Halsey: A Relatively Unknown Voice of a Generation
2012 was a big year in music as we had releases of all kinds from Taylor Swift’s “We Are Never Getting Back Together” to “Call Me Maybe” and of course the rise of well known rapper 2 Chainz. Of course their were many more musical acts that came out of 2012 and songs that better fitted this introduction to the topic. However, the focus should have been on an artist who is now tearing up the charts but back then was a new kid on the block. Halsey is known for her many solo singles and various features on notable tracks throughout numerous genre’s, mostly pop. Her music though takes a much deeper message than simply just something that is written for the purpose of becoming famous. Her talent is far from a simple musical act like Madonna who shocks, she is graceful and her music has meaning and value.
Born in 1994 in New Jersey, the Halsey we know had a childhood that was filled with mild discomforting details. Her parents both had to drop out of college after she was born, each made ends meet while supporting a young daughter. To her parents surprise, Halsey had a very keen talent for musical instruments, she could play violin, viola, cello, and eventually moved to playing guitar. Throughout her youth, due to her differences, she was often bullied in school and at the age of 17 attempted suicide. It was after this that she was diagnosed as being bipolar. She frequently discusses this in many of her songs as being a blessing and a curse, a weakness and a strength. While in her youth she met a man who was several years older than her and they lived on Halsey Street in Brooklyn. Around this time, she began to take her previous musical talent and write her own songs and music. She has claimed herself that Halsey is her alter-ego and that whenever she is on stage this is what takes over.
Making it Big
Her popularity came in one of the most likely places that it could have. With the advent of social media, a performer can post anything anywhere that they wish and someone will find it. She made various post on Kik Messenger and YouTube in order to “get found.” She even went as far as parodying other artists songs. In 2014 it became clear that her talent was going to take her simply away from YouTube stardom to mainstream as she continued writing her own music with someone that she refers to as a “music guy.” In the process of this partnership Halsey wrote the song “Ghost” which was about a past-relationship that she had. The song was her debut of sorts and was posted to Soundcloud weeks after being recorded. It seemed almost instantaneously that she had grown into an overnight sensation as many record labels began contacting her.
She began playing under various stage names across the United States but one name really stood out to her. Halsey was a chosen as her permanent stage name as she felt it best fit her and it was an anagram of her first name Ashley. Music was not only her hobby now but it had a chance to become a career and one that she could thrive in. Her songs instantly became more personal as she considered music to be a sort of safe space for her to talk about what she wanted to talk about as well as the struggles of her childhood.
Badlands her solo debut was released in 2015. Although she had released an EP in 2014 titled Room 93, Badlands faired much better as it ended up reaching #2 on the Billboard Charts that year. Halsey had made it and was no longer an artist that was touring with others. She had successfully achieved one of the highest rankings by a new artist ever. The album was a multi-year process and featured multiple hard-hitting tracks that even pop artists were taken aback by. Many critics loved the album but it was not an album that had a “radio hit.” It sent a strong message about a dystopian society but was not received by the radio community. Her music though was being received outside of this shell, the music community had rediscovered its love of streaming music and that was beginning of a great record. Badlands received more praise and affection from streams than it did album sales. She began the Badlands Tour that year and was even invited to have her own set at The Weeknd’s The Madness Fall Tour.
The album itself features tracks such as “New Americana” that commented on the social world that we live in. She name drops notable actor James Dean and explains the mess of fame. She even gets a little personal giving a shoutout to her childhood who was as she put it “raised on Biggie and Nirvana.” Furthermore, on her track “Colors” she discusses a familiar topic with her listeners, love and how it can feel to lose it. It displays her pain, suffering, depression, and her anger towards someone. With all of these setbacks she feels that she needs to let him go. Her writing of “everything is blue” appears to be a message of doom rather than a positive message of love and affection. Furthering into her mental state, Halsey also reflects on her bipolar self in “Gasoline.” A very extreme and vulgar song in which she details her struggle with identity and how she had succumb to the pressures of fame while dealing with a social existence. Her pain is felt through every note and lyric in each of her songs on Badlands. Yet, for her this was only the beginning.
From this album she received many notable features as well including “The Feeling” by Justin Bieber and The Chainsmokers’ classic “Closer.” In each song she reflects on her relationships and their painful aspects. This is a huge theme throughout her solo career but furthermore leads to her later albums in which she delves deeper into the insecurities of what is happening in her personal life. Her solo album deserves much praise for initiating speaking about topics in a different way. Unlike most artists she can come off as vulgar for the way she writes her music but each song is her own and her lyrics and way of telling the story are what make each song special.
