meta-scriptSong Of The Year Nominees Revealed | 2020 GRAMMY Awards | GRAMMY.com

news

Song Of The Year Nominees Revealed | 2020 GRAMMY Awards

Songs by Lady Gaga, Billie Eilish, Tanya Tucker, H.E.R., Taylor Swift, Lana Del Rey, Lewis Capaldi and Lizzo all receive nominations

GRAMMYs/Nov 20, 2019 - 06:38 pm

The 2019 GRAMMYs are just around the corner, and now the nominations are in for the coveted honor of Song Of The Year. While we'll have to wait until the 62nd GRAMMY Awards air on CBS on Jan. 26 to find out who will win, let's take a look at which songs have been nominated for one of the most anticipated GRAMMY Awards each year.

"Always Remember Us This Way" (Performed by Lady Gaga)

<iframe width="620" height="349" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/5vheNbQlsyU" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe>

This piano-laden gem from "A Star Is Born" (and its soundtrack of the same name) was famously performed by the film's star Lady Gaga. It's written by Lady Gaga, Natalie Hemby, Hillary Lindsey, and Lori McKenna, and produced by Dave Cobb and Lady Gaga.

Last year at the 61st GRAMMY Awards Gaga won more "A Star Is Born" gold, including the Best Pop/Dup Performance GRAMMY for "Shallow" and Best Song Written For Visual Media for the same song.

"Bad Guy" (Performed by Billie Eilish)

<iframe width="620" height="349" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/DyDfgMOUjCI" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Co-written by pop wunderkind Billie Eilish and her brother Finneas, "Bad Guy" is the fifth single from Eilish's debut, WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? It reached number one on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and famously ended the record-breaking 19-week run of "Old Town Road" by Lil Nas X featuring Billy Ray Cyrus.

"All I can say about that is I just don't even get it," Eilish told the Recording Academy of her rising success last year at Lollapalooza. It's just crazy to me because I grew up as a fan and I still am a fan, you know. I'm a fan of so much music and art and artists and stuff, and I grew up with their sort of mindset, and now, I'm seeing it from the other side, but also, being on the other side, it's weird. It's just something that doesn't happen, so when it happens, it's like, 'What the f***?'"

"Bring My Flowers Now" (Performed By Tanya Tucker)

<iframe width="620" height="349" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/sCnAyFCDFdU" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe>

10-time GRAMMY nominee Tanya Tucker co-wrote this slow-burning country ballad with Brandi Carlile and the Hanseroth twins in the studio during the recording of Tucker's 25th studio album, While I’m Livin‘. The last time Tucker was nominated for a GRAMMY was in the early '90s, at the 36th GRAMMY Awards, where she earned nods in the country categories for "Soon" and "Romeo."

Check out the complete 62nd GRAMMYs Awards Nominees List

"Hard Place" (Performed by H.E.R.)

<iframe width="620" height="349" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/zfHbuTG8IHE" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe>

"Hard Place" is taken from H.E.R.'s EP I Used to Know Her: Part 2, which dropped last November via RCA Records. Last year, at the 61st GRAMMY Awards, the perma-shaded artist earned five nominations, including one for Best New Artist. She also won Best R&B Album for her compilation album H.E.R., as well as Best R&B Performance for "Best Part."

"Lover" (Performed by Taylor Swift)

<iframe width="620" height="349" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/-BjZmE2gtdo" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Taylor Swift's heartfelt "Lover" appears on her seventh studio album of the same name, which she produced with superproducer Jack Antonoff. 

The 10-time GRAMMY winning pop behemoth is one of only two female solo artists, along with Adele, to win Album Of The Year twice for her solo recordings. She won the award for 2010 for Fearless and again for 2015 for 1989. The singer/songwriter made her GRAMMY performance debut at the 51st GRAMMY Awards in 2009, performing "Fifteen" with Miley Cyrus.

"Norman F***ing Rockwell" (Performed by Lana Del Rey)

"Norman F***ing Rockwell" appears on Lana Del Rey's sixth studio album of the same name, which came out this year and is nominated this year for Album Of The Year. The title track was written and produced by Del Rey and Jack Antonoff. Del Rey has four GRAMMY noms under her belt, the most recent being Best Pop Vocal Album for Lust For Life at the 60th GRAMMY Awards.

