- 29 Jan 20
Solid soul-baring effort from New Jersey grit-pop star.
True to its title, Manic, the third studio album from chart-conquering pop outsider Halsey, can feel like a fever dream – running in a frenzy from grit-pop to country to Korean rap.
One of several rebellious female artists to rise up in Lorde’s wake, the New Jersey native’s latest project takes a more grounded and darkly honest approach than the dystopian fantasy of 2017’s Hopeless Fountain Kingdom. This was inspired, perhaps, by her soul-baring involvement in social activism in recent years, including her viral poem about her experiences of sexual assault recited at the 2018 New York Women’s March.
Indeed, the emphasis here on stripping back the escapist frills is spelled out clearly from the beginning of Manic, with raw, autobiographical opening track ‘Ashley’, titled after Halsey’s real name. Taking a brutally introspective approach, Halsey offers a stunning view into the mind of a talented but troubled young woman. A highlight is the darkly confessional ‘929’, which finds her musing on anxiety, her relationship with her father, stress-induced hair loss and drug addiction.
‘Finally / Beautiful Stranger’, a rare moment of solace, is another standout, with blissfully warm, Kacey Musgraves-inspired undertones. Elsewhere, she pays tribute to her pop predecessors with a thrilling Alanis Morissette collaboration – while also nodding to the future of the global music industry with a verse from South Korean rapper Suga, of world-dominating K-pop group BTS.
Halsey is clearly still finding her feet, and across 16 tracks, the stylistically-zigzagging Manic is a lot to take in. However, there’s no denying the power of Halsey’s lyrics. Fearlessly vulnerable, her defiant rise to the top of the pop hierarchy continues.