meta-scriptThe Psychology Of "Sad Girl" Pop: Why Music By Billie Eilish, Gracie Abrams, Olivia Rodrigo & More Is Resonating So Widely | GRAMMY.com
Billie Eilish performing at Coachella 2022
Billie Eilish performs at the 2022 Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival.

Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for ABA

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The Psychology Of "Sad Girl" Pop: Why Music By Billie Eilish, Gracie Abrams, Olivia Rodrigo & More Is Resonating So Widely

As Olivia Rodrigo, Tate McRae and more of pop's current leading ladies continue to pour their hearts out in song, three music psychology experts assess what makes their vulnerability so connective.

GRAMMYs/Jul 13, 2022 - 07:48 pm

Olivia Rodrigo probably never imagined that a drive through the suburbs would become a rallying cry for anyone who's ever mourned a relationship. But when she released her debut single, the racing power ballad "drivers license," in January 2021, suddenly she had the biggest song in the world.

"drivers license" broke streaming and chart records upon its release, debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and inspiring memes across social media. While it wasn't exactly uplifting —  Rodrigo vividly details the devastation of trying to move on from an ex, and laments the milestones they were supposed to celebrate together — the song became universally celebrated, sending listeners into a nostalgic haze of first heartbreaks. Everyone was screaming, crying and dancing at the same time. 

"drivers license," one could say, is the latest centerpiece of "sad girl" pop — the specific aesthetic of artists who write songs through a dreamy, yet raw lens of rage, pining, heartbreak or rejection. The music itself creates a spectrum of emotions where you might want to sway at one point, but scream like Zach Braff and Natalie Portman at the rock quarry in Garden State at another.

Though Rodrigo is one of the stars at the center of "sad girl" pop, it had been percolating long before the explosion of "drivers license." After all, artists like Fiona Apple and Alanis Morrisette were the poster girls for it in the mid-to-late '90s. But one could argue that this iteration of "sad girl" pop found its roots in the 2010s, thanks to artists like Lana Del Rey, whose palpable aching and loneliness became inescapable anthems like "Video Games" and "Summertime Sadness"; Taylor Swift, whose first crossover success Red spawned the still-heart-wrenching fan favorite  "All Too Well"; Robyn, who created the ultimate crying-at-the-club banger "Dancing on My Own"; and MARINA, care of the depressed-Barbie era of her album Electra Heart. 

Even with all of its origins, "sad girl" pop didn't truly begin to form its own sort of subgenre until Billie Eilish and her whispery, gloomy music emerged in 2016. Others have steadily begun following suit: Sasha Alex Sloan emerged with a debut EP aptly titled Sad Girl two years later; Gracie Abrams' intimate, diaristic tracks served as major inspiration for Rodrigo (who later recruited Abrams as a tour opener); Tate McRae has turned her insecurities into aspirational, sad-pop anthems like "she's all i wanna be."

While "sad girl" pop isn't exactly new (most music trends are cyclical, of course), the way that people are clinging to it is. "There's a cliche about pop that it represents a retreat from reality, an escapist fantasy world where listeners get to leave their fears and anxieties in a vision of Katy Perry's 'Teenage Dream' or fun.'s 'We Are Young,'" says Nate Sloan, host of Switched on Pop and assistant professor of musicology at USC Thornton School of Music. "But modern listeners — especially young people — are pushing back against that paradigm, celebrating artists like Billie Eilish, Halsey, and girl in red, who don't shy away from the troubles of the world but sublimate them into their music." 

Their music, in turn, helps them cope with their own "lived realities." It's equal parts celebration of the artist and found community for someone who, in a world away, relates.

Which is why the rise of "sad girl" pop feels synonymous with the current state of the world. To varying degrees, we've all endured the trauma of a pandemic that hasn't ended, particularly the mental and emotional toll of isolation and anxiety that has transpired. There's also been the weight of police brutality, school shootings and the impending death of democracy for people to bear. Finding comfort in nostalgia — especially within pop culture — was natural for many.

Some retreated to the music, TV or films they listened to when they were teenagers, while others sought relief in music that evoked the feeling of being young and carefree. It's also why recent vulnerable, melancholy pop tracks became such a balm — and ultimately solidified the power of "sad girl" pop.

But the group that seems to be drawn to this niche pop aesthetic are teenagers. It makes sense: Gen Z is coming of age at a time when there's less of a stigma around discussing mental health. Celebrities and artists are arguably more open than ever about their struggles — Shawn Mendes, for instance, has often shared his battle with anxiety, sharing a super honest message with fans in April; Selena Gomez opened up about her bipolar diagnosis in 2020, and launched a multimedia company dedicated to mental health this year.

And it isn't just young women dominating this niche area of pop. Male artists like Conan Gray, Dean Lewis, Jeremy Zucker and Lewis Capaldi are delivering bedroom pop anthems ranging from angsty to wistful, overall unafraid to showcase raw vulnerability. Their music has proven to similarly resonate, with Capaldi's pained breakup ballad "Someone You Loved" hitting No. 1 on the Hot 100 in 2019 and Dean Lewis' "Be Alright" reaching No. 1 on Billboard's Adult Pop Songs chart that same year.