"Someone You Loved" (performed by Lewis Capaldi)

<iframe width="620" height="349" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/bCuhuePlP8o" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Piano ballad "Someone You Loved" is a song by Scottish singer-songwriter Lewis Capaldi. It was first featured on his second EP, Breach (2018), and later turned up on his debut, Divinely Uninspired To A Hellish Extent (2019). The song is written by Capaldi, Samuel Romans and producers Thomas Barnes, Peter Kelleher and Benjamin Kohn.

"Truth Hurts" (Performed by Lizzo)

<iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/P00HMxdsVZI" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Originally released in September 2017, "Truth Hurts" (written by Lizzo, Jesse Saint John, Tele and Ricky Reed) found new life in 2019 after going viral on TikTok. The song is included as a bonus track on the deluxe edition of Lizzo's acclaimed third album Cuz I Love You and reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100.

Check Out The Full List Of 62nd GRAMMY Awards Nominations

Leon Michels, center, poses with Black Thought, Kirby and members of El Michels Affair backstage at "The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon."
Leon Michels, center, poses with Black Thought, Kirby and members of El Michels Affair backstage at "The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon."

Photo: Rosalind O'Connor/NBC via Getty Images

interview

Behind Leon Michels' Hits: From Working With The Carters & Aloe Blacc, To Creating Clairo's New Album

Multi-instrumentalist turned GRAMMY-nominated producer Leon Michels has had a hand in a wide range of pop and hip-hop music. Read on for the stories behind his smash hits with Norah Jones, Black Thought, Kalis Uchis, Aloe Blacc, and others.

GRAMMYs/May 27, 2024 - 03:17 pm

A child of New York’s ultra-niche soul revival scene of the early 2000s, multi-instrumentalis turned producer Leon Michels has had an extensive reach into global pop music. As both producer and session man, Michels has worked with the Carters, Norah Jones, Black Thought, the Black Keys, Kalis Uchis, and Aloe Blacc — to name a few.

He has held to a specific creative vision for more than two decades, first through his heavily sampled El Michels Affair projects and a healthy schedule of releases through Truth & Soul records and later, Big Crown, the label he co-founded with DJ Danny Akalepse in 2016. He runs a studio in upstate New York called the Diamond Mine North, where he does most of his work since relocating from New York City in 2017. He has two GRAMMY nominations to his name, for Mary J. Blige’s Good Morning Gorgeous and Lizzo’s Special.

Trained originally on piano, he took up drums and eventually saxophone through the guidance of his high school music teacher, Miss Leonard. "[She] is actually the person I owe it all to. She started this jazz band when I was in fifth grade, and there's no drummer, so she asked me if I would learn drums," he tells GRAMMY.com. "I did that, and she would give me Duke Ellington cassettes, Sydney Bichet, Johnny Hodges. She would just feed me music."

Daptone Records co-founder Gabe Roth recruited and mentored Michels while he was still in high school, and the teenager soon became a regular touring member of what would become the Dap-Kings, backing singer Sharon Jones during an early run of success in the mid-2000s. " I joined Sharon Jones when it was the Soul Providers. We went on tour in Europe with them. Somehow my parents let me do it. I don't even understand. Gabe came over and sweet-talked them."

Michels left the group in 2006 after seven intense years, wanting to spend more time recording than enduring the grind of touring. His chosen timing caused him to miss out by mere "months" on the group’s recording sessions for Amy Winehouse’s four-time GRAMMY winner Back To Black. Despite what appeared to be a major missed opportunity, he turned his focus to his group El Michels Affair after initial encouragement from the 2005 album Sounding Out The City, released on Truth & Soul, the label he had co-founded. 

Finding his inspiration in the intersections of soul and hip-hop, as a fully committed instrumentalist producer, he was able to develop an analog soundscape that quickly caught the ears of artists including Raekwon and other Wu-Tang Clan alumni, with whom he toured in 2008. This led to the follow-up album Enter The 37th Chamber in 2009. Samples from El Michels Affair, including those by Ghostface Killah, Jay-Z, Just Blaze, J. Cole, and Travis Scott quickly proliferated and opened doors. Via the Lee Fields album My World, Michels' work caught the attention of Dan Auerbach, with whom he and his longtime collaborator and bassist Nick Movshon toured from 2010 to 2012.

