REVIEW: Halsey – ‘Badlands’

Artist: Halsey
Album: Badlands
Genre: Pop

Throughout my first listens of Badlands, I don’t know if I would call it an album in a traditional sense. Yes, albums take you through a variety of emotions even with a structure in some cases, but Badlands is a different monster. These are eleven writings within a slightly torn composition book; the journal you find as you get older, slightly unkept and discolored. Many, at face value, would likely try to group Halsey into any other category, but with blue hair in all, that’s not the case. We get a glimpse into Halsey’s unforgiving, black and white world with her first album release. Fans were already familiar with Halsey from 2014’s Room 93 EP, and “Ghost” does find its way back as the conclusion of this record. Musically, she uses electronics and synths in a clever way within tracks that may seem reminiscent of Chvrches or Lights.

Halsey, as herself, is very straightforward and honest which always makes for a refreshing narrative. I actually favor the very direct lyrical structure as it gives themes of the album their teeth. “Castle,” the first track with a trip-hop backdrop is the beginning of Halsey’s dissection of her own mental state and wiping the collective dirt from previous failures and heartbreaks. “I’m headed straight for the castle / They wanna make me their queen / And there’s an old man sitting on the throne saying I probably shouldn’t be so mean.” Those lyrics are interesting in conjunction with the slow-burning “New Americana.” The song serves as a new declaration for Generation Y who have been getting flack from almost every news publication you can think of. It’s a depiction of Halsey’s (our) discontent with how things are (“survival of the richest”).

There are also iterations of conflicts with self doubt. There’s a Harvey Dent divide in Halsey that fights for control throughout the album, which is almost reminiscent of Twenty One PilotsBlurryface. “Hold Me Down,” which samples the Son Lux track, “Easy”, takes us through a web of fighting to be relevant in a world that’s trying to get you to conform. A common misconception with this track, I feel, is that it’s sexual. “I sold my soul to a three-piece / And he told me I was holy,” could be referencing religion and the confines of what that means for a person who is trying to find their own space.

The theme of escapism runs congruent with “Roman Holiday” which might be one of the most single-ready records on Badlands. The song title itself is an allusion to an Audrey Hepburn film from 1953 that has the same premise of escaping your existence, even for just a day, with the one you love the most. “Haunting,” to me, epitomizes Badlands both musically and thematically. In all of the songs, there are little instrumental quirks, whether it be a glitch in a voice or the atmospheric build-up of the 808s. There’s a tug-of-war between a lover that continues to hurt and one that’s perfect–an urging for the bad lover to keep “haunting” her. Who has the “Control”? Who is constantly pushing buttons within Halsey’s brain and actions?

Badlands as a place itself may be fictional, but the experiences, people and scars it chronicles are very real. Halsey is only 20 years old, but her debut album in its crux is very mature and intriguing. It’s like watching a movie where the heroine has been through the desolate streets to try to find some sort of triumph. We witness the fall, but are hoping for the rise.

SCORE: 8/10

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3 Responses to “REVIEW: Halsey – ‘Badlands’”

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  2. Camden Willeford says:

    This is one killer album and review! Halsey has a vibe reminiscent of Phoebe Ryan, especially her song “Mine”. If you haven’t heard this killer track, I suggest you check it out!

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