While she may new be the new kid on the block, Halsey, born Ashley Nicolette Frangipane, is already making a big mark on the industry.
A year ago she signed with a label, released her EP Room 93, toured with Imagine Dragons and became most talked about person online after her performance at South By Southwest. It’s safe to say there’s been a lot of buzz for her debut album which has finally arrived. Trust me, Badlands is well worth the wait.
Badlands is a concept album, which is a bold move for a first album. But Halsey has never been one to play it safe which is shown through the mature themes that run throughout the tracks.
From what I can decipher, the Badlands are a place Halsey created in order to tell her story of struggle. Even if you haven’t been following the run up to the album, just by listening you know that a lot of planning went to create this dark concept hinted in the promotion with the words “Those are the Badlands. We don’t go there.”
A truly gritty, raw and infectious album, it’s not hard to see why Halsey’s already built up a large and dedicated fanbase which, since the release of Badlands, is probably growing by the second.
Badlands starts off strong with Castle, a gritty track which sets the scene for everyone listening. There’s a dark vibe to this track which gives you feeling that the Badlands is not somewhere that you want to end up. It’s the perfect introduction to the journey that this is album is about to take us on. Halsey is heading straight for the Castle and she’s not looking back!
2. Hold Me Down
The album moves into the catchy Hold Me Down which is a song many will find some way to relate to. To me, it sounds like a song about trying to get rid of a bad habit that has been keeping her from growing and progressing.
Along with Hold Me Down, this track was released prior to Badlands‘ debut and has been a song that I have had on repeat for weeks. New Americana is definitely an anthem for the newer generation and how we will not conform to the standards that others before us have set.
Drive is one of the few ballads on the album, telling the story of Halsey’s desperate need to leave the Badlands. There’s a road trip vibe to it and a feeling of solace.
Available on deluxe edition only, Hurricane is a track that was on Halsey’s Room 93 EP and has been one of my favourites for a long time. It’s a song that gives you a sense of new found freedom, that you can go out and make the choices you want. Poignant lyrics such as “Don’t belong to no city/ don’t belong to no man” emphasize this. If anything, this song is highlighting the fact that some people tend to get bogged down in being labeled by where we come from or who we’re with that we forget we’re so much more than those labels.
A track that is slightly on the sunnier side of things, Roman Holiday is so feel good and upbeat that you don’t even notice the darker side to the song. After all, a roman holiday is an occasion on which enjoyment or profit is derived from the suffering or discomfort of others.
Ghost was previously released as a single and is probably the track which introduced most people to the lyrical genius that is Halsey. It tells the struggle that she is having trying to find a present lover that can commit to a relationship.
This is the first song of Halsey’s that I had ever listened to. I remember falling in love with the lyrics and the beat, so it’s so nice to finally here a studio version rather than the live concert recordings. The lyric, “You were red and you liked me ’cause I was blue/ you touched me and suddenly I was a lilac sky/ and you decided purple just wasn’t for you,” is just so beautiful and is already well associated with Halsey already.
Another track only available on the deluxe version and has been interpreted in many different ways. Personally for me, Colors pt II could be about finally leaving the Badlands and getting the freedom she so desperately desired.
10. Strange Love
This is perhaps Halsey growing into herself and the new freedom that she has. It’s unapologetic and explicit in the best possible way. It’s a memorable tune that really sticks out due its lyrics and contagious pop melody.
11. Coming Down
Coming Down is another song which could have many interpretations, but it’s obviously about a relationship and how it can bring out the good and bad in people.
Like the title states, this is one haunting track. While Coming Down mainly focuses on the highs of a relationship, Haunting centers around the longing to still have someone in your life. There’s something about Halsey’s voice in this one which particularly stands out. It’s a really raw song and you can hear the emotion dripping from the words.
Gasoline shows why exactly Halsey is an artist to watch. It’s an easy song to relate to as I’m pretty sure everyone at some point has felt like they don’t fit in, Gasoline highlights that feeling. Halsey isn’t afraid to be honest and open about any topic and that’s exactly why I admire her. That being said, I’m actually upset that this one is only available on the deluxe edition of the album as it’s definitely one of my favourite tracks by her.
Control has had many different interpretations. There is a mysterious and sinister vibe to it. Based on the lyrics, I think it’s about fighting your inner demons. Sometimes we get so immersed and caught up with our inner thoughts and what scares us that we forget that we can take control and change ourselves. It’s a powerful track which solidifies Halsey talent.
15. Young God
Halsey has said herself of this song that she wishes it was around when she was younger so she could lose her virginity to it. It’s such a great song about the desire to be larger than life and how when you’re with the person who you believe is “the one” you can feel invincible.
16. I Walk The Line
Alas, once you reach this track you that Badlands has come to an end. The smooth piano and bass dominate the song, established the freedom and having escaped. I Walk The Line has a similar vibe to Castle, but now the journey has come to an end.
Badlands is an exceptional character study of every young adult who has struggled to find themselves and stay true to that.
A lot of musicians take years and several albums exploring different sounds until they find the right one for them or the right one that sells, Halsey already knows her niche. Producing a near flawless record for her first album is an incredibly rare achievement. Yet, the blue haired singer has achieved it so effortlessly.
Halsey’s Badlands is bound to become one of those iconic albums that everyone in high school listens to. It’s just so damn relatable. Even if you’re not in high school, I can guarantee that the light beats prepared with emotional, heavy lyrics will take you back to your youth.
Overall, an addictive and unforgettable album.
You can download Badlands from iTunes here or pop down to your local record store to get yourself a physical copy!