Producing the Aloe Blacc song "I Need A Dollar" in 2010 further enhanced his credentials and provided the financial stability to allow him to be true to his creative spirit, which he has done successfully over the last decade.

Leon Michels spoke to GRAMMY.com about some key career recordings, including his latest release with singer Clairo.

Clairo – "Sexy to Someone" (Charm, 2024)

I met Clairo almost three years ago. I made a record with her that took three years to complete, which is actually one of the longest stretches I've ever spent on a record.

She’s made two records before this. Her first record, Immunity, came out when she was 19. It's a pop record, and it was very successful. But she's a total music nerd like me. She’s constantly scouring the Internet for music. The way people, especially young people, ingest music these days is just insane. She's got great taste.

Her first record was super successful. She made her second record, Sling, with Jack Antonoff, and it was an ambitious folk record, and a huge departure from her first record. I think it caught her audience off guard, but it was kind of a perfect move because now she can make whatever she wants. 

When she came to me, I was excited but slightly confused. What do I do? Because in those situations, you think, well, I need to facilitate a successful pop record, but she just wanted all the weird s—.

It’s this cool mix of pop elements, but some of the music sounds like a Madlib sample. All of it is steeped in pretty cool references and older music, but her perspective is a 25-year-old’s, and she’s an incredible songwriter. It's a really cool mix.

Norah Jones - "Running"  (Visions, 2024)

Norah used to hit up me and Dave Guy, trumpet player in the Menahan Street Band and the Roots, if she needed horns.

As we were coming out of the pandemic, she hit me up and wanted to make some music. We made a few songs and then after that, she asked me to produce her Christmas record, which was super fun because I've never listened to Christmas music. I started to enjoy it, which was weird because I had thought I hated Christmas music. I mean, once you start to dig for Christmas records, pretty much all of your favorite artists have them. I was listening to Christmas music from March to October the entire year. 

After that, we made Visions, which is all original stuff. Norah's just so talented. Her musicianship is actually some of the most impressive I've ever seen or worked with. She's so good that when I play with her, I get intimidated and I forget basic harmony and music theory!

Read more: 5 Inspirations Behind Norah Jones' New Album 'Visions': Nightly Dreams, Collabs, Harmony Stacks & More

We cut that record,  mostly just the two of us. There's a couple of songs where we got a band, but most of it was in my upstate studio. She would just come over from nine to three. She would come after she dropped her kids at school and then have to leave to pick them up. It was super fun to make, essentially just jamming all day.

[Overall] it’s not a huge departure for Norah, but sonically it is a departure, and it's got this very loose, "un-precious" quality. That's maybe a little different from her other stuff.

"Running" was her choice as a single. When it comes to singles — the songs that have actually been most successful — I've wanted to take those off the record. I have no idea what's going to be the hit or not.

Black Thought - "Glorious Game" (Glorious Game, 2023)

That was a total pandemic record — at the start of the pandemic when everyone was completely locked in, we had no idea what was going on.

Black Thought texted me out of the blue, and I think he was just trying to stay busy. So he just said, "Can you send me songs?" I sent him maybe two songs and then he sent back finished verses three or four hours later. Most of that record was just me sending him s— and him sending it back, and then going like that. We had probably 20 songs. 

The time I did spend in the studio with him was, he's a total savant. He sits there while you're playing a song, and it kind of looks like he's on Instagram or f—ing around, you know what I mean? Does this guy even like this song? And then 45 minutes later, he’ll be like "Aight, ready." And he goes in there and, and he'll rap four pages of lyrics in one take. It's insane. He remembers everything;  we'll do a song and then three years later, he'll have to redo it, but he'll know the lyrics from memory.

There's a couple of things that I figured out on that record. One: The thing I love about sampled hip-hop production the most is it's almost always pitch-shifted, which makes a giant difference in the sound. And if the piano has decay or vocals have vibrato, when you pitch it up, it becomes something that is so uniquely hip-hop. The second thing was, with hip hop, one of the best parts about sampling is the choices a producer has to make when they are limited to chopping a two-track mix.  If you have multi-tracks, there are too many options. 

