Billie Eilish Almost Called Her New Album ‘Patheticville’

“She’s a little unpredictable,” Finneas says of his sister, Billie Eilish. “I say this with love, but I sit next to her during interviews, and I never know what she’s going to say. I really don’t.” We feel the same way. Eilish recently starred on Rolling Stone’s cover for her third time in just a few years, but she still managed to surprise us, taking RS on a wild, deep dive into her new album, Hit Me Hard and Soft — her best work yet.

Across many hours and three separate interview sessions in Los Angeles, Eilish was as honest, compelling, and funny as ever. Naturally, a lot was left on the cutting-room floor. To name a few fun facts we learned, she’s “not a coffee girl” but loves a mocha; Gorillaz’s 2000 single “Tomorrow Comes Today” inspired her to use a melodica on her new record; and Finneas loves to rock climb and cold-plunge. And there’s much more. Here’s what didn’t make it into the cover story.

The album title was almost a quote from The Office.

Before she settled on calling the album Hit Me Hard and Soft — taken from what she misheard as the name of a Logic Pro synth — she first toyed with Patheticville. If that doesn’t ring a bell, let us refresh your memory: Kelly Kapoor drops that gem in Season Three of The Office, when she and the gang are teasing Pam Beesly for her speech at Dunder Mifflin’s “beach games.” (“I thought it was patheticville,” Kelly says. “No offense, Pam.”) Eilish is a longtime Office superfan, and she felt it was an apt title for the themes on her third record. “I just thought that was awesome, and we laughed and we wrote it down,” she told us. “Then there’s a couple more that we thought of and nothing was really sticking, but I knew it would come. It always comes.”

She wants to remake the video for Lana Del Rey’s “Blue Jeans.”

Eilish has cited Del Rey as a major influence on her career, including just last month, when she joined the singer onstage at Coachella and told the crowd, “This is the reason for half of you bitches’ existence … including mine.” Eilish and her brother wanted Hit Me Hard and Soft to be a cohesive set of songs best listened to from start to finish, a move inspired by albums they grew up loving — including Del Rey’s 2012 major-label debut, Born to Die. But their Lana fandom goes even deeper than that: When Eilish decided she wanted to be photographed underwater for the cover of Hard and Soft, a certain someone came to mind. “One of my favorite music videos of all time is ‘Blue Jeans’ by Lana Del Rey,” she said. “Which I really want to pay homage to in a video soon.” Editor’s picks

She credits “The Greatest,” written during a toe injury, with saving the album.

It’s “the black hole center” of Hit Me Hard and Soft, the heart of the record that the siblings shaped the rest of the songs around — a five-minute heavyweight that culminates in balls-out rock & roll euphoria, with Eilish belting as the song comes to a close. “‘Happier Than Ever’ walked so that ‘The Greatest’ could run,” she said, noting that the tracks are similar in spirit. (Eilish said she completely forgot that Del Rey has a song of the same title, as does Cat Power, along with many others. “There’s a lot of good songs called ‘The Greatest,’” she said. “I’m honored to be stepping into the group of those songs.”)

“The Greatest” played a crucial role on the new album, coming in right when she and Finneas were having doubts. “‘The Greatest’ is the song that swooped in and saved the album, in my opinion,” she said. “It saved every song on here, for real. I was in a moment of, ‘I don’t know, bro. I don’t know if we’re even going to even have an album made. I don’t know if we’re good at this. I don’t even know if any of the ideas we have are good yet. Nothing’s solidified. What the hell is going on?’”

The track was born when Eilish was suffering from a toe injury. Her mom, Maggie, dropped her off at Finneas’ studio straight from the doctor. “I lay there and Finneas sat here, got out his little toy guitar that he uses, and started playing stuff. I remember saying something like, ‘Do some staccato kind of minor chords,’ and he started playing the doo-do-doo-do-doo-do-doo. Literally, all of ‘The Greatest’ flooded through. From then on, we started finishing songs.” Related

“Chihiro” is named after the main character in Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away.

“The song is loosely based off of that movie, which is one of my favorites,” she says of the 2001 animated fantasy film. “It’s kind of from her point of view, mixed with mine. The visuals in that movie are some of the best ever — all that Studio Ghibli shit is unbelievable. There’s all those visuals of the train in the water after the flood, and it literally looks like an ocean with a train track. I had just watched Spirited Away and Finneas had made that beat. I love that movie. I’ve seen it so many times.”

