Halsey settles with her demons on debut album Badlands
With the rise of artists like Lana Del Rey and Lorde, there was a whole new wave of female pop artists with melancholic lyrics and light electronic productions coming in and let’s be fair: you can never have enough artists in this style, now can you? Halsey’s debut album Badlands is slightly similar to the music of the two afore mentioned, but it would be too simplistic to just put her in the same box, because this young singer and songwriter from the United States has enough uniqueness to bring to the table.
Halsey was born as Ashley Nicolette Frangipane in 1994. When she was just 20 years old, she made her first big leap in the direction of pop stardom when she put the track ‘Ghost’ which she wrote with Dylan Scott on Soundcloud. The track became an online hit and she signed a deal for the recording of debut album. Now more than a year later Badlands is released and with the title she refers to the emotional condition she was in when writing the tracks as a physical place. The title however does not mean that Badlands is a depressing record full of ballads.
Although most of the tracks deal with the demons and ghosts of the life of Halsey, she never tells the story without a strong hook or a soaring chorus. It is all about failing relationships, difficult youth, drug (ab)use and all sorts of other troubling experiences and it is fair to say that Halsey is perfectly capable of telling her stories in an uncompromising, clear and relatable choice of words, that always flow well within the sound of the songs. She shows attitude on the deliciously in your face song ‘Strange Love’ with lyrics like ‘They think I’m insane, they think my lover is strange, but I don’t have to fucking tell them anything’, but also shows depth on the dark ‘Haunting’. The vocal effects in the way she pronounces the title add to the literally ‘haunting’ vibe of the song and lyrics like ‘I’ve tried to wash you away but you just won’t leave, so won’t you take a breath and dive in deep, ’cause I came here so you’d come for me. I’m begging you to keep on haunting’ hit hard.
But the lyrics are not the only part at which Halsey, who co-wrote every track on her own record, excels. She shows she has a great ear for catchy pop tunes and it leaves me wondering why ‘New Americana’ still didn’t take off properly in the international charts and on radio. The chorus has a brilliant hook, the lyrics are straightforward and the chanting way of singing make it even more like an anthem. The rolling drums put the finishing touch on what should have been (and maybe still could be) an international hit. And it is not the only track that has the potential to cross over. Her sometimes dark and quirky electronic productions often have a poppy quality through infectious melodies and soaring choruses, like on the laidback and summery ‘Roman Holiday’, the lyrically strong ‘Colors’ and even the heavily electronic and banging opening track ‘Castle’.
The personal stories are translated into brilliant melodies and what better way is there to deal with your demons? Halsey delivers a sonically exciting and cohesive record and her outstanding songwriting skills on such a young age, makes me excited for what is to come in the coming years.
Must Listen: New Americana, Ghost, Haunting, Strange Love, Roman Holiday.