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THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE HALSEY

A Review of Halsey's Debut Album

Halsey’s Badlands (Astralwerks/Capitol) is a generational charter, the closest thing today’s twenty-something has to Madonna’s Like a Virgin.

An alternative electro-pop gem, it’s strengthened and made relevant by its obvious position as a staple in the swelling sad girl-led, anti-hero movement (currently personified by Lana Del Rey, Lorde, Alessia Cara).

American sociologist Kathleen Shaputis labeled Millennials as the “Peter Pan Generation” because of the members’ delayed transition into adulthood when compared to generations before them. Halsey highlights that diagnosis with this album, glorifying the accusations and proudly portraying Generation Y as Generation Why. In an age dominated by social media, that’s a powerful ability that gives her a chance to be iconic.

The set highlights the drama, revelry and anxiety of a quarter-life crisis. Its sonic colors, simultaneously warm and icy, paint a detailed portrait of young adulthood in 2015, and its brutal honesty keeps the album captivating. On “Colors,” she cries, “You’re spilling like an overflowing sink. You’re ripped at every edge but you’re a masterpiece.” While, on “Strange Love,” she spits, “They think I’m insane, they think my lover is strange, but I don’t have to fucking tell them anything.”

Opening track, “Castle,” is chillingly dynamic. Choosing to introduce your debut LP with the exasperated lyrics, “Sick of all these people talking. Sick of all this noise. Tired of all these cameras flashing. Sick of being poised” is a ballsy move. And it’s even ballsier to foreshadow your own success, singing “I’m heading straight for the castle. They wanna make me their queen. And there’s an old man sitting on the throne that’s saying I probably shouldn’t be so mean.” Throw in a church choir and a strong beat (and consider the striking parallel to Lorde’s “Royals”) and you’ve got a recipe for a smash.


“Roman Holiday” is her closest thing to a Taylor Swift track. Its cheerful hooks and radio friendliness make total sense, considering it was produced by local songwriting/production team Captain Cuts (Walk The Moon’s “Shut Up and Dance,” Group Love’s “Tongue Tied,” Tove Lo’s Queen of the Clouds).

Meanwhile, “Lay Me Down” and “Ghost” are instant classics. And it doesn’t hurt that the deluxe version closes with a captivating cover of Johnny Cash’s “I Walk the Line,” which just leaves her innovative vision as the lingering taste in your mouth.


Badlands is the kind of record you blast alone in your room at 2am, in the morning on your drive to work or by the pool on a hazy Saturday afternoon. It’s versatile and pleasing, an easy listen with a lot to say.

All in all, Halsey has a fierce way of making a restless soul feel accepted.

Will the rising star be able to successfully capitalize on the self-indulgence of being misunderstood? Considering the massive success of anthem “New Americana,” it seems highly likely.

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