1. Track List (57)
‘BADLANDS’ Is Metaphor For Where Halsey’s Head Was At When Writing The Album, And It’s Pretty Hollow
This is a debut album, but not necessarily where it all began for Halsey. She hit it with fans big-time around 2012 with a Taylor Swift parody of track “I Knew You Were Trouble”, and developed her audience enough with singles such as “Ghost” to gain enough views and buzz to produce BADLANDS, billed as an antithesis of sorts to the, at the time, Pop polish of Taylor Swift, while borrowing stylistic cues more heavily from artists such as Lorde and The Weeknd. Yet, while it is hard to put an exact finger on what Halsey actually sounds like, my general feeling is that she is very unoriginal. What’s even worse, from my perspective at least, is that she has an overly breathy, gimmicky voice, popular for some reason during the period of her overnight success, but one hell of a tough Pop-pill to swallow for people such as myself who have eclectic musical tastes. In terms of Halsey’s tastes, apparently she has been quoted as being raised on The Notorious B.I.G. and Nirvana, and while I would not want her to necessarily copy the catalogue of those two divergent and classic artists, dude, what is she even talking about in terms of these references, because I don’t get any of those vibes on BADLANDS. She happens to do a Biggie verse on “New Americana” – but influence? The closest thing to an alternative rocker is “Strange Love”, but that is just in its guitar emphasized verse parts, while the hook, curse word laden and angsty as it is, is also extremely Pop-predictable note for note. She arrived, I feel, riding the coat tails of Lorde, just like every other Pop act scrambling for relevance during this period, but for some reason, BADLANDS struck a chord with a huge internet fan base. Go figure.
Is It Depression And Cynicism On Her Mind, Or Simply Money On Her Mind?
How convenient that this newer crop of artists who sprang up around the aforementioned Lorde’s success are all such self-confessed mental cases. Newsflash – artists usually are, and rockstar-popstars are perhaps the prime examples of such malaise. But to my knowledge, in the past they didn’t bring that to the table as much when it came to songwriting. But not these internet birthed Pop acts – they grew up in a generation where every single feeling is made public, invited for scrutiny, and as the industry shrewdly peeped, this attention seeking was all transferable into views/sympathy/cash – with the bottom line being cash. I have always felt such songwriting to be very narcissistic and self absorbed , even if real issues of bi-polar conditions and drug abuse are mentioned. But again, it seems that it became popular for every artist across multiple genres to share with their audience and through their musical diaries the struggle of being bi-polar and addicted to drugs, to the point where literally everyone seems to be suffering from the same ailment. Like, everyone in the business, from the wannabe Pop star fans, to all the new artists coming up, seeing that this is a lucrative motif – whether it is a real pain or a façade – they have all decided to go ahead and reveal their struggle just to simply secure a career path today. BADLANDS is said to be a concept album that plays out like a step by step exploration of what Halsey has to go through, asking, I suppose, for some kind of sympathy, yet this is hard when the music itself is so unmemorable.
Halsey Invites Us To Take A Trip Through Her Mind
We’ve honestly heard all of this material before through decades of edgy and edgier music across genres, but the journey of BADLANDS begins with “Castle”, a folk pop churchy mash up with industrial vibes that tells us that Halsey is headed to a castle where some old man on the throne needs to be defeated apparently. The singer invites abuse, exposing some need to be punished for her bad behavior, on “Hold Me Down”, which at some point addresses the devil. On “New Americana”, a soaring march is interrupted by synthy fits and spurts, while Halsey sounds less annoying than usual, finding a lilting folk voice which works for her here, while she invites her young generation to defy convention through this bland ass call to arms. Remember, the BADLANDS concept is a hellish place, and “Drive” is about the happiness of cruising out of such bullshit - not letting it touch you, while also celebrating running away from conflict. “Hurricane”, a mix between the electro sound of The Weeknd and the haunted folk of Lana Del Rey – sounds fine for what it is. One of the sweetest sounding songs is “Roman Holiday”, describing a desire to steal away with a lover – but the standard textual content is an indication that not all these tracks seem to serve the journey suggested by the openers.
All Hype: The Idea That This Is A Concept Album, As Most Of These Tracks Are Just Ones Wrestling With Banal ‘Should I Or Shouldn’t I’ Concepts
The next ten tracks, “Ghost”, “Colors”, “Colors, Pt. II”, “Strange Love”, “Coming Down”, “Haunting”, “Gasoline”, “Control”, “Young God”, and “I Walk the Line”, deal with, respectfully; a hard to hold down toxic relationship / a poetically pretentious story about a taboo relationship (see the video) / a confusing yet possible escape from the imaginary badlands / a silly unapologetic F U to the haters / a cool-noted acoustic somberness about perhaps fucking over your lover-dependent / a The Weeknd inspired electro pop jam about wanting the toxic ex to still haunt you / a creepy synth symphonic about I guess the struggle of voices not leaving Halsey alone / an answer to said demons by way of fighting back / an ageist tome to the godly power of young sex / and finally, a trip hop reimagining of Johnny Cash’s “I Walk the Line”, which actually mostly works thanks to the arrangement, but no thanks to Halsey’s boring voice. Yes, at the end of the day, the weakest link is not the concept or the arrangements herein – its Halsey’s very underwhelming voice quality, which often has an annoying waver running through her delivery – not a trill – not some attractive vibrato, but an injured lamb quality that gets tired real fast. It is also her inconsistency, as she will yodel a la Alanis Morisette on half the tracks, and not the other. Elsewhere, she belts along with the big hooks, but is buried by so many layers of music, and when her voice is clear, it is that forgettable, breathy out the nose pronunciation that honestly came into vogue because audiences continued to lower their standards over the years. I can’t get down with the mediocrity wave man.
