“Is it really that strange that I always want to change?”
These words are a part of the introduction to Halsey’s emotional, raw and dynamic third record, Manic. Explosive in color and sound, the album is the perfect palette for all of the senses.
However, unlike its predecessors, Manic follows no singular message or storyline – it reveals the layered complexities within Halsey’s psyche. Ironically – the best part of this next chapter is that each song does not follow the same path sonically. From country to pop to rock, the “Ghost” singer tackles the struggles of scrutiny, heartbreak and anger all in one go.
In her most vulnerable work to date, Halsey truly shows herself – the real Ashley Frangipane (as evident in the opening track “Ashley”) within the chaotic throes of her career. If you look close enough, you can see on the album artwork how it’s Halsey’s third record (“H3”) and Ashley’s first (“A1”).
After the debut single “Without Me,” fans were wondering where Halsey’s musical messages would go following the breakup between her and “Him and I” rapper G-Eazy. However, she does not simply set her sights on the public scandal – instead, she places a priority on what her life looks like now, as well as the growing pains associated with becoming a global phenomenon.
Halsey has been able to provide several strong singles leading up to the album release – including the upbeat sounding, yet lyrical downer “Graveyard” and A Star is Born-esque “Finally // beautiful stranger.” Both songs gave listeners a peek into where her next moves would be – open, emotional and more experimental than ever.
Yet, the single that managed to shock long-time listeners was the country/rock “you should be sad.” With its video giving homage to hit singers like Shania Twain and Christina Aguilera, “sad” offers another nod towards just how musically diverse Frangipane truly is.
One of the most fascinating aspects behind this record is Halsey’s guest lineup; including “Ironic” singer Alanis Morissette, Dominic Fike and BTS’ Suga. Each interlude provides a jarring, yet complementary feel towards the record. In each of their spontaneity, they offer assistance towards Halsey’s passionate messages. With each artist’s individual style, it helps contribute and enhance what Halsey is trying to convey – understanding the complicated and most beautiful parts of yourself.
With messages of love and self-acceptance (“Still Learning”) and anguish and revenge (“3am” and “killing boys”) Halsey truly dives into the spectrum of emotion. However, it’s important to note some of the highlights on Manic.
As one of my favorite promotional singles, “clementine” provides one of Halsey’s vastly different sounds within the record. Yet, this track showcases the emotions of love in its most uncomfortable – open, romantic, gritty, heart-wrenching and simply beautiful.
The final notes of “Finally… (forever is a long time)” provides a perfect transition into “Dominic’s Interlude.” Fike’s interlude illuminates the harsh: not truly being satisfied by the one you are with. Paired off with “I HATE EVERYBODY” – it makes a genius (Libra driven) combination. The latter song discusses the frustration of unrequited love and flaky friendships. This consistent juxtaposition of longing for and rejecting connection proves to be one of the most ever-present themes in the album.
One of the biggest standouts of the Manic record finds Halsey at her most frustrated. Starting with a delicious sample from Jennifer’s Body, “killing boys” provides a Uma Thurman reference, keyed-up Ferraris and the fierce kiss-off anthem for anyone that’s ever been cheated on. Yet, it takes a melancholic turn when she realizes;
“I’m not breaking, I won’t take it / And I won’t ever feel this way again.”
“3am” is Halsey at her most raw – in the desperation of anyone’s company. This track, at its best, reminds listeners of a Paramore B-cut about wishing to be confident, yet longing for the security of others after dark. The most relatable lyric for this technology-driven age, you ask? “I need it digital, ’cause baby when it’s physical // I end up alone.”
By far the queerest anthem on Manic, Alanis Morissette and Halsey collaborate for one of the cheekiest and most unique tracks of the record. With a throaty, “Your pussy is a wonderland,” this track blurs the lines of gender by having love take the spotlight.
Instead of ending with a bang, Manic ends on a sincere moment. Set in a freestyle format, “929” is a looking glass at how the real Ashley Frangipane is doing. Brutally honest in its delivery, she shares with her fans about feeling isolated in fame, disappointment with musical heroes and having people in power use her instead of appreciating her for her talents. “929” is the perfect reminder of just how our biggest idols are still flawed, beautiful and just … human.
Manic is now available physically and on streaming platforms. Halsey will be coming to DTE Energy Music Theatre on Friday, June 26 alongside CHVRCHES and Omar Apollo.
You can purchase tickets here.
Notable tracks: “Finally // beautiful stranger,” “killing boys” and “929”
Image courtesy of Capitol Records