Ashley Nicolette Frangipane, known by her stage name Halsey, released her highly-anticipated debut album, “Badlands,” in late August. Last year, many people did not know the blue-haired singer, but she is quickly rising to the top through her catchy, raw lyrics and explosive personality. “Room 93,” her debut EP, was released last October and, although there were only five songs, Halsey began to amass a cult following that led to sold-out shows and opening for The Kooks and Imagine Dragons on their tours. I went to one of the New Jersey natives Imagine Dragons shows in Brooklyn and when I asked the people around me who they were here to see, almost all of them screamed “HALSEY!” Her stage presence is unlike any other artist, as she personally connects with every one of her fans in the audience and the ones that cannot make it to her shows. The singer is constantly on twitter expressing her love and appreciation for her many followers.
“Room 93” explores the intimacy of hotel rooms and how it can feel like an alternate universe. With “Badlands,” Halsey expands her concept to a much larger arena. She describes the Badlands as a futuristic, isolated society on the outskirts of Los Angeles, which is also a metaphor for the lonely and desolate mind she had when writing the album. She says that most of what she writes about are things she has witnessed or thought about, but some songs are from personal experience with her long line of bad partners.
However, her music is always raw and honest, with the capacity to make anyone feel. The 16 songs feature a combination of alternative pop, punk and rock. It opens with “Castle,” which has an ominous, foreboding sound that represents the dark world of the Badlands that the listener is about to enter. Other highlights include “Ghost,” which was also featured on the EP and one of the first songs ever written under the name Halsey. The chilling lyric, “my ghost, where’d you go, I can’t find you in the body next to me,” describes how people can change during relationships into people their partners may not be able to recognize.
“Colors” has the largest resemblance to a pop Top 40 hit, but beneath that façade lies a heavy breakup song with Tumblr-famous lyrics. “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 song that has received the most attention by the mainstream music stations has been “New Americana,” which is an enthralling anthem that talks about the new generation of music and pop culture. The chorus chants, “We are the New Americana, high on legal marijuana. Raised on Biggie and Nirvana, we are the New Americana,” which depicts a youth revolution against normal cultural standards.
Although it has been praised by critics and fans alike, Halsey has received backlash for talking about the legalization of marijuana. In response, the singer tweeted, “If you think the song is about getting high then you are fucking stupid.” The first single in promotion for the album, “Hold Me Down,” describes one’s struggles with demons, which can be drugs or other people. Overall, the songs that comprise the album are powerful, candid pieces deeply filled with emotions that take the listener through the Badlands from beginning to end.
Halsey is just as open and honest outside of her music as she is in it. She is a staunch supporter of social justice issues, speaking from experience about the stereotypes she experiences from being bi-racial, bisexual and bipolar. The singer says that all these things comprise who she is and she is proud of the person she has become.
Throughout her career she has dealt with criticism and learned to grow from it. She released two versions of the “Ghost” music video, one with a boy and one with a girl. The heteronormative video got virtually no criticism, but the one with a girl was criticized for being too “sexual,” even though they were the exact same videos. Halsey quickly defended herself and spoke out against the hypocrisy and misogyny that exists in America today.
She is very open about her bipolar disorder because she encourages others to not let their mental illnesses get in the way of success. For her followers who might be suffering from a mental illness or who might not conform to heteronormative standards, this honesty is an amazing thing–Halsey is here to say that it is normal and just a part who you are. She is also a feminist and speaks up against problems facing women’s rights, such as supporting Planned Parenthood and being pro-choice.
“Badlands” landed at number two on the Billboard Music Charts, making a fantastic first album debut. Fellow artists Marina and the Diamonds, The Weeknd, and Matt Healy, the lead singer of the 1975, have all expressed their support and adulation for the singer.
Halsey will be going on tour this fall, and all of her dates sold out in less than thirty minutes. She will also be opening for the Weeknd on a select few tour dates. “Badlands” has been acclaimed by critics and fans alike, and I am sure that this is only the beginning for this talented, non-conforming artist.