"Hopeless Fountain Kingdom"- Album #2
Album number two was in many opinions her best. She released in in 2017 to much surprise of her fans. Her tracks on this album became more mainstream and looked into her love life more seriously. It seemed that she spent more time attacking those that hurt her but in a weird way blamed herself for some situations as well. The album was a Billboard knockout and had three singles on it which are worth recognition. First, she released “Eyes Closed” in which she writes her feelings towards an ex-boyfriend of hers while being in a relationship. She seems to have a grip on her love life at the beginning of the song but by the end we are dragged in by the tense situation that she has created by feelings alone. However, this message prompts a negative connotation that getting over someone is not at all easy and that it takes time. She in a way blames herself in this song for her feelings but states that it is “nothing new.” In “Strangers” a story unfolds that is not personal at all, at least in theory but about two other people which she discusses on other tracks in the album. The song has peculiar twists and turns and the outcome of it is that in the story the two characters are just strangers and do not really know why they are where they are in their lives. The message may be personal but as it lies on the lyrics end there is much left to the imagination. Once again, she writes of what it means to feel but how it can be wrong to do so. Her last single from this album that deserves notable praise is “Now or Never.” The song deals with taking a chance on love and realizing that time is precious no matter what. She again reflects on the hardships of love and how a relationship can be more work than love. Nevertheless, the time is now or never to make a change in order for the two lovers involved to stay together. It is one of her more popular songs on the album. The last notable track on this album is probably her most famous one. “Bad At Love” details her issues with being in a controlling relationship as well as lots of drug usage in order to calm her nerves. Although she infers that she is “Bad At Love” in that no matter what happens she is bad at relationships. Her track shows much about the current relationship culture in the 2010s and it infers the difficulty of coping with fixing one and patching it up to continue moving forward.
"Manic" and The Present
Halsey’s latest production features three important tracks on it as well. “Nightmare” in which she again reflects on relationship struggles with an ex. Her life has become a nightmare as a result of him but she is making the best of her situation. She even includes a brief rap segment on the track which provides a bit of confusion as she predominantly sings on most of her tracks. Furthermore, “Nightmare” also provides a deeper look in a controlling society and social media. On the track she infers that she is positioned to be the good girl but that she would rather be the nightmarish bad girl as being good is not her image. Also, she returns to her roots on Manic as her sound becomes more soft with her tracks “Graveyard” and “Without Me.” Each of which received notoriety on the billboard charts. “Without Me” was a stand alone single in which Halsey reflected on her attitude and past relationships in which her men have cheated on her. It seems that her men had made advances to her after messing up and she suggests that they can “live without me.” It is powerful feminist message that also speaks out to infidelity amongst relationships. Lastly, “Graveyard” another soft sounding track proposes a similar message to her previous album. Entrapment appears to be her biggest qualm with relationships as she often feels trapped within many of them.
Voice of a Generation and Controversy
Halsey is and should be an inspiring artist for the 20 something generation in America today. Lots of her music reflects on the issues of labeling people and how it is not okay to do so. She discusses past relationships and how they have meaning. Some of her works are unclear and mysterious but for the most part she speaks to people who are lost and misunderstood. Outside of music she comes to the defense of people being attacked unfairly. Her most recent example of this was defending Kanye West as fans were displaying unfair hatred towards him for being bipolar. She has also come to the defense of her ex-boyfriends in most cases as well. Rapper G-Eazy has even defended her on multiple occasions. The music community respects her but not as much as it should. Her sense of the current situation within society of struggling with solitude is admirable. Her music is simply her venting outlet to do so.
Halsey has also been considered by various outlets as not being an ideal image of female empowerment. It is unclear why because she has displayed nothing but respect for other artists. Her figure is more controversial than her lyrics. Halsey, although known for her musical talent also she many tattoos to go along with her baggage. She draws attention from outlets every time that she gets a new one and every tattoo that she has in her words, “has meaning.” Her various relationships are tabloid worthy as they seem to end with wrong doing by the spouses. It is undeniable that her music though displays her true feelings on these matters. It is unfair to address the controversial artist as less crucial to modern music. In many ways she is more crucial to the future of music than we might see.