Indie-pop singer-songwriter Halsey began songwriting at 17, and, in the past two years, the 20-year-old’s musical career has skyrocketed.
Halsey’s first studio album, “BADLANDS,” released on Aug. 28, is short and sweet — only about 40 minutes long. The album opens with the electronic beats of “Castle,” in stark contrast to the gorgeous choral section that precedes the chorus. “Castle” shows that, despite Halsey’s pop tendencies, she is able to bring her own creative and mysterious spin to the genre.
“BADLANDS” continues with three tracks that contain similar vibes, though differ in their sound. “Hold Me Down” is embellished with light string chords in the background, which give it an airy sound. In this track, Halsey sings about overcoming adversity despite being underestimated and discouraged by others. Next is “New Americana,” a catchy track in which she sings about taking risks and being bold: “We are the new Americana / High on legal marijuana / Raised on Biggie and Nirvana.” “Drive,” which comes next, starts with a conglomeration of electronic and car sounds, including the sound of tires skidding. Somehow, all the sounds, electronic and mechanical, mesh together well.
“Roman Holiday,” as the title suggests, describes finding enjoyment in someone else’s suffering. This track is more upbeat than previous tracks.
“Colors,” the next track, is a complete change of pace. Halsey describes a man dealing with drug addiction and family troubles. Not unexpectedly, the tone of the song is darker to match its content. Rumor has it that the track is about Matthew Healy, the front man of the rock band The 1975 and a friend of Halsey’s.
In the second half of the album, there are three songs dealing with romantic relationships. “Coming Down” talks about a devious old lover: “I found the devil / I found him in a lover.” Similarly, in “Haunting,” Halsey talks about not being able to let go of a past lover, despite being in a new relationship: “I’ve got a boyfriend now and he’s made of gold / You’ve got your own mistakes in a bed at home.” This internal struggle is paralleled by the disjointed electronic sounds in the background, as well as the eerie background vocals of the pre-chorus.
“Control” is the most lyrically impressive track on the album, speaking about Halsey’s struggle with bipolar disorder: “I’m well acquainted/with the villains that live in my bed.” The particularly pure high notes are haunting on this track, making it all the more intense.
“Ghost,” the last track on the album, was originally released on Halsey’s EP “Room 93” (2014). In this track, she talks about being in an unhealthy relationship and all the anger, sadness and frustration connected with it. She is finally able to let go of this destructive part of her life at the end of the song and be free — an appropriate way to end this version of her first album.
Often as is the case with pop albums, the subject matter of “BADLANDS” isn’t as varied as it could be, which is often the case with pop albums. The unique sound of Halsey’s music, however, and her lyrical maturity, given her young age, are impressive. A more varied subject matter will no doubt come with time and experience from this young singer-songwriter. She is able to form a clearer vocal sound than Lana Del Rey, whose music can sometimes be a bit too slow for this reviewer’s taste.“BADLANDS” is a strong first showing for Halsey, and she can only improve from here.