Halsey’s newest album finds beauty within madness


Following the success of her first Billboard number one single “Without Me,” Halsey released her third studio album, “Manic,” Friday, Jan. 17. Unlike her previous concept albums which included anthemic tracks and Shakespearean allegories, “Manic” chronicles Halsey’s journey with mania, addressing unexplored personal themes of quitting music, struggling with reproductive health and falling in love.

To reflect the uninhibited feeling of mania, the album spans multiple genres, such as punk rock, country and folk, mirroring her multiple identities. 

The album begins with the emo rock “Ashley” (Halsey’s real name) that invites audiences into her thoughts of leaving fame. Reminiscent of her alternative debut album “Badlands,” the opening track emotionally connects with listeners through its painfully honest lyrics and production, ending with an audio clip from Kate Winslet’s character, Clementine, in “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.”

As opposed to her previous records, Halsey approaches her lyricism in a poetic prose, seamlessly weaving cerebral thoughts with more conventional lyrics. Her mastery in songwriting shines through in “Clementine,” “I HATE EVERYBODY” and “Forever … (is a long time)” in which she delicately constructs both the lyrics and melodies to capture how her bipolar disorder interferes with her romantic life. She unpacks her experiences with falling in love and subsequently ending her relationships after succumbing to her insecurities.

Expanding on the reference to “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”, the second song, “Clementine,” creatively includes interesting production elements by including a second voice — representing Ashley — screaming in the background while Halsey calmly recites “I don’t need anyone. I just need everyone and then some.” The clashing voices coupled with the introspective lyrics make this a standout track, cleverly conveying the dueling personalities that accompany mania.

She confronts her morality and self-destructive behavior in “killing boys” and “3am,” admitting how her mania often gets the better of her to commit impulsive actions. Opening with audio from 2009’s “Jennifer’s Body,” “killing boys” shares aggressive cutting lyrics about Halsey’s plot of revenge on her former lover. Accompanied with electrifying live drums, “3am” shamelessly delves into Halsey’s struggle with being alone.

The album features Dominic Fike, BTS’ SUGA and Alanis Morissette on each of their respective interludes, transitioning the album to themes of moving on from past relationships, struggling with fame and owning one’s sexuality. These interludes propel the album forward and succeed in fleshing out the nuances of her relationship with mania. Likewise, the audio clips enhance the listening experience by providing a cinematic and theatrical atmosphere to space out the album.

Listeners enter the world of manic, an intensely passionate whirlwind that traverses the emotional spectrum, and leave with a stronger appreciation for the album’s deeply personal songwriting and genre-bending instrumentals.

It’s colorful. It’s raw. It’s volatile.

It’s manic.

By Sherman Wu, Print editor-in-chief
Photo courtesy of iTunes

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