I think that record resonated with people who are hip-hop aficionados who really love the art of emceeing. 

Aloe Blacc - "I Need A Dollar" (Good Things, 2010)

We had just recorded the Lee Fields record, My World. Eothen Alapatt, who used to be a label manager at Now Again, was a friend of mine. [Jeff Silverman and I] started Truth & Soul, but we had no infrastructure. We thought My World would have a bigger reach if Stones Throw took care of the press and distribution. And so Eothen said "Yeah, we can do that, but instead of paying us, just make a record with this artist we have, Aloe Blacc."

I had no idea who he was. And so that was the business deal. We didn't get paid for the record initially. The payment was that they were going to promote Lee Fields record for us. So [Aloe] came to New York, and I did it with my partner at the time, Jeff Silverman, also Nick Movshon, who played on the entire record.

He wanted to do this Bill Withers thing. "I Need A Dollar" was probably my least favorite song on the record. I think I have this aversion to anything that's slightly cheesy, but I've gotten better at it. But at the end of the day, it's just a good song. It got picked up as the theme song to an HBO pilot called "How To Make It In America." And then, it just blew up in Europe. It was No. 1 everywhere. But it never hit in America.

It kind of set me off on a weird path for a minute, because I got a taste of success. And made some poor career decisions. I tried to a do lot of songwriting sessions with strangers.  It was maybe four years until I decided to just make El Michels Records.  

The Carters - "SUMMER" (EVERYTHING IS LOVE, 2018)

At the time, I was making these sample packs and sending them out to producers. One of them was this slow jam, and so the producers called me up and said "We used one of your samples. It's for a giant artist. We can't tell you who it is. You have to approve it now. And you can't hear it, but it's going to change your life." That’s what they kept saying to me. Then they said "It's coming out in two weeks."

So I figured they used one of my samples and chopped it up and did their thing to it.  And so when the record came out, it was Beyoncé and Jay-Z. It was the first track on that record they did together, the Carters. And it was mostly just my original sample with some new bass and string section. So basically it was just Beyoncé and Jay-Z over an El Michael's Affair track. The track was called "Summer," and my original never came out. 

So just hearing Beyoncé, hearing these giant pop voices that I associate with absolute hits, over my song, that was pretty cool.

Liam Bailey - "Dance With Me" (Zero Grace, 2023)

Me and him just have a very crazy chemistry when it comes to music, because it all happens super fast and with very little thought. Sometimes I'll listen to Liam's stuff, and I actually don't know how we did it. That is actually the goal. That’s why Lee "Scratch Perry" is the greatest producer of all time, because he could access that instant input, instant output type of creativity. It just passes through him and then it's on the record. Making music with Liam is like that; I'll make some instrumental, or I'll have an idea and then he'll freestyle lyrics one or two times.

To me, it sounds gibberish, but then he'll go through it and change one or two words and all of a sudden has this crazy narrative, and it's about his childhood [for example]. When I’ve worked with him, he has this same process where it's just kind of "hand to God" s—, just let it happen. I was trying to make something the way Jamaicans did, [like] that brand of Jamaican soul from the mid-'60s. 

Brainstory - "Peach Optimo" (Sounds Good, 2024)

I met those guys through Eduardo Arenas, who's the bass player from Chicano Batman, and he had recorded a couple of demos from them. And they had one song in particular that really caught my attention, which made it onto their first record called "Dead End."

They’re three jazz kids. Their dad was a gospel singer and loved soul and Stevie Wonder. So they grew up on all that stuff as well. Producing a band like Brainstory is super easy, because they rehearse all the time. Most of their songs are written; all I have to do is maybe shuffle around sections or just essentially cut stuff out. Because a lot of times when bands write music and rehearse every day, they just love to play, so sections are endless. 

I'll…have a sound in mind for the record, some reference for me and the engineering hands to kind of work from. And in the case of Sounds Good, the reference for the whole sound of the record was that this is Gene Harris song called "Los Alamitos Latin Funk Love." This is kind of the vibe of the entire record. We just cut that record over the course of a year, but it was two sessions that were maybe six days each. 

