Halsey, released her third studio album Manic on Jan. 17, 2020. This album was drawn from multiple personal experiences that helped her create a glimpse into her life, some of those experiences being her tumultuous on-again off-again relationship with G-Eazy, her love and appreciation for movies, and accepting her identity being bisexual, biracial, and bipolar. She takes us inside the mind of Ashley Frangipane, not Halsey. She is more honest and raw on this album than on any of her projects in the past. This gives her listeners a front row ticket to the chaotic, lovely, and bustling life that is her reality.
Taking back her world
Her last two albums, Badlands and Hopeless Fountain Kingdom, have had themes and both been set in worlds that she’s created. Badlands is set in a dystopian society, dubbed “Badlands”, and Hopeless Fountain Kingdom reflects Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, but she swaps the genders of Romeo and Juliet and adds same sex relationships. Manic opposes the whole idea of having certain and specific ‘worlds’. This is her first album that is authentically 100% her. It doesn’t occur in a new world she has created and it doesn’t connect to the other worlds. Only the reality that she lives in day-to-day.
From ex to next
The first and most popular single Halsey released was “Without Me.” In this gritty and anger ridden song, Halsey opens up about her ex-boyfriend G-Eazy. Her sheer pain and fury seeps through the lyrics. She credits giving so much of herself to him and even asks how he could live without her after she gave him so much of herself. “Graveyard” was the next single Halsey released from Manic. This song also reflects her relationship with G-Eazy. Despite the warning signs she received from her friends, family, and even herself she stuck with him. She would’ve done whatever he wanted her to and whatever she needed to to stay with him. Both of these songs drag her emotions front and center for the world to see. Additionally, her vulnerability in them heightens the personal side of this album so much.
Looking for her own peace of mind
“Clementine” presents a similar story to that of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Clementine is Kate Winslet’s character from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Winslet stars in this sci-fi/drama alongside leading co-star Jim Carrey, who plays her ex-boyfriend Joel. Clementine attempts to complete wipe all of her memories of her and Joel’s relationship after they break up. Joel finds out she is doing this and decides to also wipe all of his memories of them too. Against the soft piano in the background Halsey declares, “I don’t need anyone (I don’t need anyone)/ I don’t need anyone (I don’t need anyone)/I just need everyone and then some (I just need everyone and then some)” She reflects the feelings one can undergo after a breakup; the feeling of wanting to be completely alone when experiencing something so painful and heartbreaking. Then, the feeling of realizing how lonely that actually is. In the end of “Ashley” she incorporates Clementine’s monologue from the movie, “Too many guys think I’m a concept, or I complete them, or I’m gonna make them alive. But I’m just a f****d-up girl who’s lookin’ for my own peace of mind; don’t assign me yours.”
Picking her battles
The movie references don’t stop there. In the beginning of “killing boys” she includes a conversation between the two main characters, Amanda Seyfried’s character Anita ‘Needy’ Lesnicky and Megan Fox’s character Jennifer Check, from the horror/comedy Jennifer’s Body. “You’re killing people. No, I’m killing boys. Boys are just placeholders, they come and they go. You’re my best friend, and I wanna help you But I won’t let you kill again. That’s a lose-lose.” She reflects on a time in her life when she was so outraged that she would go to her ex just to cause a scene and make sure they were aware of how hurt she was. Adding the bit of dialogue from Jennifer’s Body really drives the point home that boys are indeed “Just placeholders” and they will come and go, whereas friends are forever. Her vocals on this song reflects this idea, by displaying her revengeful attitude and adding angst. This song is quick paced and the cello building up in the chorus gives it so much tension. These intricate details make this song one of the best on the album.
Right before “killing boys” is “Alanis’ Interlude” which features Alanis Morisette. Here she opens up more about being bisexual. She belts, “And my girl, she always wore a skirt in the classroom/ Eatin’ my dessert in the bathroom/Can’t get caught, so we stiller than a statue.” This is based on a true story. In an interview with Billboard Halsey said, “ I had a fellow female counselor, a redhead, and we would hook up every night. We had a cabin of 9-year-old girls, [but]there was a private room for the counselors.” Having Alanis Morisette on this song gives it that 90’s rock edge. Alanis Morisette’s vocals on the first listen, admittedly, were rough. After giving it a few more listens, they became more and more appealing to the ear. Their voices sync well together, while they are both being so incredibly empowering.
Both of these songs elevate the personal narrative Halsey creates with this album, by giving the listener more inside information into her past relationships – the past relationship with herself and the past relationships with her past lovers.
In a recent interview with Apple Music, Halsey explains what the ‘trio’ is. “Every album of mine has what we call a ‘trio’: three songs smack in the middle that serve as a transition and are meant to be listened to in succession.” On Manic, her infamous ‘trio’ is “Forever … (is a long time),” “Dominic’s Interlude,” and “I HATE EVERYBODY.” This is something tailored to her as an artist. She starts it off with “Forever … (is a long time)” which starts as a sweet and innocent love song, but then towards the end moves into her getting into her own head and second guessing everything and ultimately self-sabotaging her relationship. In “Dominic’s Interlude” , which features Dominic Fike, he sings “Talk to your man/ Tell him he got bad news comin’ (Yeah).” Which is confirming that her self-sabotaging is going to get the best of their relationship. Then, “I HATE EVERYBODY” is about how her insecurities can get the best of her.
This ‘trio’ works for the benefit of the album, because it’s taking the listener on a mini journey within a journey. These three songs tell their own story within a bigger story. They describe what self-sabotaging a healthy and good relationship can be like. The guilt and resentment one can build up towards themselves. When compared to her previous ‘trios’ from Badlands and Hopeless Fountain Kingdom this one stands out the most. Lyrically, she’s wearing her heart on her sleeve. She’s singing about a situation that not many artists are brave enough to admit. This is relating to a whole new audience, who have the same problem of self-sabotaging their relationships. The impact this has on the listener is it guides them through a specific storyline and breaks it down into a beginning, middle, and end within the three songs.
Country and K-POP are the move
“You should be sad” is the first song that really stands out as being different in sound. Halsey’s usual sound is pop, specifically dipping into synth-pop, electropop, and alternative rock. This song has a country twist to it, and it surprisingly works for the album as a whole. She has never done a country song before, so it was definitely a shock on the first listen. It gives the album something unique to what she normally does. “SUGA’s Interlude” also stand out. This features K-POP band BTS, and this is the second song she’s done with the band. The first song was “Boy With Luv”, which she featured on. This also works incredibly well for the album as a whole. BTS have accumulated a huge fan base over the past few years and it’s evident as to why on this song. Halsey and BTS together can do no wrong; they’ve easily created another international pop hit.
Throughout this sixteen track album, the general sound of it is honest. She is completely transparent about everything that has happened to her in her life. Halsey is unapologetically and utterly trying to be no one besides herself. This is demonstrated by her putting her heart and soul into each song, ensuring that they all carry a different message and that they each pack a punch. Each one being just as memorable as the next.
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Featured Image: Manic the Album
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