Billie Eilish, HIT ME HARD AND SOFT. Cover Photography by William Drumm.

Billie Eilish released her third album, HIT ME HARD AND SOFT, on May 17. Made with her brother and collaborator Finneas, Eilish’s latest album fails to shake up the young pop star’s formula enough to hold interest. At just ten tracks long, the album is physically shorter than her first two (the runtime is about the same as her first album). Several tracks, such as “The Greatest” and “Wildflower,” are multifaceted sonic journeys that heroically climax one after the other like tidal waves, yet they lack substance. 

There’s really only one stand out: “The Diner,” a low-key heater sung from the perspective of a stalker. Unlike most other tracks on the album, “The Diner” is straightforward, slinking under the chill hip-hop beat of an accordion. Eilish’s vocals are low and buried as if she’s glowering through a trench coat and fedora.

Other songs are less interesting. Lead single “Lunch,” while catchy and revelatory in Eilish’s refreshingly blunt statement of sapphic desire (“I could eat that girl for lunch”), suffers from relatively bland production, despite practically dripping in ’90s influences.

The opener “Skinny” is stark and beautiful but also scarce save its kicker first verse: “People say I look happy / Just because I got skinny / But the old me is still me and maybe the real me / and I think she’s pretty.” The rest of the album, despite shifts in genre within multiple songs, is largely forgettable. 

Surrounding the release of HIT ME HARD AND SOFT is the discussion of sustainability. Early in the press cycle, Eilish caught heat for calling out the use of vinyl variants despite having several herself for each of her three albums. For her most recent album’s listening parties, Eilish offered complimentary “sustainable” transportation—public transport routes (and shuttle buses) that have existed for decades. Her website has a dedicated page boasting that this album rollout was made “sustainably,” but the use of recycled vinyl is yet to prove itself as truly impactful for the environment. The whole sustainability thing feels forced and ham-fisted, introduced to manufacture a semblance of controversy for an album that fails to capture Eilish’s mystique and intrigue like her last two records.

In other words, HIT ME HARD AND SOFT is Eilish’s most boring record to date. It’s a shame because much of the album is decent, but it’s bogged down by its ambition and lack of the relatively upbeat bangers (except “The Diner” and “Lunch”) with which Eilish first made a name for herself. Listened front to back, despite its eclectic production and Eilish’s consistently beautiful voice, there’s just no there there.

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