By Alexander Muir
Ashley Nicolette Frangipane was just a naive kid from New Jersey who, despite fierce competition in a world obsessed with the next big thing, soared into popularity. Her newest album, Badlands, combines her hypnotic vocal talents and her innate idiosyncratic nature, with an almost poetic lyrical ability.
Badlands is one of those listen-on-repeat albums whose soft, yet powerful tracks such as ‘Colours’ and ‘Drive’ will leave you feeling the intensity of her words long after the songs end. A moody, electro-pop artist with intellectual parallels with artists like Lorde, and a passionate pitch comparable with Ellie Goulding, Halsey has a vibrant voice with an unrehearsed delicacy and innocence. An underlying confidence effectively drives forward the emotion present in her songs, made obvious in the graceful track, ‘Ghost’.
“I write songs about sex and being sad. I will never be anything but honest,” Halsey writes in her Instagram bio, perfectly summarising her emotional connection with her music. Her truthful passion in the dystopian ‘New Americana’ and the album’s first track ‘Castle’ is a gentle reminder that we all experience the highs and the lows of living in a corrupted world and is a strong message to the everyday people feeling alone that individuality is something to cherish. In an interview with Idolator, Halsey said, “I also pride myself on being an artist whose music is cinematic, so I wanted to show off the music’s ability to do that by giving them short dramatic films [in her music video for ‘Ghost’]. I think it was the best way for people to see that I’m authentic.”
Though a person of her character is understandably anti-establishment, ‘Castle’ is surprisingly on-the-nose and the topical ‘New Americana’ is a clearly destined for a place in the charts. Personal insight comes later in the album with Halsey’s honest expression and the daring character. ‘Hold Me Down’ is a Herculean indictment of patriarchy (“Sold my soul to a three piece, And he told me I was holy”), but ultimately serves as the foundation of the more intimate corners of the album.
After these tracks, the album’s somewhat sudden transitions from Lorde-esque post-teen narrative into a more comfortable niche and for the most part remains there, merging the personal and the universal into a single portrait. ‘Coming Down’ and ‘Drive’ demonstrate Halsey’s potential particularly well in this respect.
“I’ve got a lover, a love like religion”, she hums on the former, an effort in iconoclasm and irreverence matched by ‘Young God’, which finds power and risk in young love and vulnerability. These songs are Badlands key aspects: messy, ironic chronicles of modern relationships, merging both old institutions and new romantic laws. With stunning soundscapes and disaffected vocals, Halsey has a way of simultaneously sweeping us up in the moment (we’re all in the car on ‘Drive’) and placing us in broader society.