Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Halsey - "Badlands" 2015

Martin Eisenschmidt

The album I have chosen for review is Halsey – Badlands on which I came upon while browsing Spotify a while ago. The album itself was released on 28th of August of 2015 by Astralwerks and Capitol. The stage name “Halsey” belongs to a 21-year-old Ashley Nicolette Frangipane and Badlands is her debut album. From the album there are three singles released: “Ghost”, “New Americana” and “Colors”.
The overall mood of the album has a certain bit of gloom and doom with some songs as jet as possible tugging on the sleeves of the listeners to have the maximum impact possible. As she herself has a background in classical instruments such as violin, viola, cello and acoustic guitar the style that is represented in Badlands varies from electropop to at times dance music with elements of fairy style elements like bells and samples of similar instruments.

The single New Americana pokes and prods as to what the Y-generation living in New York actually is, as she herself is no stranger to the streets of aforementioned city. Even though she repeatedly mentions the community, the general idea of the Y-generation tends to be separation and existing in artificial bubbles be they virtual or physical. “Raised on Biggie and Nirvana, we are the New Americana” perfectly sums up the mood of, the once diagnosed as bi-polar, Halsey as nihilism and the rap-god lifestyle seem to be predominant among those classified as Y. In the video she gets dragged to be burned on the stake while people silently bear witness to the act which is accompanied by the lyrics “We know very well, who we are”. As she herself is half-African American there is a looming sense of racial prejudice that every once in a while pops up in her videos and lyrics.

as her second single describes the current situation of the Y-s quite well as the 2010’s has become sort the renaissance of the 1960’s and free love only in a different key as it has been reborn under the star of nihilism. Halsey herself says that she is tri-bi (biracial, bisexual and bipolar) which shows is displayed in the video of the song to be a pink haired Asian woman with whom she engages in a playful manner. The video version of the song starts with the Asian woman whispering. The song itself goes on to jump into a quick rhythm with a dark and dirty bass accompanying it that occasionally changes into heartbeaty style of bell tingling. A quick and rhyming chorus with strong rap-like influences are present in the entire song which lend credence to the other single New Americana where she makes references to Biggie and Nirvana which this song nicely represents, a dark Nirvana – Lithium meets Biggie in a key of synth pop. The general idea of the song is complex but one of the possible interpretations could be found when she sings the lines:

 I'm searching for something that I can't reach
I don't like them innocent
I don't want no face fresh
My ghost
Where'd you go?
I can't find you in the body sleeping next to me

The loss of innocence serves as a good metaphor in this situation as the societal mood is that of sexual excess which makes the notion of monogamous relationships idolized in the books and movies and shows we grew up with. The ghost itself is a complex synonym for the person she searches or rather perhaps a certain quality – herself in a translucent form in someone else where the spaces in between have been filled by traits of a different nature.

In her third single Colors Halsey goes on to transliterate the American experience of adolescence among the middle class. While it is definitely a wholly different song if one was to base their opinions on the video of the song versus the album version, it is still undeniably a swan song for the American middle class. Just as the Brits shunned the new industrial middle class, so do the legacy ivy leaguers the ones that gain their education through stipends and grants. People dressed and suffused in Royal Blue undeniably refuse to accept those of muddish or colored origins. The general sonic makeup of the song tends to be classic electro or synth pop, with some slight variations of bells and bellish samples by the sound of it.

The overall emphasis of the album tends to be a social critique of the Y-generation whereas the main pressure is on the young or young adult. Acoustic part of the album is through and through electro and synth-pop with definite elements of rap and grunge. Vocals of the album tend to be a sighing bemoans for something greater, as to what, often remains unclear. Sometimes hauntingly beautiful, sometimes ethereal and incomprehensible at best. To be critically honest there are very few instances where she has actually contributed something new and different to the musical variety but undeniably it is there as the vocals combined with different styles and instruments create something unique. The deluxe version the album features some explicit songs which in reality just use the samples already featured in her already successful singles with a message that bears no significant differences to the original. When she is at her best she has brutal and honest critique of the society, at her worst she has bland and boring electro pop which probably will just be used in creating remixes.

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