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The Student News Site of Loyola University Maryland

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Halsey’s “Manic” re-introduces the pop star in a new light


Four months after its announcement, pop singer/songwriter Halsey released her third album, titled “Manic,” this past Friday, Jan. 17. The drop of the complete album followed the release of six of its tracks, “Graveyard”, “clementine”, “Finally // beautiful stranger”, “You should be sad”, “SUGA’s interlude”, and “Without Me.” Fans, as well as pop radio, have had “Without Me” on repeat since Halsey released it after her breakup with G-Eazy back in 2018.

As “Without Me” was not attached to “Manic” at the time, the release of “Graveyard,” which coincided with the announcement of the album, seemed to set the tone for Halsey’s next big project: a fresh and cutting, but still catchy, new take on pop music for the innovative artist. The style of the proceeding four singles had more diverse Kpop, country, and spoken-poetry influences. With every release, the tone of the album became increasingly difficult to predict, but Halsey’s unapologetic nature for the styles of these songs all seemed to be part of the mania. 

The release of a personalized project has been a long time coming for Halsey. Both of her previous LPs were intense concept albums. “Badlands” and “Hopeless Fountain Kingdom” put on a show for her fans, even for the artist herself, and created an imaginative world to get lost in. Halsey alludes to this idea in the opening track “Ashley,” a hushed techno lullaby: “Took my heart out and sold it out to a vision I wrote myself.” As a change in pace and direction, the concept of this album seems to have less of an allegorical story and more exposures of Halsey’s (i.e. Ashley’s) nuanced personality and headspace. The tagline for “Manic”: “hi, my name is Ashley. It’s nice to meet you,” is a reference to Halsey’s personal identity as Ashley Frangipane. The angst driven, scattered self reflection seems to be something which much of her growing and aging audience will be able to empathize with.

Halsey has proven to have a unique songwriting style. Every song has a different assigned emotion and distinguished sound, an uneasy feat when so many pop songs today sound vaguely the same.

Touching on the feeling of fighting self isolation late at night, “3am” stylistically is reminiscent of country-rock electric guitar licks and strumming with a fun 2000s pop drum beat. “I HATE EVERYBODY” similarly speaks on self isolation but in the context of being obsessive and cutting ties in favor of falling in love: “I can fall in love with anybody who don’t want me / so I just keep sayin’ I hate everybody…” Production wise, the sound for this track is paced slowly; the grand, parade sounding drums and childish xylophone sounding riffs make the dismal and complaining message of the song feel routine.

This isn’t the only call back to a simpler, childish state of mind. “Clementine,” the title in reference to the film “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” repeats the same, clean, rhythmic piano behind Halsey’s chanting vocals that eventually devolve into distant yelling not unlike a playground rhyme. 

“Manic” uses features to highlight some of Halsey’s diverse interests and influences. Singer and rapper Dominic Fike, Alanis Morissette (known most notably for the 90s pop song “Ironic”), and rapper SUGA of K-pop’s BTS are all featured on their own self titled interludes. Each interlude maintains the individual style of the artist it’s named for, but with a touch of Halsey’s vocals. Props are due to Halsey for effectively using features in an effort to achieve a very specific and personal artistic goal, not to increase clout and get attention for star power collaboration.

“Still Learning,” an Ed Sheeran co-write, is the only moment on the album that seemed to air on the less remarkable side stylistically. The track has the tribal EDM beat, breathy vocals, and self love message that are increasingly stereotypical of what catches fire in pop radio. This track plays the role as the next contender for Halsey to hit the charts.

Halsey has opened a platform for herself to be vulnerable not only as an artist, but as a person. This openness elevates her latest effort in the way she captures her emotions and insecurities in song and poetic verse for herself and not necessarily for others.

The closing track “929,” built around the idea she was born on Sept. 9 at 9:29, musically sounds like growing or a clock ticking. Conceptually, the song is about the fluidity of one’s sense of identity, and the fear of never really being who you think you are. This sentiment marks exactly why the album is considerably some of her best work to date,  as she honestly addresses her own genuine personality without being tacky or basic. 

Feature Image: Courtesy of Capital Records.

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Halsey’s “Manic” re-introduces the pop star in a new light