Kevin is the main vocalist and he's amazing. He can do that sweet soul background stuff perfectly. And when he does [his own] background vocals, it's this thing that not a lot of people can do where he changes his personality. So he becomes three different people. Then the background sounds like an actual group. 

Behind Mark Ronson's Hits: How 'Boogie Nights,' Five-Hour Jams & Advice From Paul McCartney Inspired His Biggest Singles & Collabs

Photo of Lady Gaga performing during The Chromatica Ball in Stockholm, Sweden, in July 2022. Lady Gaga is wearing a pink costume pink head dress with goggles.
Lady Gaga performs during The Chromatica Ball in Stockholm, Sweden, in July 2022.

Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Live Nation

list

Lady Gaga's Biggest Songs: 15 Tracks That Show Her Avant-Garde Pop Prowess

As fans relive the exhilarating spectacle of Lady Gaga's 2022 stadium tour with a new HBO Max concert film, 'GAGA CHROMATICA BALL,' jam out to 15 of her signature songs, from "Poker Face" to "Rain on Me."

GRAMMYs/May 23, 2024 - 07:29 pm

Nearly two years after bringing her 2020 album Chromatica to life with a sold-out stadium tour, Lady Gaga is bringing The Chromatical Ball to your living room. GAGA CHROMATICA BALL, an HBO Original special that premieres May 25 exclusively on MAX, will take Little Monsters into the mesmerizing, colorful world the 13-time GRAMMY winner crafted with her sixth studio set. 

The Chromatica Ball was a joyful cultural triumph as the world emerged from lockdown, hitting 20 stadiums across Europe, North America and Asia in the summer of 2022. While it was named after Chromatica and featured the majority of the dance-driven album's track list — including the smash Ariana Grande duet, "Rain On Me," and lead single "Stupid Love" — the tour was a celebration of the breadth of her acclaimed career as a whole, which has spanned decades, genres, styles, and entire industries. 

GAGA CHROMATICA BALL documents Lady Gaga's sold-out September 2022 show at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, which was one of the biggest venues on the tour. Showcasing a stage inspired by brutalist architecture and a set list stretching from the pop star's 2008 debut album, The Fame, to her Top Gun: Maverick track, "Hold My Hand," the film will also take fans inside the raw passion Gaga brings to each and every live show. 

In celebration of the concert film, GRAMMY.com revisits 15 of Gaga's most career-defining songs to date, from early hits like "Poker Face" to stunning deep cuts like Chromatica's "Free Woman."

"Just Dance" (feat. Colby O'Donis), The Fame (2008)

Lady Gaga burst onto the scene in 2008 with a fully realized point of view and pop star persona, but her debut single actually wasn't an immediate smash on the charts. Instead, "Just Dance" served as the sleeper hit that kick-started Gaga's legendary career, landing at the precipice of the Billboard Hot 100 after a 22-week climb from its initial entry at No. 76 to the nascent pop star her very first No. 1 hit. 

A polished dance floor banger produced by RedOne and co-written with Akon, "Just Dance" perfectly crystallizes the dance-pop resurgence of the late 2000s that Gaga not only helped spearhead, but masterfully rode into the upper echelon of 21st century pop stardom. Notably, the song also earned Gaga the first GRAMMY nomination of her career for Best Dance Recording in 2009 — a full year before her debut album would announce itself as a major force at the 2010 ceremony.

"Poker Face," The Fame (2008)

If "Just Dance" set expectations sky high for the music Gaga had up her well-manicured sleeve, "Poker Face" majorly surpassed them — and subsequently, became one of the defining pop songs of the decade. With its relentless rhythm, sing-song  "Po-po-po-poker face, po-po-poker face" refrain, and winkingly naughty lyrics ("'Cause I'm bluffin' with my muffin," anybody?), the song proved Gaga knew how to expertly construct an earworm while delivering a high-concept visual spectacle in spades. 

"Poker Face" became the singer's second consecutive No. 1 single on the Hot 100, marking the first time a brand-new artist had accomplished the feat since Christina Aguilera's one-two punch of "Genie in a Bottle" and "What a Girl Wants" a full decade prior. By year's end, "Poker Face" had become top-selling single of 2009 across the globe, and the following year, it earned Gaga her first nods for both Song Of The Year and Record Of The Year at the 2010 GRAMMYs, with The Fame also being nominated for Album Of The Year.