Read More: How James Bay Found The Courage To Be Vulnerable For New Album 'Leap'

"Shame is gradually being removed, so people are talking more about their feelings and their mental health — and audiences can relate to it," says Jodi Milstein, MA, LMFT, LPCC, music therapist.

When their emotions are reflected back to them in a song by a public figure, sometimes that's the key to getting help and seeking therapy. "A lot of times, we can't tell people, 'you need to do this, this and this to feel better.' We just have to set an example," Milstein explains.

Gen Z is much less filtered than other generations, and more candid about their own mental health struggles, as a 2018 survey by the American Psychological Association and a 2019 report by the American Psychiatric Association showed. And it's not uncommon to see them pouring their hearts out on TikTok or Instagram. But their connection to hyper-vulnerable music is also the result of where they are in their lives. Because their brains are still developing, they "tend to have a more difficult time modulating their emotions," says Sloan.

"At the same time, they feel things more deeply than adults might, especially music," he continues. "Studies have shown that the developing brain creates strong neural pathways between music and emotion in the teenage years, so that the music we listen to at that phase of our lives tends to stay with us, no matter how far we get from that period.".

Despite the lyrics — or even the mood — of the artist, "sad girl" pop is no different than other subgenres of music. "What's true of 'sad girl' pop is true of all music: it's essential to try and hear a piece of music as expression, not fact," Sloan adds.

In other words, girl in red may be singing about depression in "Seratonin," but it doesn't mean that the listeners themselves are depressed. They could be, but they could also find catharsis or joy in hearing someone detail a similar experience. And at a young age, especially, there's so much power in being seen and heard by a song.

"Several studies have shown that when listeners listen to sad music, they can experience [it] as if it was kind of empathizing with them," says Jonna Vuoskoski, associate professor in music cognition at the University of Oslo. "Music is almost like a virtual friend."

But while the music is resonating, there is a flipside to "sad girl" pop. The label, which has helmed the conversation around this music, can be diminishing to the artists who are pouring their feelings into these songs. Despite all of the aforementioned artists whose vulnerability has helped their listeners heal, filing music under "sad girl" writes off a person's — particularly a woman's — emotional trauma as something not to be taken seriously.

It can also glorify the idea that it's "cool" to be sad, which is rarely the intention of these artists. When it comes down to it, their songs are about as personal and vulnerable as one could get. They're creating deeply moving material — and an importantly deep connection with those who listen.

"They're speaking up for themselves — they're setting limits or setting boundaries," says Milstein. "On Instagram and Tik Tok, people get on there and will say, 'Hey, this happened to me, and I'm not gonna deal with this anymore.' People have been more expressive. You see other people actually talking about [this] stuff, which before you didn't see that."

From Abrams to Rodrigo, these artists aren't singing about their insecurities and pain for cachet: They're simply young women (and men) trying to navigate young adulthood. What they're sharing is courageous — and should they decide to move out of the "sad girl" box they've been placed in, we should be ready to grow with them.

How Tate McRae Turned A "Full Identity Crisis" Into Her Debut Album, 'I Used To Think I Could Fly'

Billie Eilish Songbook Hero
(L-R) Billie Eilish in 2018, 2020 and 2023.

(L-R) Scott Legato/Getty Images for Live Nation, Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for The Recording Academy, Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Global Citizen

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Songbook: A Guide To Billie Eilish's Musical Ventures & Artistic Ingenuity

On the heels of Billie Eilish's new album 'HIT ME HARD AND SOFT,' take a deep dive into the albums, visuals and performances that have shaped her award-winning, generation-defining artistry.

GRAMMYs/May 21, 2024 - 06:18 pm

Being a once-in-a-generation artist isn't an easy crown to wear, but Billie Eilish has made it look effortlessly badass. The singer's unabashed honesty and equally raw vocal talent led her to becoming one of the industry's most decorated Gen Z artists before she even reached her twenties.

Eilish first caught our ears in 2016 when the then-13-year-old uploaded "ocean eyes" to SoundCloud. The tender ballad — written and produced by her brother and steadfast collaborator, FINNEAS — was shared with Eilish's dance teacher with the intention of using it as a choreography track. The intimate song transformed the budding artist into an overnight sensation that led to an Interscope record deal that year.

From there, Eilish released her stunning 2017 debut EP, Don't Smile at Me. The trajectory continued at a whirlwind pace with 2019's debut album, WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? and her 2021 follow-up, Happier Than Ever, both of which topped the Billboard 200 chart. The albums' successes made her an award show darling, and in 2020, she became only the second artist and first woman to win all four General Field Categories (Album Of The Year, Record Of The Year, Song Of The Year, and Best New Artist) at just 18 years old. As of press time, Eilish has nine GRAMMY Awards and 25 nominations. And at her current age of 22, she's still only just getting started.

