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On Hit Me Hard And Soft, Billie Eilish Wouldn't Be Billie Eilish Without Finneas

Her stellar new album proves how integral Finneas is to her vision.

In 2023, during a live show, Billie Eilish addressed the long-held question of if she would ever make music without her brother, Finneas. Sitting onstage looking out at an audience of thousands, she put her thoughts plainly: “If Finneas ever doesn’t want to make music with me anymore, I just won’t make music anymore.” You could chalk up her response to their incredibly close sibling bond, which the 2021 documentary, Billie Eilish: The World’s A Little Blurry, depicted in vivid 4k. But maybe Eilish was also speaking to something more metaphysical: that in him, she’d somehow stumbled upon an unreplicable, winning formula.

Ever since Eilish changed the pop music landscape with her 2018 debut When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, she’s kept true to that word, now releasing her third studio record, Hit Me Hard And Soft, with her brother as its sole producer and co-songwriter. As much as the already glowing critic reviews have pointed out that the project is Eilish at the top of her game, so too is Finneas, who’s crafted otherworldly environments for her award-winning voice to inhabit. More so than on her previous records, his contribution here feels vital for Eilish’s continued success, with his vision, at times, even superseding her own.

Hit Me Hard And Soft is instantly recognizable as a Billie Eilish album, but if you took everything she’s released thus far out of a two-dimensional world and plopped it in a fourth or fifth dimensional setting. Her emotional palette has expanded ten-fold: the yearning is sharper, sad moments deeper, and the euphoria screaming in brilliant new colors. You have to wonder if this heightened consistency is because of her confining herself to work with the same person her entire career. As artists and siblings, she and Finneas have been on parallel journeys like racing magnets, each pushing the other forward while still staying in sync.

You can hear it on opener “Skinny,” a classic Billie ballad ruminating on growing up and celebrity. They’re themes we’ve heard before on “Getting Older” and “my future,” but have been enhanced by a stunning orchestral outro that fills in the gaps of what her lyrics leave out. Immediate standout “Chihiro,” about a tormented, lost connection, morphs cleverly from chill lounge funk into an urgent, strobe-lit banger. New sounds like jangly folk, atop which Eilish sounds playful and bright, and desperate rock crescendos compete with her own agonizing belts. There’s a campy, Eiffel 65-esque breakdown on “L’amour De Ma Vie” that continues to blow my mind with how it even manages to work. The feelings that Finneas’ production evokes matter just as much as Eilish’s lyrics. Her sharp observations on first love, relationships, and fame, are to be expected; it’s Finneas’ finessing that now orient them in exciting, new dimensions.

I say all of this not to create some sort of imaginary competition between the face of the music and its producer, but to point out a vital part of their continued success. At this point, the Billie Eilish project is more akin to a band than the efforts of just one person; Eilish won’t, and shouldn’t, work with anyone else because Finneas is as integral to the music as she is — a point that this record proves, hard.

It’s fitting that Hit Me Hard And Soft closes on “Blue,” a song that used to be called “True Blue” that Eilish kept from release for years, despite the fact that it’d been streamed and beloved by fans online. This new iteration has been beefed up and reimagined, and melts into a totally new experience halfway through thanks to a fury of trap beats and immersive synths. It’s sublime, and maybe a sign that only with Finneas’ tinkering and expanding was it finally fit to be let out into the world.