Halsey, whose stage name is an anagram of her real name Ashley Nicolette Frangipane, is a 21-year-old electro-pop singer from New Jersey. After gaining attention for both her covers and original songs on SoundCloud, she signed with a record label and released an EP (Room 93) on October 27, 2014. Fans fell in love with her unique voice and Room 93 established her as a dynamic and honest singer. Her debut studio album, Badlands, was released on August 28, 2015, and that’s when I first fell in love with this little gem.
Badlands is actually based on a fictional dystopian society called The Badlands, which was inspired by movies such as Blade Runner and The Fifth Element, Halsey said in an interview, and became a metaphor for her mental state and real life struggles, which indeed, heavily influence her songs. The album opens with “Castle,” and from the beginning we see Halsey’s emotions manifest themselves within her songs. Dubbed “an angry female record” by Halsey herself, she sings about the “old man sitting on the throne that’s saying that I probably shouldn’t be so mean.”
“New Americana,” the second single off the track, is the song that brought Halsey the most attention as a member of the new generation, the generation whom the public and society see as “a mess.” This album essentially captures the feelings of growing up in this age, and from “Drive” to “Control,” Halsey explores the confusion and tells the uncensored tales of the youth. With soft vocals that seem to express her unspeakable pains, backed by a dark and defiant instrumental, “Colors” is, like its name suggests, colorful. Graphic colors and images paint a grim picture of love: “You were red and you liked me because I was blue/You touched me and suddenly I was a lilac sky/And you decided purple just wasn’t for you.” The album ends on “I Walk The Line,” a slow and dreary track, reminiscent of the sounds of Portishead, that concludes with the line “I find myself alone when each day is through.”
Loneliness. Depression. Confusion.
Sex. Drugs. Dreams.
This is Halsey’s diary filled with her deepest secrets and fears — the voice of the troubled youth — and though her vocals aren’t particularly spectacular, this album is so beautifully raw and emotional.