The singer may have emerged onto the scene with a subdued voice, but what a red herring that was. Eilish has been a force to be reckoned with from the start, and this edition of Songbook celebrates each chapter of her shape-shifting career thus far, including her recently launched HIT ME HARD AND SOFT era. 

Below, dive into Eilish's music highlights — from her personal projects to soundtrack masterpieces — that have laid the foundation for her growing longevity.

The Melancholic Songstress

Don't Smile at Me (2017)

Don't Smile at Me is a perfectly blunt way to sum up teen angst. With signature songs like the teary "ocean eyes" and the equally earnest ballad "idontwannabeyouanymore," the eight-track project showcased Eilish's propensity for transforming moodiness into art. 

The EP navigated themes of depression and heartbreak, which were funneled through lyrics seemingly ripped out of Eilish's diary. That refreshing intimacy is what makes her such a revered artist, and Don't Smile at Me provided just a glimpse into what her sound would grow into.

WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? (2019)

Depression can often feel like one is drowning in a bottomless pool, and Eilish doubled down on that heaviness with her debut album, WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? The lyrics were pulled from Eilish's nightmares and bouts with depression, and with the help of her brother FINNEAS' production and co-writing pen, it all came to life like a wicked horror film. 

If the album is a night terror, then "bad guy" is the sleep paralysis demon smirking in the bedroom corner. It might be the poppiest of WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP's singles (it even spawned a remix featuring one of Eilish's idols, Justin Bieber), but the balance of the zany electro and claims of being the "Make-your-girlfriend-mad type/ Might-seduce-your-dad type" shows this flavor of pop is not the bubblegum kind. Other highlights — The Office samples dotted throughout, the eerie taunts of "you should see me in a crown" and "bury a friend," and even an ASMR-worthy Invisalign intro — made the album a thrilling exploration of Eilish's unconventional artistry.

Happier Than Ever (2021)

After WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? saw Eilish in a living nightmare, Happier Than Ever found her confronting those demons — and as a result, feeling and sounding much lighter. Sporting a Marilyn Monroe-esque blonde bob at the time (a complete 180 from her black and electric lime-colored locks), the album presented an even more vulnerable artist. Eilish's overnight success not only came with a tireless music industry demanding more hits from her, but also stalkers, toxic relationships and social media-fueled misogyny — and she addressed all of it on Happier Than Ever.

"Things I once enjoyed just keep me employed now," she grieves on the "Getting Older" opener, coming to terms with the reality of being a pop star. The vulnerability continues with songs like "Not My Responsibility," a response to people constantly dissecting and sexualizing her body; the trip-hop "NDA," which finds Eilish pleading for privacy; and the boisterous title track that sees Eilish belting for the first time. Happier Than Ever wasn't the typical coming-of-age moment that we're used to. But it was born out of an ugly truth, which is an admirable endeavor for an artist who hadn't even reached her twenties. 

HIT ME HARD AND SOFT (2024)

HIT ME HARD AND SOFT almost plays like a "Best of Billie" album, highlighting her award-winning sonic tropes and guiding them into new, expansive territories. She heavily plays on the concept of her third album's title, with both tender ballads and heart-pounding uptempos. 

She also celebrates the menacing teen version of the Billie Eilish many were first introduced to on WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? Only this time, she's even more confident in her artistry; her vocals are the strongest they've ever been, as heard on "BIRDS OF A FEATHER" and "THE GREATEST." There's a beautiful maturity that envelopes HIT ME HARD AND SOFT, making it even more exciting to see how else she'll experiment with this album era.

The Big-Screen Auteur

13 Reasons Why (2017)

Eilish's music is as cinematic as it's poetic, so it's not surprising that she's established herself as a soundtrack queen. Her first foray was for Netflix's hit series "13 Reasons Why," which aired just before Eilish's debut EP release, making it the perfect pairing. The singer contributed the flippant song "Bored" to the series' first season, showcasing the ballad brilliance that was to come from the rising star.

Roma (2018)

Water plays a big part in the critically acclaimed Roma — a feature that's also frequent in Eilish's own music videos, and she further heightened that inspiration for the film's soundtrack highlight, "When I Was Older." With her voice sounding submerged under water, the singer and FINNEAS create a chilling atmosphere that reflects the characters' turmoil. Roma ended up becoming an Oscar-winning film, a not-so-subtle foreshadowing of what would happen to Eilish's own career soon after.

No Time To Die (2020)

The James Bond theme songs often have a somber tone, so it made sense for Eilish to join the likes of Adele and Sam Smith as a contributor. "No Time To Die" is as beautiful as it is haunting, with the singer's voice bellowing with the sweeping orchestra. The song owned awards season, scoring a GRAMMY for Best Song Written For Visual Media and Best Original Song trophies from the Academy Awards, Golden Globe Awards and more.

