Current Album Review: Badlands


Abby Turner

Halsey is a 20-year-old, New Jersey-born techno alt-pop singer who recently came out with her first full length album, Badlands.

Her vocal range and control is incredible considering how young she is. Halsey’s sound is a mix of Lorde and Lana Del Rey with a techno beat behind her.

Halsey is actually Ashley Frangipane’s stage name. Ashley’s stage name is said to have come from Halsey St. in New York City, the same city she describes as her playground in her interview with All Things Go Music.

“I grew up in Jersey, but New York was my playground. In middle school and high school I used to take the train in and go get in a bunch of trouble and come back home before my parents would know I was gone. We lived in like a Friday Night Lights town, so everyone would go to football games on Friday and I’d be in SoHo underage,” Halsey said.

Her experiences in the Big Apple influence a lot of her eccentric music. Her first EP was released this year as well, entitled Room 93.

She describes it in her album commentary released in 2014 as “touching on the human intimacy of hotel rooms and how it’s like an alternate universe.”

Halsey has toured with artists such as The Kooks and Imagine Dragons, and is going to be touring with The Weeknd in November and December of 2015.

Two songs stood out most in this album. The first is “New Americana.

“Survival of the richest, the city’s ours until the fall. They’re Monaco and Hamptons bound, but we don’t feel like outsiders at all,” Halsey sang.

Halsey admitted to being different in high school-and it seems this song may be pointing towards that-in an interview this summer with Complex.

“(In high school) I was a weirdo. I think I wanted to be liked, but I didn’t have the attention or bother to actually make an effort to be. I also think I had a different perception of what I needed to do to be liked. I thought, ‘Oh, I need to be interesting, and I need to be funny, and cool and different.’ And everyone else was like, ‘No, you need to be boring and low key because that’s what makes you well-liked.’ I mean I had tattoos in high school, I shaved the side of my head,” Halsey said. “All my friends were way older than me. I went through the phase that most kids go through at 20, 21 when I was like 16. All my friends were doing drugs. I was coming to Brooklyn all the time. All the kids I went to high school with were at Friday night football games and picking out prom dresses and going tanning, and I was like, ‘Cool, I’m hungover at my AP exam.'”

The song has a very big Lana Del Rey vibe, haunting melodies similar to the songVideo Games but much more upbeat.

Halsey also sings the line “Raised on Biggie and Nirvana,” which gives another reference to the rapper Biggie with the song’s title New Americana hinting at The Notorious B.I.G.’s iconic song Juicy.

“I have a song on my new record called ‘New Americana’ and the chorus has a line in it that says, ‘raised on Biggie and Nirvana.’ It’s because I come from a mixed race family — my dad’s black and my mom’s white — so growing up my dad was listening to a ton of old school rap and my mom was listening to a ton of ‘90s grunge. So I was fortunate that my parents were rocking MTV when I was an infant,” Halsey said in an MTV interview.

The second song that stood out with her unique style is “Hold Me Down”. This song shares the struggle of relationships and depression.

Halsey admitted to Elle that she deals with bipolar disorder. Ever since the matter was discussed publicly she has inspired many other young girls to be open about their struggles with other mental illnesses like bipolar disorder or depression.

“I wasn’t expecting it to mean anything. I figured everyone would either read it and be like, ‘Oh, interesting,’ but then kids started coming out of the woodwork saying, ‘This means so much to me.’ I was completely taken aback,” Halsey said.

The artist’s humility throughout her growing popularity is what makes her so likable and refreshing in the industry. Her honest lyrics are also an enticing offer to become a fan, like in ‘Hold Me Down’ when she croons, “Selfish, taking what I want and call it mine, I’m helpless, clinging to a little bit of spine, they rush me, telling me I’m running out of time, they shush me, walking me across a fragile line.”

The album features lots of distinct songs compared to the popular pop music in the industry. One example of a contrasting song is “Haunting”. It begins with a stuttering effect that is quite rare to find.

“‘Cause I’ve done some things that I can’t speak, And I’ve tried to wash you away but you just won’t leave, So won’t you take a breath and dive in deep, ‘Cause I came here so you’d come for me,” Halsey sang.

The verse reveals a possible toxic relationship that became addictive, and that’s exactly what this track is, addictive!

Another song that is a stand out on Badlands is “Colors.” It relates relationship to hues, similar to Taylor Swift’s song Red.

“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,” Halsey sang.

The comparison of mixing color to humans in relationships is thought provoking and original.

Badlands is diverse, features her incredible vocals with skillful production, and has honest, identifiable lyrics for young people especially. Due to her recent success and new album, the alternative songstress is blowing up in popularity.