilish co-wrote the album with her brother, Finneas O’Connell, who also produced it. Instagram/@billieeilish

She contorts herself to toy with genres as diverse as house and reggae. Instagram/@billieeilish

“Hit Me” is the boundary-pushing album Eilish was born to make. Getty Images for ABA

On the ’90s-influenced “Birds of a Feather,” which sounds quite like Drake’s “Passionfruit,” her take on “’til death do us part” is more along the lines of, “I want you to stay / ‘Til I’m in the grave / ‘Til I rot away, dead and buried / ‘Til I’m in the casket you carry.” Only she could make that sound romantic.

And then there’s “L’amour de Ma Vie,” a soft-rock number on which Eilish puts aside her signature head voice to let her underused deep tone take center stage. “I told you a lie / When I said you were the love of my life,” she sings before yet another 180, with “Blinding Lights”-style synths and distortion taking over the back half.

“Hit Me” is classic Billie, an artist who has been her unapologetic self since the 2015 release of her debut single, “Ocean Eyes.” Nearly a decade later, she’s delivered the boundary-pushing record she was born to make.

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