Euphoria (2021)

Both Eilish and Rosalía make achingly tender music, and the Spanish singer led Eilish to new, atmospheric heights with Euphoria's "Lo Vas a Olvidar." The song was first previewed in the trailer for Jules' special episode, then was later played in a vulnerable scene where the character reveals how much her girlfriend Rue's relapsing affected her. The pained lyrics ("Tell me if you still miss me / Tell me if you still don't forgive me / What will you do with all this poison?") reflects Jules' heartache. "Lo Vas a Olvidar" marked the first time Eilish sang in Spanish, making her harmonies with Rosalía even more elegiac.

Turning Red (2022)

Under Eilish's edgy demeanor is a pure pop fan, so it was fitting that she teamed up with Pixar to contribute three songs to their Turning Red film. The singer and FINNEAS wrote "Nobody Like U," "U Know What's Up" and "1 True Love," all songs performed by a fictional boy band, 4*Town, a nod to boy bands of the late '90s and early aughts. 

Eilish had made playful songs in the past, but these tunes traded her signature cynical undertone for more nostalgic fun, further revealing her pop versatility. "Writing the songs has literally been the most fun we've had writing," Eilish shared during a Disney press run. "Mei and her friends' passion for 4*Town, it really resonated with me just because I was the same. It's so accurate of how it feels when you're that kind of fan."

Barbie (2023)

Last summer's Barbie was a mammoth at the box office and the charts, partly thanks to Eilish's soundtrack contribution. Reverting back to her teary-eyed ballads, "What Was I Made For?" summarizes the film's central theme of navigating life as a woman in a misogynistic world. 

The beautifully painful tune resonated in and outside of the film, earning an Academy Award for Best Original Song and two GRAMMY Awards for Song of the Year and Best Song Written for Visual Media in 2024. The accolades marked another history-defining moment for Eilish: "What Was I Made For?" became just the tenth song in history to win both an Academy Award for Best Original Song and a GRAMMY for Song Of The Year.

The Poignant Performer

Tours

The bombastic production in Eilish's music practically begs for an audience, so it's bound to be electrifying whenever she hits the stage. She began small in 2017 with the 11-show dont smile at me tour — her first headlining trek — but quickly expanded to arenas. 

She truly hit her stride with 2022's Happier Than Ever, The World Tour. Keeping the staging minimal while sporting her signature baggy looks, she let her vocals (and some electrifying strobe lights) command the attention. Her energy never falters throughout the nearly two-hour long show and neither does the audience, who lovingly shout every single lyric. And it won't be long before she brings HIT ME HARD AND SOFT to the stage — the tour (her seventh) kicks off Sept. 29 in Québec, Canada.

Award Shows

Eilish's fan base goes far beyond the hyper teenagers who flood her concerts. The singer's award show performances also reveal how much her peers admire her. 

With nine GRAMMY wins under her belt, Eilish's GRAMMY performances over the years have helped prove why she's earned them. Following her stage debut in 2020, she returned the following year to perform the Record Of The Year-winning "everything I wanted" as fellow nominees Black Pumas and Harry Styles cheered her on in the crowd. The singer's thunderous "Happier Than Ever" performance received equally roaring applause. 

Eilish reminded of her vocal prowess and ethereal stage presence at both the GRAMMYs and Oscars this year, delivering delicate renditions of "What Was I Made For?" with just FINNEAS and a piano for each show. As those performances displayed, relatability and heightened emotion — as seen with other award show performances, like the cinematic version of "No Time To Die" at the 2022 Oscars and the fiery "all the good girls go to hell" at the 2019 American Music Awards — are what make Eilish's performances so unforgettable.

Concert Film

Eilish transported the vulnerability and intimacy of Happier Than Ever to the silver screen for 2021's GRAMMY-nominated Happier Than Ever: A Love Letter to Los Angeles concert film. As its title suggests, the film sees Eilish (a native Angeleno) paying homage to her hometown with a performance at the Hollywood Bowl — even performing alongside the Los Angeles Children's Chorus, which she grew up singing in. 

But the concert film also addresses the pressures of fame like Happier Than Ever the album did. There's a stark contrast between the Eilish on stage, who is seemingly comforted by the lack of an audience inside the Hollywood Bowl, and an animated version of the star, who drives past Happier Than Ever billboards before arriving at a premiere with an overwhelming number of fans and flashing cameras. The film is more than a tribute to her hometown — it shows Eilish coming to terms with her own stardom.

Festivals

As Eilish's star status has ascended, so has her name on festival lineups. Just like her own tours, she gives it her all for these performances, many of which become career-defining moments. 

She first emerged on the scene at SXSW in 2017 and appeared at one of Lollapalooza's smaller stages the following year. But the budding star quickly rose among the ranks, securing bigger stages at festivals like Tyler the Creator's Camp Flog Knaw and Reading & Leeds. She officially graduated in the festival sphere in 2022 when she headlined Coachella and Glastonbury, making her the youngest headliner in the latter's festival history; she's since headlined Coachella, several iterations of Lollapalooza, and even recently became the latest Fortnite Festival headliner. 