Her fear of water peaked when she shot the original video for 2019’s “Bad Guy.”

As Eilish explains in the cover story, she has traumatic memories of water as a child, but her fear peaked when she filmed the original video for her 2019 hit “Bad Guy.” When one of the shots featured her singing the track with a bag over her head that slowly filled with water, she experienced her first panic attack. “It wasn’t my idea,” she said. “I wish it was, but it wasn’t. It was the first time I’ve ever said like, ‘T.O. I can’t do this, ever.’”

She overcame her fear later, when shooting the video for “Happier Than Ever,” where her house fills up with water and she swims out the front door. “The underwater part was not too long,” she says. “So that’s really when I got over my fear.”

That ending in “L’amour de ma vie” came from a lot of cardio.

Four minutes into the seventh track on the new album, it takes a sharp turn into jubilant, synth-heavy trance, a segment that was tacked onto the song after it was written. It stemmed from Eilish wanting one of her own songs to work out to. “I’d been doing a lot of cardio circuits,” she says, “Jump-roping and box-jumping and all that stuff. And I was like, ‘I don’t have a song I can do cardio to.’ It was kind of a joke.”

She thinks T-Pain has a beautiful voice.

That glitzy trance moment on “L’amour de ma vie” features Eilish on an Auto-Tune mic, when she sings “You were so mediocre/And we’re so glad it’s over now.” She was passionate in her defense of the vocal-processing software: “Auto-Tune is the most fun thing,” she said. “People have this idea that it’s disingenuous, because they think it’s, like, a tool. Absolutely it is. Fuck it. It’s an aid; it helps you make the song better.” Her prime example of an artist who’s used Auto-Tune well: Faheem Rashad Najm. “T-Pain is like the O.G.,” she said. “T-Pain has the most beautiful voice you’ve ever heard.”

She knows her fans were probably surprised by Happier Than Ever.

Looking back, Eilish knows her fans probably weren’t expecting the left turn she took on her second album in 2021. “Anybody who was a big fan of what I was doing originally must have been completely astonished, and in negative ways, for sure,” she says. “I think that if I had been a huge fan of 2018 me, and then I wasn’t checking up on me, and then I saw Happier Than Ever stuff, I would literally have been like, ‘What the fuck happened to her? Actually, what happened?’ But I needed to do that, and I thought it was cool and it was what I wanted at the time.” Trending Cassie’s Husband to Diddy After Assault Video: ‘Men Who Hurt Women Hate Women’ Sean Combs Seen Kicking and Dragging Cassie on Surveillance Video Marjorie Taylor Greene Has Been Obsessed With AOC for Years A Brief Look at Diddy’s History of Controversies and Allegations

She currently has no interest in dating.

Eilish confirmed she’s on good terms with her ex Jesse Rutherford — “That’s my guy, truly one of my favorite people in the world” — and she doesn’t have plans to date anytime soon. “I plan on never dating again,” she joked. “That’s not true, obviously. But no, I don’t see myself being serious with anyone until I find someone that really feels right to me, and that is not interesting to me right now.”

She doesn’t love toxic stan culture.

Don’t go wondering who Hard and Soft is about. Eilish was quick to confirm that the album is about several different experiences, some having nothing to do with her. “Happier Than Ever was low-key about one person, and this album is about a lot of different situations,” she said. “I think that what’s frustrating — the internet is very extreme. You can write a song about an experience that made you feel a type of way, and the internet is defending you or whatever, but suddenly it becomes this vicious [thing]. People are cruel. ‘Oh, my God, this person is horrible. They deserve to die. We need to ruin this person’s life, because they made Billie feel this way.’ And I wish that it wasn’t like that. I really do.”

She added: “As songwriters, our job is to write songs about whatever we feel that we want to write songs about. That’s my job. That’s why I’m here. But the reaction can be really toxic, and I just don’t want to do anything to accentuate that. I want to be clear: Please don’t take it and run. Take it and feel it and sit there and understand and hear me. For the love of God, hear me and listen to me. They won’t really listen, but I can say it.”

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