Halsey is the name on everybody’s lips and now she wants you to meet “Ashley”.
The pop songstress just announced the album cover and release date for her third studio album Manic alongside the drop of new track ‘Graveyard’. Out January 17, the big reveal came in a grand gesture with Halsey herself painting the cover of her face adorned with blue eye glitter and multi-coloured hair in a 7.5 hour livestream. In true Halsey fashion, she loves to reinvent herself, and this record is no different. In a recent interview with Zane Lowe she described it as an album where she wants to close a chapter in her life by putting “the nail in the coffin.”
In celebration of this announcement, it feels right to take a trip back to the badlands and her bona fide arsenal of enigmatic pop hits.
It was only five years ago that Halsey was living the bohemian dream as a 19-year-old couch-surfing community college dropout by the name of Ashley Nicolette Frangipane. Now a multi-platinum selling popstar on the cusp of her third era, she has over 16 million Instagram followers, a Songwriters Hall of Fame nod, multiple global headlining tours and collabs from the likes of a casual Justin Bieber, Korean pop group BTS, breakout rapper Juice WRLD, producer Benny Blanco, to her boyfriend Yungblud.
It was the very first song she ever wrote titled ‘Ghost’, that propelled the Tumblr born self-confessed “f*cked up stoner kid” into an overnight success. After dropping it for free on SoundCloud, the track went viral, getting various record labels sliding into her DMs. It was this moment that solidified the evolution of “Ashley” into the slick anagram we know as “Halsey”, the rising star she was born to be.
Just last month Halsey celebrated the four year anniversary of her “first baby” Badlands. A concept album about feeling isolated and trapped in a futuristic dystopian city of the mind. Licked in synth-pop production the Badlands deluxe version offers a massive 16 songs consisting of her contemporary spin on teen-angst into pure pop perfection. The hype train was well and truly traveling at light speed, harnessing her a cult of dedicated followers and selling 115,000 copies of the album in its debut week despite only having four previously released songs to her name. Halsey’s sonically distinct storytelling epitomised the importance of having a strong cohesive body of work in an age where chart placement screams success. She was the badass, genre-hopping rare new voice that was able to achieve a platinum album despite none of the songs landing anywhere near the top 40 charts.
Opening with album highlight ‘Castle’, she takes a dig at the patriarchy, “and there’s an old man sitting on the throne that’s saying that I probably shouldn’t be so mean”, showcasing her day one take no sh*t attitude. Both ‘Castle’ and ‘Strange Love’ are declarations to rejecting the celebrity status that comes with newfound fame. Tongue-in-cheek comes into play on tracks ‘New Americana’ and ‘Coming Down’. She gets personal on ‘Ghost’ (which also appeared on her EP Room 93), ‘Colors’ and bonus track ‘Hurricane’, with lyrics detailing a traumatic youth and a heroin-addicted ex-boyfriend. Fan favourites ‘Roman Holiday’ and ‘Gasoline’ hold a special place on the album, both detailing narratives of flawed realism. “You guys took this and made it yours. You taught me how to be an artist who tells a complete story, and spares no details.”
With Badlands Halsey was only just getting started. The continued confident confessional approach she showed on follow up Hopeless Fountain Kingdom would lead her to her very first headlining arena world tour and first songs to hit radio. Proving she was no one album wonder and only a household name from her feature on the Chainsmokers’ ‘Closer’, HFK consolidates all of the strengths from her debut record into wildly ambitious tales of tragedy and ellipsis endings.
The record begins with her reciting the prologue from Romeo and Juliet, and the album is her spin on this tragic tale. The narrative describes a troubled young pop star who has everything at her fingertips yet is still denied the romance she yearns for. (Halsey even has a line from Romeo and Juliet tattooed on her arm; “these violent delights have violent ends”). The video for ‘Now Or Never’ is her personal take on Baz Luhrmann’s classic 1996 film.
HFK explores a depth of maturity where she encapsulates entire moments in just a few words. On ‘Sorry’ she sings, “I can sometimes treat the people that I love like jewelry / I didn’t mean to try you on / but I still know your birthday and your mother’s favorite song” and ‘100 Letters’ displays copious amounts of self-righteousness, “I’m not something to butter up and taste when you get bored.” Whilst her debut album was made up of relatively unknown collaborators, HFK sees cameos from Lauren Jauregui and Migos’ Quavo, as well as co-writes from The Weeknd, Sia and pop mogul Greg Kurstin. ‘Heaven In Hiding’ yields a glimmer of danger, ‘Bad At Love’ and ‘Strangers’ touch on same sex attraction and ‘Eyes Closed’ is about having feelings for an ex-lover while in a new relationship.
Halsey is a tough talker and fierce believer who’s always been in the driving seat of her own career. She writes her own music, picks out her own costumes, does her own makeup, conceptualizes her album covers and merch designs, makes the call on shaving her own head, and she reads all of the comments. Whether that’s seen as demanding, ballsy, manic or all of the above, her career is one hundred percent hers and her connection with her fans is one hundred percent authentic.
Halsey has always been a bit manic – as self-confessed in this passage from her Rolling Stone interview in 2016, seemingly foreshadowing her third album title decision, “Today, she says, is one of her manic days. Manic Halsey is the fun Halsey, the one “who’ll want to go out, want to drink, want to talk all night, want to help you with your problems, want to change the world!” And the world has certainly taken notice. Halsey the cult hero headed straight for the castle and she’s stayed there as one of pop’s rising queens.
Now it’s time to say hello to Ashley.
ICYMI: Halsey is the headline act at the sold out Bay Dreams festival in Tauranga on January 2nd. Wouldn’t wanna spend summer any other way… see ya there!