Eilish had another full-circle moment at Coachella 2024, when Lana Del Rey — one of Eilish's biggest influences — brought her out as a surprise guest. The pair performed Eilish's "ocean eyes" and Lana's "Video Games," a fitting pairing as fans have often drawn comparisons between the two tracks. "This is the voice of a generation!" Del Rey exclaimed to the crowd following the duets. She might be onto something.

The Visionary

"When The Party's Over" (2018)

Music videos play an integral role in Eilish's artistry, helping to set a visual stage for her narrative lyrics, with many of her videos connecting with each other. The video for the somber piano ballad "when the party's over" wasn't her first, but it officially exhibited the shock factor that she's now known for. 

Arriving a few months before WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?, the video shows the then blue-haired singer drinking a cup of black goo, which soon pours from her tear ducts, a visual that was inspired by a drawing gifted by a fan. The video was released a week before Halloween, making it a ghoulish holiday treat for Eilish fans.

"Bury A Friend" (2019)

The singer brought her debut album's nightmarish themes to life for "bury a friend." The video — reminiscent of films and series like The Exorcist, American Horror Story: Asylum and The Haunting of Hill House — accentuates the song's spookiness with dead eyes and needles pierced into Eilish's back. As she told Rolling Stone at the time, it's a visual representation of "honing in on people's fears," a concept that has remained in Eilish's visuals to this day; she continues to face her own fear of water, as seen on HIT ME HARD AND SOFT's submerged album cover.

"Bad Guy" (2019)

"bad guy" may be the singer's most colorful music video to date, but don't let that fool you. Eilish's signature edgy tropes still remain intact — from her bloody nose, to decapitated heads in plastic bags, to the dimly lit crimson bedroom amplifying the trap-inspired switch at the song's end. In between those scenes, though, she pops out her Invisalign before going on a mini-cart joyride, proving that her personality can be just as goofy as it is moody. 

"All The Good Girls Go To Hell" (2019)

The "all the good girls go to hell" video picks up from where "bury a friend" left off, suggesting that Eilish's music isn't just meant to be listened to as standalone singles. Rather, there's intentional connective tissue that is revealed in her videos. 

The syringes injected into Eilish's back gave her 25-foot-long white wings; she dramatically falls from the sky and into a black tar pit. She walks through a grim town while leaving a trail of oil behind her, causing fires to ignite with each step. A big advocate for climate change awareness, Eilish used "all the good girls go to hell" visual to show that her creative vision can spread important messages, too. 

"Happier Than Ever" (2021)

The title track of Eilish's sophomore album, Happier Than Ever, instantly became a fan favorite due to its contrasting two parts, beginning tender and soulful before lashing out into an alternative rock banger. The singer maintained the thrilling transition for the self-directed video, which showcases her knack for visual storytelling. 

The video starts off with Eilish in a vintage-looking room before the lights begin to flicker. She then opens a door that fills the room with water, mimicking the track's flood of emotions. With a powerful song and video like this, she's clearly taken some cinematic tips from her film experiences.

"What Was I Made For?" (2023)

Barbie soundtrack highlight "What Was I Made For?" is a tender hug for women everywhere, including Eilish herself. The singer directed the accompanying video, which shows her donning a '50s-inspired Barbie look as she reflects on the past. 

Sitting at a school desk, she hangs up miniature versions of her own outfits, including looks from videos like "Bellyache" and "bad guy" and the Gucci get-up she wore for her history-making night at the 2020 GRAMMYs. The video was a cleansing of sorts, as Eilish closed a chapter of her career before entering a new one with this year's HIT ME HARD AND SOFT. Though her first video for her third album era — the '90s VHS-inspired "LUNCH" — showed more of her playful side, Eilish has certainly proven that she has plenty more tricks up her sleeve.

All Things Billie Eilish

Billie Eilish in Brooklyn, New York in May 2024
Billie Eilish at the 'HIT ME HARD AND SOFT' release party in Brooklyn, New York on May 15, 2024.

Photo: Arturo Holmes/Getty Images for ABA

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Billie Eilish Fully Embraces Herself On 'Hit Me Hard And Soft': 5 Takeaways From The New Album

On her third album, Billie Eilish returns to "the girl that I was" — and as a result, 'HIT ME HARD AND SOFT' celebrates all of the weird, sexual, beautiful, vulnerable parts of her artistry.

GRAMMYs/May 17, 2024 - 07:50 pm

Billie Eilish has never been one to shy away from her feelings. In fact, she doubles down on them.

Since her debut EP, 2017's Don't Smile At Me, the pop star has held listeners' hands as she guides them through the darkest pages of her diary. The EP found a teenage Eilish navigating heartbreak while her blockbuster debut album, WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? — which swept the General Field Categories (Album Of The Year, Record Of The Year, Song Of The Year and Best New Artist) at the 2020 GRAMMYs — was a chilling and raw look into her depression-fueled nightmares. And 2021's Happier Than Ever had her confronting misogyny and the weight of fame.