Though the song and LP ultimately lost in the major categories, they respectively took home the golden gramophones for Best Dance Recording and Best Electronic Dance Album, officially making Gaga a GRAMMY-winning artist after less than two years in the industry. 

"The Fame," The Fame (2008)

While it was never released as an official single, the title track off Gaga's 2008 debut album serves as something of an early thesis statement for the avant garde star who so confidently declared, "POP MUSIC WILL NEVER BE LOWBROW" as she burst from New York City's underground scene to the global stage.

Gaga lays bare her ambitions with brazen clarity on the punchy electronic track, as she gushes over her single-minded love for "runway models, Cadillacs and liquor bottles" and sings, "Give me something I wanna be/ Retro glamor, Hollywood, yes we live for the fame/ Doin' it for the fame/ 'Cause we wanna live the life of the rich and famous." Later on the song's bridge, the pop star vows, "Don't ask me how or why/ But I'm gonna make it happen this time," and in retrospect, there's no denying Gaga accomplished everything she set out to achieve at the start of her career. 

"Bad Romance," The Fame Monster (2009)

The Fame heralded Gaga as the next big thing in pop music. But rather than spend a couple years fine-tuning her follow-up, the newly minted star decided to double down while the iron was red hot by reissuing the album as The Fame Monster, complete with eight new songs. And in doing so, she catapulted herself to superstar status with just five syllables: "Ra-ra-ah-ah-ahh." 

If the Gaga of "Just Dance" and "Poker Face" was a flashy striver fighting her way to the center of the cultural zeitgeist, "Bad Romance" presented Gaga as a high-fashion pop queen ready to turn her coronation into a victory lap. Not only did "Bad Romance" score Gaga her fifth consecutive top 5 hit on the Billboard 200, it also won her the GRAMMYs for Female Pop Solo Performance and Music Video/Short Form in 2011. (The Fame Monster, meanwhile, took home the golden gramophone for Pop Vocal Album — the first of Gaga's four nominations and counting in the category.)

"Telephone" (featuring Beyoncé), The Fame Monster (2009)

"Hello, hello, baby, you called, I can't hear a thing…" On its face, "Telephone" may sound like a garden variety electro-pop bop, but Gaga turned the track into an unforgettable club banger of the highest order by recruiting the one and only Beyoncé. The two superstars play off one another with panache as they shrug off responsibility and incessant calls from home in favor of giving into the music.

The single's murderous, Jonas Åkerlund-directed visual remains one of the most iconic in Gaga's storied visual history. Fourteen years after Gaga and Honey B drove off in the Pussy Wagon with the promise to never come back, Little Monsters and the Beyhive are still clamoring for a follow-up. Need proof? Just look at the internet frenzy Queen Bey caused when she appeared driving a similarly hued taxi in a teaser for the album that became COWBOY CARTER earlier this year.

"Born This Way," Born This Way (2011)

Almost from the moment she emerged onto the national consciousness, Gaga was considered a gay icon in the making, proudly advocating for the queer community — and in turn, cultivating a passionate, devoted LGBTQ+ fan base who worshiped at the feet of Mother Monster. So, naturally, she used her 2010 sophomore album to gift the masses with the Pride anthem of a generation

Drawing comparisons to Madonna's "Express Yourself," "Born This Way" became a defining hit of the 2010s and helped empower listeners from the clubs, to the streets, to the inside of the closet to embrace what makes them special and fearlessly declare, "Baby, I was born this way!" Additionally, the gay anthem holds the distinction of being the 1,000th No. 1 hit in the history of the Billboard Hot 100, as well as Gaga's first single to bow at the top of the chart upon its debut.

"Yoü And I," Born This Way (2011)

Though she would go on to explore the genre further in 2016's Joanne, Gaga pretty much perfected her interpretation of classic Americana with the country-rock stomp of "Yoü and I" in 2011. Released as the fourth single from Born This Way, the gutsy power ballad found the singer driving a muscle car right through the glitzy, electro-pop aesthetic of her past as she wailed, "This time I'm not leavin' without you" over a sample of Queen's "We Will Rock You" and an original electric guitar line by none other than Brian May himself.

