Ashley Nicolette Frangipane, better known by her stage name, Halsey, is a self described pop musician. To some, her music could be the lovechild of artists like Lorde and CHVRCHES. “Ghost,” one of her first songs, led to Astralwerks, a record label, to notice Halsey and sign her. After working on her EP, titled, Room 93 in 2014, on August 28, 2015, Halsey released her debut full-length album, Badlands.
Growing up with an African American father and an Italian mother, who both had polar opposite musical tastes, Halsey’s musical influences ranged from people like The Notorious B.I.G. to bands like Nirvana. In addition, her diagnosis of bipolar disorder around 16 or 17, played a big part in creating Badlands. Halsey writes concept albums, where all musical or lyrical ideas contribute to a single overall theme or unified story. According to Halsey, Badlands focuses on a dystopian society known as The Badlands; the city is surrounded by a desert wasteland, keeping the inhabitants there, captive.
With this dystopian society in mind, her songs are a reflection of her mental state and her mind is The Badlands. Even though the desert wasteland traps the inhabitant, there is still optimism. Halsey exhibits this with the mainly upbeat songs within her album, which continues to explain her mindset.
Lyrical importance plays a big part in her songs. If not fully analyzed, her work seem to talk about basic ideas like love or partying. Her most notable track, “New Americana,” sets a great example of this. On the surface, the song appears to talk about getting high on marijuana, with the lyrics that catch everyone’s ears, “We are the new Americana, high on legal marijuana.” However, when deeply reading the entire set of lyrics, it is more about a new generation, hence “new Americana,” being brave and not afraid of anything.
The rest of the album adds on to the idea of being standing up against normality with songs such as “Gasoline” and “Strange Love.” Other songs like, “Hurricane,” “Colors,” and “Haunting,” portray love in a different way. They do not follow the cliche storyline of a boy meets girl and they magically fall in love; rather, the songs explain a different side of love like an abusive relationship, the idea of having an unbalanced relationship, or being so in love to the point where it is like a religion. A song that explain her mental state in a realistic way is“Control”: “And all the kids cried out, ‘Please stop, you’re scaring me.’ I can’t help this awful energy. Goddamn right, you should be scared of me, who is in control?” The contrast of wanting to reason and then suddenly feeling the need to argue, shows a little insight of how being bipolar effects her. Songs like “Drive” and “Roman Holiday” are very metaphorical; using everyday objects and ideas to describe what is love in her mind. A not so recognized song “I Walk the Line” explains the acceptance of entering a relationship that is unstable.
The hypnotic, echo-like sounds of Badlands bring her voice to the center of attention. With gospels in the background in songs like “Castle” and “New Americana,” the layers of voices add to the overall vibe of the album. In addition, the heavy bass is enhanced when Halsey’s voice stops. This drags the sound, making the song suspenseful like. The dark-scene sound, with the interchange of her voice when wearing headphones, make the ears want to follow the sounds of Halsey’s voice. The artist describes this effect as a “shimmery sound.” The use of violins and organs in her song continue to give them a darker feel.Not only does this make Badlands more intriguing, the dark-scene vibe is enhanced. Halsey’s voice in her album is raw, untouched; this makes the emotions being portrayed in her songs to be felt and the mood of the song is clearer.
With an exceptional concept and wonderful singing, it is hard to deny the greatness of Badlands. With meaningful lyrics and entrancing sounds, Halsey perfectly balances the both to create songs that are catchy and relatable. The album has caught many people’s attention; it reached #2 on U.S. Billboard 200 and sold 115,000 copies, both within the first week of the album’s released. The metaphorical album also reached #1 on the Alternative Album Chart with five songs at the Top 20 of the Top Alternative Songs Chart. Badlands is an album that won’t get out of your head, even after the first listen.
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