She could have easily succumbed to the pop star pressures for her third studio album, HIT ME HARD AND SOFT, out today (May 17). Instead, she reverts to her sonic safe space: creating intimate melodies with her brother and day-one collaborator, FINNEAS. Only this time, the lyrics are more mature and the production is more ambitious.

"This whole process has felt like I'm coming back to the girl that I was. I've been grieving her," Eilish told Rolling Stone about how HIT ME HARD AND SOFT revisited elements of WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? "I've been looking for her in everything, and it's almost like she got drowned by the world and the media. I don't remember when she went away."

Here are five takeaways from Billie Eilish's new album, HIT ME HARD AND SOFT, where Old Billie is resuscitated and comforted by New Billie. 

Heartbreaking Ballads Are Her Sweet Spot

Tenderness remains at Eilish's core, and it's beautifully highlighted on HIT ME HARD AND SOFT. Despite her love for eccentric electro-pop beats, ballads have always been the singer's strong suit. After she first displayed that in her debut single, 2015's "ocean eyes," Eilish won two GRAMMYs and an Oscar for her delicate Barbie soundtrack standout, "What Was I Made For?" — and the magic of her melancholic balladry returned on the new album.

HIT ME's album opener, "SKINNY," mimics the self-reflection of Happier Than Ever's "Getting Older" opener, where she painfully sings about Hollywood's body image standards. "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," she muses. 

"WILDFLOWER" cuts in the album's center like a knife to the chest. Eilish's comparisons to a lover's ex-girlfriend are devastating over a bare piano melody — the simplest production on the LP: "You say no one knows you so well/ But every time you touch me, I just wonder how she felt."

HIT ME Isn't Afraid To Get A Little Weird

What makes Eilish so intriguing is her effortless balance between misery and mischief. On lead single "LUNCH," the singer/songwriter taps into the playful attitude of WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? smash "bad guy."

Over an upbeat and kooky production, she lets her carnal fantasies about devouring a woman run wild. The fantasies continue on "THE DINER," with Eilish stepping into the stalker mindset that may be inspired by her own life (she was granted a five-year restraining order against an alleged stalker last year). "I came in through the kitchen lookin' for something to eat/ I left a calling card so they would know that it was me," she winks on the chorus.

She Lays The "Whisper Singing" Criticism To Rest

Eilish's subdued voice has been chided as much as it's been lauded. She first gave naysayers the middle finger on Happier Than Ever's title track, nearly screaming in the song's latter half. On her latest album, she showcases her range even further, from bold belts to delicate falsettos.

The gauzy synths and vocal yearning of "BIRDS OF A FEATHER" is the perfect summer anthem, soundtracking the feeling of kissing your lover as the salty Los Angeles breeze runs through your hair. On the second half of "THE GREATEST," she unleashes a wail-filled fury. 

"HIT ME HARD AND SOFT was really the first time that I was aware of the things that I could do, the ways I could play with my voice, and actually did that," she recently told NPR Music. "That's one thing I feel very proud of with this album — my bravery, vocally."

Her Vulnerability Hasn't Waned

Eilish is quite the paradox, as her superpower is her emotional fragility. Her music has doubled as confessionals since the beginning of her career, and that relatable vulnerability threads HIT ME together. Despite its lighthearted nature, "LUNCH" marks the first time the singer has discussed her sexuality in a song.

"That song was actually part of what helped me become who I am, to be real," Eilish told  Rolling Stone of "LUNCH." "I wrote some of it before even doing anything with a girl, and then wrote the rest after. I've been in love with girls for my whole life, but I just didn't understand — until, last year, I realized I wanted my face in a vagina. I was never planning on talking about my sexuality ever, in a million years. It's really frustrating to me that it came up."

Then there's "SKINNY," which is a raw insight into how much social media's discussions of her body and fame affected her. "When I step off the stage, I'm a bird in a cage/ I'm a dog in a dog pound," she sings. "BLUE," the album's closer, finds Eilish accepting her state of post-breakup sorrow: "I'd like to mean it when I say I'm over you, but that's still not true."

FINNEAS Has Unlocked A New Production Level

FINNEAS — Eilish's brother, producer and confidant — has grown as much as his younger sister since they first began creating music together. He continues to challenge himself both lyrically and sonically to excitedly push Eilish to her creative limits. He explores a myriad of sounds on the album, with many playing like a two-for-one genre special. Named after Studio Ghibli's Spirited Away heroine, the glittery melody and thumping bassline on "CHIHIRO" transport you into an anime video game. 

The first half of "L'AMOUR DE MA VIE" is deceptively simple with its plucking acoustic guitar strings, but soon finds itself under the glare of a disco ball with Eilish's vocals funneled through a vocoder. "BITTERSUITE" is arguably the best reflection of Finneas' experimentation: it starts out with Daft Punk-esque synths before dragging itself across a grim, bass-heavy floor. Then, it crawls into cheeky elevator music territory before ending with an alien-like taunt.