The music video for "Yoü And I," meanwhile, was classically high-concept in the most Gaga of terms. It saw the star transform into a number of alter egos including Yüyi the mermaid and the snarling, chain-smoking Jo Calderone. Whether running through the Nebraska cornfields of the song's setting or being brought back to life a la bride of Frankenstein by future ex-fiancé Taylor Kinney, Gaga proved that she could make a visit to America's heartland as avant-garde as ever.

"Marry The Night," Born This Way (2011)

Among Born This Way's litany of hits, "Marry the Night" is widely regarded among Little Monsters as something of a cult favorite. Though it didn't ascend quite as high up the charts as preceding singles like "Judas" or "The Edge of Glory," the track's music video might just be the most autobiographical visual the New York City native has ever released. 

As the fantastical clip opens on an unconscious Gaga lying prone in a hospital bed wearing "next season Calvin Klein" and custom Giuseppe Zanoti, the singer lays out her entire approach to her artistry. "When I look back on my life, it's not that I don't want to see things exactly as they happened, it's just that I prefer to remember them in an artistic way," she explained. "And truthfully, the lie of it all is much more honest because I invented it…

"It's sort of like my past is an unfinished painting," she continues. "And as the artist of that painting, I must fill in all the ugly holes and make it beautiful again. It's not that I've been dishonest; it's just that I loathe reality." Gaga's rejection of the ordinary in favor of artistic reinterpretation has given fans not only the creative explosion of "Marry the Night," but the entirety of the pop star's avant-garde oeuvre.

"The Lady Is a Tramp" (with Tony Bennett), Duets II (2011)

Smack dab in the middle of Gaga's Born This Way era, Tony Bennett invited Gaga to duet on his 2011 album, Duets II. The pair's charming, spunky rendition of the Rodgers and Hart classic "The Lady is a Tramp" not only opened the album, but it showcased an irrepressible chemistry between the two stars that led to two more collaborative full-length albums, 2014's Cheek to Cheek and 2021's Love For Sale — both of which won GRAMMYs for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album. 

The song ultimately became something of a cheeky hallmark to how much Gaga and Bennett adored one another; even after they'd released an album full of jazz standards like Cole Porter's "Anything Goes" and Irving Berlin's "Cheek to Cheek," the young pop ingénue chose to sing "The Lady Is a Tramp" for Bennett's 90th birthday celebration at Radio City Music Hall, dedicating it to her friend as he beamed from the front row.

The pair's sweet friendship would continue on all the way until Bennett's death in 2023 following a years-long battle with Alzheimer's disease. In a heartfelt social media tribute, Gaga shared the impact of Bennett's friendship: "Sure he taught me about music, about showbiz life, but he also showed me how to keep my spirits high and my head screwed on straight."

"Applause," ARTPOP (2013)

She lives for the applause! For the lead single for her 2014 album ARTPOP, Gaga shined a spotlight back on the parasocial relationship and adoration that comes with fame. This time, though, the pop star demands listener participation rather than simple voyeurism as she belts, "Give me that thing that I love/ Put your hands up, make 'em touch!" 

In the song, Gaga also shares the complex philosophy behind the album's title ("Pop culture was in art, now art's in pop culture in me.") But between shouting out famed sculpturist Jeffrey Koons (whom she commissioned to create the iconic ARTPOP cover art) and referencing everything from Botticelli's The Birth of Venus to the pop iconography of Andy Warhol in the surrealist music video, Gaga's message was deceptively simple: She lives for the A-P-P-L-A-U-S-E, baby.

"Aura," ARTPOP (2013)

When it came time to present the highbrow themes of ARTPOP to the masses, Gaga chose to open the 2013 iTunes Festival with "Aura," a frenetic exploration of fame, celebrity, suppression and identity built over a skittering sonic palette inspired in equal parts by Middle Eastern music, spaghetti Westerns and mariachi.

Though she initially faced some backlash over accusations that she had appropriated the wearing of a Muslim burqa in the song's lyrics, "Aura" effectively set the stage for ARTPOP as a piece of sophisticated performance art unlike anything Gaga had created before — all while promising fans a glimpse "behind the curtain" at the girl underneath the camp and artistry. And though ARTPOP may have been more than a bit misunderstood at the time of its release, it arguably remains the boldest and bravest album in Gaga's manifold discography.

