For an artist whose debut album Badlands dropped last August, Halsey has already built herself a feverishly dedicated fanbase. The 21-year-old, born Ashley Frangipane, has risen to impressive heights under the moniker ‘Halsey:’ an alias which is both an anagram of her birth name and a sentimental nod to a street in Brooklyn. Named MTV’s ‘Artist To Watch,’ Halsey’s ethereal sound has already hypnotized an entire generation.
Hearing the album for the first time, it isn’t difficult to understand how Halsey’s sound has captivated thousands. Badlands is a mesh of gritty, raw, calculated lyrics and a synth-heavy production reminiscent of Chvrches and Lights. The album opens with slow-burner “Castle,” a track screaming its discontent: “Sick of all these people talking, sick of all this noise / Tired of all these cameras flashing, sick of being poised.” But “Castle” is just one example of Halsey’s brutally honest narrative, with similar lyrical tones resonating throughout the entire album.
“New Americana,” for example, is an anthem for a new generation. Lyrics like “Survival of the richest, the city’s ours until the fall” take on a whole new meaning when paired with the dystopian “Divergent”-inspired video; the track is a bitter comment on society. “New Americana” is simply destined for radio play, with an incredibly addictive chorus and vocal embellishments evocative of Marina & the Diamonds.
There are parts of Badlands, however, that aren’t quite as commercial. “Gasoline,” “Control,” and “Hold Me Down” demonstrate the darker side of Ashley Frangipane’s alter ego; they radiate a much more extreme intensity. The urgency of “Gasoline” in particular enhances the calculated anxiety in Halsey’s lyrics, bringing a new edge to an already complex album: “You can’t wake up, this is not a dream / You’re part of a machine, you are not a human being.”