HIT ME HARD AND SOFT is begging to be played live, as seen with fans' raucous reactions after the singer's listening parties at Brooklyn's Barclays Center and Los Angeles' Kia Forum. Fortunately for fans in North America, Australia and Europe, it won't be long before she brings the album to life — HIT ME HARD AND SOFT: THE TOUR  kicks off on Sept. 29 in Québec, Canada.

All Things Billie Eilish

Zayn
Zayn Malik attends the Valentino Menswear Fall/Winter 2024-2025 show as part of Paris Fashion Week on January 20, 2024 in Paris, France

Photo: Marc Piasecki/WireImage via Getty Images

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New Music Friday: Listen To Songs & Albums From Zayn, The Avett Brothers, Bebe Rexha & More

As Billie Eilish fans rejoice over the release of her latest album, they're not the only fandom jamming new tunes on May 17. Check out new music from Maria Becerra, Saweetie, Galantis, and more.

GRAMMYs/May 17, 2024 - 04:12 pm

As music fans know, Friday is the official weekday of new releases — but this week began with a bang.

On Monday, May 13, Donald Glover, aka Childish Gambino, released Atavista, a "finished" version of his 2020 album, 3.15.20. Back then, he released a nascent version of said album on his website, before pulling it down and uploading it to streaming services the following week, with guest appearances by Ariana Grande, 21 Savage and more.

Happily, the finished product retains those inspired guest appearances, over polished and honed versions of the original tunes. With the release of Atavista, Glover released a music video for "Little Foot Big Foot," featuring Young Nudy. He also promised special vinyl with visuals for each song, as well as an all-new Childish Gambino album due this summer.

And before Friday even hit, two country superstars also delivered exciting new tracks. Also on May 13, Lainey Wilson unleashed "Hang Tight Honey," the first single from her forthcoming third album, Whirlwind, out August 23. Three days later, Luke Combs released "Ain't No Love In Oklahoma," the lead track from TWISTERS: THE ALBUM. (Arriving July 19, the soundtrack will feature a number of other country greats, from Miranda Lambert to Shania Twain to Jelly Roll.) 

Today, there are plenty of other musical delicacies to savor. One of the most prominent is Billie Eilish's hotly anticipated third album, HIT ME HARD AND SOFT. Also, Puerto Rican rap star Álvaro Díaz's SAYONARA; American singer/songwriter Sasha Alex Sloan's Me Again; and 1D star Zayn's ROOM UNDER THE STAIRS have been unveiled. Even renowned actress Kate Hudson has also joined the musical ranks, releasing her debut album, Glorious.

Veterans, too, are stepping out with fresh offerings. Psych-tinged retro rockers Cage the Elephant are back with their first album in five years, Neon Pill. Slash released Orgy of the Damned, an album of mostly blues covers featuring guests from Gary Clark Jr. to Iggy Pop to Demi Lovato. On the opposite side of the coin, boy band pioneers New Kids on the Block return with Still Kids, their first album in 11 years, featuring guests DJ Jazzy Jeff and Taylor Dayne.

Still, that doesn't even begin to cover the trove of new songs delivered on May 17. Omar Apollo, Peggy Gou and HARDY released tracks from upcoming albums, and Russ (feat. 6LACK), Charlotte Cardin and T-Pain released inspired singles. What other treasures have this Friday wrought? Check the below list for albums and tunes to add to your weekend playlist!

The Avett Brothers — The Avett Brothers

With their previous album, back in 2019, Americana favorites the Avett Brothers declared they were Closer Than Together. Now, they're back with a self-titled album, and a return to their original label, Ramseur Records.

But that's just one way they're circling back to their roots; the Rick Rubin-produced The Avett Brothers returns to burning-rubber vocals; sturdy, folkloric melodies; and lovelorn lyrics. If those are your bag, don't miss tracks like "Love of a Girl," "Orion's Belt" and "Same Broken Bones."

Bebe Rexha, "Chase It (Mmm Da Da Da)"

Bebe Rexha's last album was 2023's Bebe, but this phenom of a pop singer/songwriter is already back with new music. Get warmed up for the impending summer sun with "Chase It (Mmm Da Da Da)," complete with a rip-roaring video.

The four-time GRAMMY nominee debuted her latest banger in the desert sands of Coachella 2024; if you're ready for the swooping, thumping official version, chase it down today. 

Meaningfully, "Chase It (Mmm Da Da Da)" marks Rexha's first solo dance track after numerous collaborations with electronic acts; she even earned back-to-back GRAMMY nods in 2023 and 2024 for jams concocted with David Guetta, and her only other release of 2024 so far was a collab with Brazilian DJ Alok.

Galantis, Rx

We haven't gotten a new album from the beloved Swedish EDM duo Galantis in a hot minute; that just changed. Though they has released two albums since 2015's Pharmacy — 2017's The Aviary and 2020's Church — Galantis' latest album is a direct successor to their game-changing debut. Behold, the aptly titled Rx.

Running the gamut from ethereal textures to electrifying, pulsing rhythms, Rx directly reckons with Galantis's now-sole member Christian Karlsson's ADHD, and how medication was a game-changer in his life and work.