"Joanne," Joanne (2016)

Gaga found inspiration for her fifth studio album from the life and death of her late aunt (and namesake), Joanne Stefani Germanotta. The singer never met her relative, but Joanne's spirit was imbued throughout the album, from its homespun lyricism to its stripped-back sonic palette that found the singer exploring the sounds of country, soft rock and Americana.

Nowhere on the record is Gaga's profound connection to her aunt more evident than the title track, which she recorded two different versions of and released as the album's third and final single. "Take my hand, stay Joanne/ Heaven's not ready for you/ Every part of my aching heart/ Needs you more than the angels do," she sings softly over a spare piano line on "Joanne (Where Do You Think You're Goin'?)."

With its roots in her family tree, the song clearly holds a special place in Gaga's heart — especially considering she chose to mix it with "Million Reasons" for her performance at the 2018 GRAMMYs. (A full year later, she took home the GRAMMY for Best Pop Solo Performance in 2019 for the acoustic piano version.)

"Shallow" (with Bradley Cooper), A Star Is Born (2018)

"I can see myself in the movies/ With my picture in city lights," Gaga memorably sang in "The Fame." And a decade later, she manifested her dream into reality with a starring role in the 2018 remake of A Star Is Born

Opposite Bradley Cooper, the singer proved she had plenty of star quality on the silver screen on top of her status as a pop supernova. The movie musical's soundtrack was also dominated by Gaga's vulnerability and vocal abilities, fully giving herself over to the story of a star-crossed love that ends in superstardom and tragedy — particularly on the emotional keystone that is "Shallow." In fact, by the time she lets out her famous, guttural wail in the song's emotional bridge, it's easy to forget that "Shallow" is, in fact, a duet rather than a dazzling showcase of Gaga's chops. 

On top of being an essential touchstone in Gaga's canon, "Shallow" is also memorable for being the song that turned Mother Monster into an Oscar winner after she, co-writer Mark Ronson and the rest of their collaborators took home the trophy for Best Original Song at the 2019 Academy Awards. (The song also won a GRAMMY for Best Pop/Duo Group Performance that year.)

"I've worked hard for a long time," Gaga said through tears while accepting her Oscar. "And it's not about winning, but what it's about is not giving up. If you have a dream, fight for it. There's a discipline for passion, and it's not about how many times you get rejected or you fall down or you're beaten up. It's about how many times you stand up and are brave and you keep on going." 

"Rain On Me" (with Ariana Grande), Chromatica (2020)

Gaga's Chromatica era began with "Stupid Love" and its colorful, Power Rangers-chic video, but the star hit peak pop excellence by joining forces with Ariana Grande on the album's second single "Rain on Me." 

"I'd rather be dry but at least I'm alive/ Rain on me, rain, rain," the two superstars harmonized on the house-fueled disco fantasia's upbeat refrain, before letting the beat drop and giving in to the impulse to dance it out. Released in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, the track provided hope, joy and a message of hard-fought resilience at a scary, unpredictable and unprecedented time when it felt like the world was ending as we knew it.

The following year, Gaga and Grande won the GRAMMY for Best Pop/Duo Group Performance at the 2011 ceremony, becoming the first female collaborators to take home the award in GRAMMYs history. 

"Free Woman," Chromatica (2020)

"Free Woman" was a bit overlooked when it was released as Chromatica's fourth and final single in the spring of 2021, but the narrative Gaga shares on the jubilant track is central to her personal history and experiences in the music industry. Over a thumping Eurodance-leaning beat, she recounts the PTSD she suffered from after being sexually assaulted by an unnamed producer early in her career.

Gaga also offers a rallying cry for her beloved LGBTQ+ fan base on the song, particularly those in the trans community, as she belts, "This is my dance floor I fought for/ Ain't hard, that's what I'm livin' for…We own the downtown, hear our sound." Ultimately, that empowering lyric is a notion that encapsulates the overarching theme of Gaga's career thus far — one that fans around the world can revel in again and again with GAGA CHROMATICA BALL.

Explore The World Of Lady Gaga

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

feature

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

list

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