By Jahfreen Alam | Writer
September 11, 2015
On August 28th, 2015, American singer/songwriter Ashley Nicolette Frangipane, regarded by her stage name Halsey, released her long-awaited debut album Badlands. Badlands is also a concept album, a bold move for a debut. However, Halsey is known to never play it safe.
Conceptually, the album takes place in an area named Badlands. It is described as a commercialist, futuristic society that is isolated, chaotic, and gluttonous, like a dystopian Las Vegas. Badlands is also a reference to the state of mind Halsey was in while writing the record, the physical manifestation of a lonely and desolate mind, and also details the story of her struggle.
Badlands is a beautiful mix of pop, punk, and alternative rock. I consider the sound of the album to be gritty and raw, but also powerfully daring as it breaks the gender barrier with Halsey’s unapologetic lyrics about female individuality and sexuality.
The record starts off with the song “Castle”, a song with a bold beat that easily sets up the scene for the rest of the album. There’s a seemingly dark vibe surrounding the song, easily giving the listener a feeling that the Badlands are not a place you want to end up. Afterwards, comes the song “Hold Me Down”, released prior to Badlands, which is a personal favorite of mine. Catchy but dark, the song deals with struggling against your inner demons, which is something almost anyone can relate to. Next, comes the last single put out before the album was released, “New Americana”. Most definitely an anthem for the new generation, the song is compelling and passionate. The song repeats the chorus “We are the new Americana/ High on legal marijuana/ Raised on Biggie and Nirvana/ We are the new Americana”, detailing a wave of youth in the midst of a cultural revolution, determined to combat the standards set before them.
The fourth track is the first ballad off the album, “Drive”, that tells the story of Halsey’s solemn, yet poignant attempt to leave the Badlands. Then comes “Hurricane”, a single that embodies the freedom of oneself, the ability to make choices that are inherently you, and being your own person with lyrics such as “Don’t belong to no city/ Don’t belong to no man”.
“Roman Holiday” is the next track to follow, a rather upbeat song compared to the rest. Yet, it still has those twinges of nostalgia and darkness underlying beneath the lyrics. Through the song “Ghost”, Halsey details her struggle of finding a lover that can commit to a relationship, referring to them as a ghost that she can’t see “in the body sleeping next to” her. The eighth track, “Colors” is a fan-favorite and contains the most honest lyrics in the album, in my opinion.
“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”
The symbolism with the use of colors is strong, and Halsey is able to relate the story of a relationship where one changes the other, and then realizes they aren’t the person they loved originally. In the beginning of “Colors, Pt. II”, it sounds like the gates of a door being opened, leading the way to freedom, and is masterfully crafted. Words cannot describe the emotions one feels hearing this after “Colors”; you’re going to have to listen to it yourself.
“Strange Love” is the first explicit song on the album, and is brash in the best of ways. With a contagious pop-like melody, it shows Halsey growing into her new freedom. The eleventh track, “Coming Down” relays an earnest description of a relationship that brings out the good and bad in a person, and Halsey describes her lover as both a “martyr” and a “savior”. This song is also another personal favorite of mine due to its easy tune. “Haunting” is a song that most definitely lives up to its track title. Halsey’s voice is particularly raw in this, as she longs for her lover and longs for him/her to “keep on haunting” her.
“Gasoline” is a song the defines Halsey for me, someone who is brutally honest and open. Another favorite of mine from the album, Halsey lays herself bare as her lyrics showcase feelings of not fitting in, an emotion that’s certainly relatable. “Control” starts off mysterious and sinister, and then solidifies into a powerful track dealing with getting caught up in your inner thoughts, forgetting that you can stop and take control to change yourself. It begs the question, “Who is in control?”
The second to last song on the album is “Young God” and takes on an almost hopeful tone about how you can feel invincible when you’re with someone who makes you feel like you’re on top of the world. As soon as the last track “I Walk the Line” plays, the smooth piano and bass immediately take over the song, establishing the feeling of being free. The journey through the Badlands has come to an end.
Zoe Pattin, Junior and an adamant fan of Halsey since day one, sums up her album in the best way possible: “Halsey’s album is lyrically raw. It’s sultry. It’s like she takes her emotions and just hands them to you. She makes sure every song makes you feel something.”
Badlands is an immensely personal and candid album that drips with emotion. I’m excited to see what Halsey releases next, and I know it’s only a matter of time before she gets the recognition she deserves.