‘Hopeless Fountain Kingdom’: Another Muddy Outing From Halsey, The Polarizing Pop Princess
My biggest gripe about Halsey is she seems inauthentic to me, though one could argue, very successfully, that I don’t know her like that. So then I move to the actual music, from vocals to arrangements to ‘concept’, and to the folks that think I have an attitude problem or something, if any of the three points I illustrated were in fact impressive to me, I would be right out there with y’all, completely leaving any argument about authenticity out of the equation. At the end of the day, I never ‘got’ the hype about Halsey, and watching a recent SNL performance of hers singing the single “Eastside”, I could tell that whatever I thought, her activities such as painting ‘live’ while singing were resonating with her audience in a major way. In this performance, she does a decent performance painting within the pre made boundaries of a sketch, yet her voice seems too effortlessly delivered, while physically crouched and clearly distracted – leading me to analyze her mouth more than the materializing work of art. Now, I would never fault a singer for lip syncing while painting, as doing the two things would be a tall order for any mutli-talented artist. In a tweet, she claimed that she was singing, which reinforces her ‘stanning’ fans’ defense of the performance, enough to certainly make them happy – which is all that matters really. My only thing is, I’ve seen lip syncing in action; it looked like lip syncing in action, she was constantly bent in one of the most unforgiving positions to sing with the range she exhibited, she doesn’t really have said range to begin with in a live setting, the backing track and vocals were pumping overtime, and her face and body language really leans more towards audience engagement and completing the painting in time, with hardly a trace of visible strain at trying to hit her notes. I’m not calling bullshit, but I’m just sayin’. The fact that she says ‘no, I was singing the whole time’ doesn’t hurt her in the eyes of her fan base who already defended her from incredulous minds like mine. All of the sudden, I thought, hey, this song is not terrible – it’s a collab between herself, Khalid, and Benny Blanco, but it wasn’t phenomenal either, ladies and gentlemen. Let’s be real. So having heard the previous album BADLANDS and being very disappointed with its content, I thought that perhaps in the couple of years hence, her album hopeless fountain kingdom (Deluxe) might possess, at the least, a balance of immature and mature songwriting. A fifty fifty experience is what I was aiming to hear.
This Obsession With Being A Concept Album Wears Thin
BADLANDS was burdened to deliver on ‘concept album’ promises, and for me, those promises were not kept, at least on the surface, for I would have to devote many extra hours to deep diving on various fan forums to get at the heart of all the supposed connections between the songs. I’m not saying that those connections weren’t there - I’m just saying they were woefully hard to find for me, and this is already after the fact that I really was unmoved by the music itself during that album experience. Billed as the antithesis to Taylor Swift – guess what, ima choose to listen to Taylor Swift, an artist that I don’t particularly do backflips for when her new album comes out, but somebody who I certainly feel has her songwriting more locked down. What hopeless fountain kingdom has is a bunch of songs, some of them cool, some of them better than what I heard on BADLANDS, but most of them being either overloud, aimless, or outright dull. In so far as concepts are concerned this time around, I am a huge fan of Baz Luhrmann’s hyper color Shakespearean play made for the big screen, Romeo and Juliet, and Halsey used this movie and the associated doomed lover angle for much of the material herein, and also the concept of music video “Bad at Love.” Just as Luhrmann’s vision skirted fashionable queer culture, Halsey also infuses her own bisexuality into the main character of the album, named Luna Aureum, and her quest for love and expectance despite international and external factors intent on destroying her. As with BADLANDS, the concept is pretty mediocre, as Halsey claims that the two albums are intrinsically linked through lyrics and and song parts, but also through the story of Romeo & Juliet (the most art student without any ideas fallback plan in the history of fallback plans), and unsurprisingly, none of this ‘concept’ is terribly obvious. Therefore, what is my biggest complaint? Don’t call it a concept album just cuz. Listen to real concept albums, and then use two aids; taste, and the ability to edit one’s self, in order to better determine whether you are either poetic or pretentious. “Bad at Love” as a song is memorable more because I have heard it so many times thanks to the aggressive airplay at the time of its release, but as a song, it lives and dies on its big ‘bad at love’ hook, but is it really a song, when you remove all the noise and the trap rhythm? If you aren’t a fan of Halsey’s voice, this song is not for you. Whether it is arching on these big epic parts, or rushing to fit in as many sing-rap styled words as possible into the verses, the song is a showcase of what I personally find overwhelming and overhyped - about her vocals, even though the song has moments where it tends to pick up. Alas, it goes nowhere melodically – much more of an over aggrandized interlude on a superior singer’s album, which should have clocked in at a minute and 10 seconds or so, as opposed to three whole minutes.
3. Official (16)
4. Audio (57)
5. Live (17)
6. Featuring Remixes (22)
7. Albums (13)
9. Covers (34)
11. Similar Artists (14)
12. Artist Info
Ashley Nicolette Frangipane (/ˌfrændʒəˈpɑːni/; born September 29, 1994), known professionally as Halsey (/ˈhɔːlzi/), is an American singer and songwriter. Her stage name is a reference to the Halsey Street station of the New York City Subway in Brooklyn,[a] and an anagram of her first name.
- Virgin EMI