Halsey's third album Manic has arrived. It's been quite the journey towards the record. She scored her first solo number one with Without You and then released Nightmare which doesn't feature on the album. She then followed that with a string of genre-traversing singles. Manic pieces them all together.
Titled after her actual name Ashley is as personal as it suggests. It's a gentle opener to the album with strong rock tinges to her vocals in the chorus. There's an anger to the song but it feels cathartic in a sense, like she's going to come out of this on the album and find a happier space.
Clementine was one of the early singles from the album that may have fallen through the cracks for some. It's a stripped-back, raw moment that has Halsey declaring her independence. It makes more sense in the context of the album but it's still not a noteworthy cut.
Graveyard's popularity is still growing and it's likely to become a hit for Halsey even if it takes a while. It's a slow-burner of a pop song with a chorus that eventually latches onto you. Sonically, it sounds like Clementine was underwater and she's emerging from it here.
4. You Should Be Sad
Last week's single still hits as hard as it did the first time. It' the first country-tinged moment from an album we're guessing will be full of them. It's the strongest track from the first quarter of the album without a doubt.
5. Forever… (Is A Long Time)
Lido, who has produced on all three Halsey albums, returns here for this minimal, floating cut that often feels as if its suspended in air. You can hear rain throughout the song and there are periods where piano fills the speakers without vocals. Halsey re-emerges at the end with an aggressive vocal singing, "talk to your man, tell him he's got bad news coming."
6. Dominic’s Interlude
Dominic Fike delivers one of three feature-interludes on the album. His vocals are pitched-up at the beginning her before he comes into his full voice over spotty orchestrals. He continues the hook, "talk to your man, tell him he's got bad news coming," and it's actually a really beautiful moment. There are Beatles-esque textures to it.
7. I Hate Everybody
Quite a title. This one is not as angry as it sounds. It's about dependency and it's as lyrically personally as she gets on the record. "I've got a tendency to exaggerate what I'm seeing," she sings acknowledging that he feels everything and falls quickly. Lido is back on production duties and he delivers a soulful, rich backdrop. What's striking at the albums mid-point is how far from the modern pop world this album is. It's a sweeping, dramatic album borrowing from '00s rock, Beatles pop and country music.
8. 3 AM
If you were waiting for a rock song here it is. The chorus of 3am is full of guitars and percussion. Halsey's vocal is measured but it proves just how suited she is to the rock world. Think I Miss You-era Blink-182. "I need a digital because baby when it's physical I end up along," she sings, carrying on an album theme that she's *too much* for some people.
9. Without Me
"Your best song is the song that's currently on the radio," says a voicemail that introduces Without Me. It's Halsey's biggest song by a long shot and while we doubted how it would fit into the context of 3am it actually slots in nicely.
10. Finally // Beautiful Stranger
Finally // Beautiful Stranger picks back up on the country guitars and ushers in a beautiful moment of calm for the record. We've already heard this one but it hits even harder on the album. For the first time on the record she sounds at peace.
11. Alanis’ Interlude
"Your pussy is a wonderland," sings Halsey in the hook for this before Alanis arrives with a powerful vocal which seems to be celebrating the queer and non-binary community. "He is she is her and her and he are love," sings Alanis.
12. Killing Boys
Day one Halsey fans are going to love this one from the outset. It's an angsty, angry moment with thundering drums and fast-moving lyrics. "I don't wanna Uma Thurman your arse anymore," she sings showing that she's not holding anything back on this record. The only criticism of this one is it's too short.
13. Suga’s Interlude
Suga's Interlude introduces the last quarter of the album and it's another moment of calm. You've already heard it but given it was odd to release an interlude by itself in the first place, it's nice to hear it in context.
More is the emotional suckerpunch you probably expected this album to have. It's a minimal moment of beauty that features Halsey almost singing acapella at the beginning. "Somehow I just want you more," she sings over rousing harmonies, continuing with, "I loved you for all of my life."
15. Still Learning
This is the one that's being placed in 'New Music Friday' playlists and you can see why. The handclap beat and Halsey quick-sung verses are reminiscent of Eastside. "I'm still learning to love myself," she sings, wrestling with loving others and also accepting herself. This is the most radio-friendly song on the record apart from Without You.
Halsey was born at 9:29 on the 29th September and that fun fact begins this song. It's a guitar-led, intimate song that recalls her early interactions with fame. She recalls her interactions with fans sharing one powerful experience where a girl with pink hair told her, "Ashley you gotta promise us that you won't die because we need you." She fits an incredible amount of detail into this train-of-thought song.
Manic could not be more different than Hopeless Fountain Kingdom. It's an intimate, honest album that's largely bereft of typical hit material. In its place is the sort of music that Halsey really wants to make. Casual fans may be deterred by the slow pace of the record but that's also something that's likely to pick up new fans. As someone who has never loved a Halsey album, this one hits different. It establishes her as an artist who has found her own singular lane and while it seems she's got more exploring to do it's an exciting first step.
Best Songs: You Should Be Sad, 3am, Still Learning, I Hate Everybody, Dominic's Interlude
Worst Songs: clementine, Forever ... (Is A Long Time)