Halsey – Badlands (Album Review)


When Ashley Frangipane, more commonly known as Halsey, started posting videos of her singing covers, and parodying famous songs with her own lyrics on YouTube, she probably did not think it would begin her quick rise to success. 

At the young age of twenty, she has gained notoriety not only for dubbing herself ‘tri-bi’ (bi-racial, bi-sexuality, and bipolar), which has made her a strong female empower-er to many young girls around the world, but also for her lush vocals, accompanied by her journal-like lyricism, and new Indie/Pop sound. In 2014, she released an EP, Room 93, which got her touring with several bands, like Imagine Dragons and The Weeknd, until she finally nailed the title of headliner for her own tour to promote her debut studio album, Badlands, released by Capitol Records on August 28th.

The best description of Badlands comes from Halsey herself, “I write songs about sex and being sad.” What was probably most surprising when starting this album is the amount of songs. Most debuts can carry about ten to twelve, but Halsey went above and beyond, recording sixteen! “Castle” starts off the album with a slow, sensual vibe, which is felt throughout most of the album. Adding the use of a hymn choir gives the song a gloomy air.

“Hold Me Down” follows with its own simplicity, using a repetitive beat that grows for the chorus and drops for each verse. The lyricism is the most important aspect for most of her songs and this one is no different. The song strongly deals with her bipolar disorder and the drugs the doctors had put her on making her not feel right.  While in this day and age, most Pop bands use the catchy beat to grab a listener, Halsey uses music as the backdrop and relies on what she is saying to get people’s attention.

Her newest single off Badlands “New Americana” has the strongest beat in the first quarter of the album. She uses her own family history as the chorus of the song, as she stated in interviews, her parents had different musical tastes and she pays tribute to that by singing, “Raised on Biggie and Nirvana.” It is an anthem for the younger generations, and the sound of the song exemplifies that with its chant-like chorus. “Drive” goes back to the slow, intimate, normality of the album and uses the sounds of a car to start off the song and uses different aspects of a car for the rest of the song, making for a unique sound.

The second quarter of the album starts with the first single, and only featured on the deluxe edition, “Hurricane,” which sounds like a warning of what is left to come. Again, a slow, minimal sound, and the lyrics, are what should be paid close attention to. It is all about a girl who meets a guy and knows he is one of those who will ruin her, but she does not let it happen. In fact she turns it around and uses him, “I’m a one night stand. Don’t belong to no city. Don’t belong to no man.” “Roman Holiday,” at first sounds like one of the most positive songs on the album. It has some of the strongest musical background, with its Techno/Pop beat, and when looking further, and listening to the lyrics, one gets a sense of her reminiscing on a passionate lover that had both powerful ups and detrimental downs. The title of the song also adds to that thought process and, as a listener hears it a few more times, it becomes a bit clearer.

“Ghost,” the second single, has a haunting sound, pun intended. It is another song about a failed relationship, but this one was long term, and as they stay together one partner is not emotionally still attached to the relationship and she knows she needs to leave. “Colors” follows, and to be honest, the song should have just been called blue because it is the only color she seems to mention. Yeah, sure, there is a line where she mentions red, lilac, and purple, but for the most part, this song is about the color blue. People speculate that this song was written about Lead Singer Matty Healy,of The 1975, who she was rumored to be with last year. It is plausible, mentioning his family, and the abuse and addiction to drugs. Taylor Swift may be jealous of the melodic way Halsey brings her ex to life, making a listener want to grab on for the ride as well.

Deluxe edition song “Colors pt. II” is an intermission for the album. It is the halfway mark and it is simply a minute long remix of  “Colors.”  After “Colors” and “Colors pt. II,” Halsey gets angry. The next couple of songs are full of angst and dealing with a failed relationship, but this one stung a bit more and burned a bit brighter than all her other relationships that have been throughout the whole first half of the album. In fact, it could be songs where one could speculate it is about her relationship with Healy. Another deluxe edition bonus, “Strange Love” is an aggressive song about a relationship trying to have a discreet relationship that is being exploited in other ways. “Coming Down” has a lot of parallels to “Colors,” mentioning her lover and his rampant use of drugs. The chorus states, “he’s coming down, down, coming down.”

“Haunting” continues her journey of moving on and trying so very hard to get someone out of her system, but she loves his memory and she wants it to continue to haunt her. It starts off with a sound like Australian DJ Flume, but slips back into traditional Halsey. It is crazy that she has only had this singular album, but has her own sound. Deluxe edition’s “Gasoline” is followed by “Control” delve back into her bipolar disorder, the anxiety it causes her, and how people view her as well as how she views herself. Cut to the last two songs of the album where “Young Gods” is about a great night of sex, and the high it can give the people involved, and deluxe edition cut “Walk the Line,” which is a simple, sultry cover of Johnny Cash and you have completed the hour long discography of a young woman trying to solve her problems through sex, drugs, and her journal.

If Lorde, Taylor Swift, and Lana Del Ray had a musical baby, it would be Halsey. She combines the best of all three, adds a bit of her own magic, and creates a magnificent cocktail of killer vocals, mellow vibes, and Trance-like sounds. CrypticRock gives Badlands 4.5 out of 5 stars.


Purchase Badlands:
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