"Pharmacy was when I knew I was neurodivergent and I knew the studio was like a pharmacy for me," Karlsson stated in a press release. "I was the patient. Rx is when I found medication. For me, it was key, but of course, everyone walks their own path."

Saweetie — "NANi"

Before Saweetie officially released "NANi," she had been teasing the track all week long. On May 11, at the 2024 Gold Gala, an annual gathering of top Asian Pacific and multicultural leaders, the rapper (who has Filipino and Chinese roots) told Billboard, "NANi' is that girl. 'NANi' is main character energy." And on Instagram, as part of the cover art reveal for the single, she declared, "We gon' fkkk up the Summer."

She certainly will. The poolside-partying, Smirnoff-plugging video lives up to a YouTube commenter's adroit description: "It's giving Barbie and Bratz royalty!" Will it be part of Pretty Bitch Music, the album she's been teasing (and honing) for years? Time will tell.

Warren Zeiders — "Betrayal"

Warren Zeiders staked his claim with his 2021 debut single, "Ride the Lightning"; now, he's got a stormcloud overhead. The uber-moody "Betrayal" makes no bones about its subject: "This isn't how I pictured you and I/ Smile in my face while you twist the knife/ Shame on me if you fool me twice/ You fooled me twice."

As unremittingly bleak as the lyrics are, though, the budding country star's melody lets the light in. What an alchemy: the more Zeiders bemoans being chapfallen and frustrated, the lap steel-laced music evermore swoops and sparkles.

María Becerra — "IMAN (Two of Us)"

Once a YouTuber, and now an urbano sensation, bubbly Argentine singer María Becerra is back with a four-on-the-floor stomper. The somewhat Dua Lipa-tinted "IMAN (Two of Us)" is a delight, as is its candy-coated video, where Becerra cavorts and romances through a surreal art exhibit.

Her new album, MB3*, is expected sometime in 2024; it should also include tunes like "Slow it Down," "Do You (feat. 24kGoldn)" and "Agora." Let the earworm "IMAN" slake your thirst in the meantime.

Zayn — ROOM UNDER THE STAIRS

Boy band acolytes will always long for the return of One Direction, who have been on hiatus since 2016. But in the meantime, their solo work just keeps getting sweeter. Following a three-year intermission, Zayn released ROOM UNDER THE STAIRS; for him, this music cuts to the quick of who he is.

"I think the intention behind this album fully is ​​for the listener to get more insight on me personally as a human being," Zayn explained in an Instagram post. "My ambitions, my fears, and for them to have a connection with that and that's why it's so raw. It's just me."

Taking six years to get right, and marking a return to Mercury Records, ROOM UNDER THE STAIRS is an unmistakable sonic and thematic evolution for the One Direction star. As with the other selections on this list, it's right on time for spring — let the songs of the season help you flourish, too.

New Music Friday: Listen To Songs From Megan Thee Stallion, Camila Cabello & Lil Nas X, BTS' RM & More

AAPI Month Playlist 2024 Hero
(From left) ATEEZ, YOASOBI, Peggy Gou, Kanon of Atarashi Gakko!, Diljit Dosanjh, Laufey

Photos: KQ Entertainment; KATO SHUMPEI; Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images; Medios y Media/Getty Images; Presley Ann/Getty Images for Coachella; Lauren Kim

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Leap Into AAPI Month 2024 With A Playlist Featuring Laufey, Diljit Dosanjh, & Peggy Gou

Celebrate AAPI artists this May with a genre-spanning playlist spotlighting festival headliners and up-and-coming musicians. From Korean hip-hop to Icelandic jazz-pop, listen to some of the most exciting artists from the Asian diaspora.

GRAMMYs/May 1, 2024 - 02:47 pm

With spring just around the corner, it’s time to welcome AAPI Month in full blossom. From rising musical artists to inspiring community leaders, it’s essential to recognize AAPI members of the artistic world and their achievements.

While AAPI Month is a U.S. holiday, the Recording Academy takes a global approach in celebrating artists and creators from across the Asian and Asian American diaspora. This aligns with the Recording Academy's growing mission to expand its reach on a global scale and celebrate international creators outside of the U.S.  

Musicians of Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander heritage have not only helped establish the music industry, but have transformed it. From Diljit Dosanjh being the first artist to play a Coachella set entirely in Punjabi to Laufey winning a GRAMMY for her jazz-inspired pop, AAPI artists continue to influence music by both honoring tradition and reshaping modern standards.

It’s thrilling to see AAPI musicians continue to take centerstage — from Atarashi Gakko! to Tiger JK’s memorable sets at Coachella, to surprise appearances from Olivia Rodrigo, Dominic Fike, and Towa Bird. As festival season gets underway, examples of the AAPI starpower from every corner of the world abound.

As one of many ways to celebrate AAPI Month, listen to the GRAMMY.com playlist below — as a reminder to give AAPI musicians not just their May flowers, but their flowers all year-round!