I first heard Halsey when she opened for Imagine Dragons on the American leg of their current tour. The crowd was already buzzing with anticipation for her performance, which intrigued me as I didn't know who she was. She didn't disappoint; Halsey was the perfect lead in for the boys and got the audience good and ready.
Now after a couple of EP releases- the latest of which featured tracks included on this one- she finally drops a full length release with Badlands. And it was worth the wait. People seem impressed that she's diverse and well-versed enough to reference both Biggie and Nirvana (on her anthem song, Americana), but if you're of a certain age- or an extremely serious music head- you'll even catch the hook from M'tume's R&B classic, Juicyfruit (see if you can find it). Now that's impressive!
What I really like about Halsey is her lyrical imagery. Even with the lesser songs- I really can't use a word like 'filler' to describe them- there's an emotionally powerful quality to them. A seductive vulnerabilty- waifish, disaffected, headcase and femme fatale all at once. Lines like "I sold my soul to a three-piece, and he told me I was holy/He's got me down on both knees, but it's the Devil that's trying to..." Plus on Hurricane she refers to my part of Brooklyn as Bed(ford)-Stuy(vesant) and not its gentrified name, Bedford Hills. Wasn't expecting that kind of depth from what I admit I thought would be just the latest pop queen on the scene. Nope; this album is all about a woman who owns her shit, even when it scares her. I just wish she'd use more real musicians and instruments on her songs; not that the beats and synths aren't listenable, but they're too Katy Perry/Lorde/Britney Spears-ish at times. That almost sounds like an oxymoron, but that's because it's a very interesting and layered electronic landscape she paints. I'd love to hear what she'd sound like with an actual band behind her. I just don't understand the reluctance of talented people to work with actual instruments.
The standout cuts are: Hold Me Down, New Americana, Hurricane, Roman Holiday, Ghost, Colors & Strange Love.
You can definitely catch a synergetic flow to the tracks; apparently they're listed in the chronological order she wrote them, reflecting her growing maturity and confidence as a songwriter- which so happens to include using profanity. What did catch me by surprise was her inclusion of the Johnny Cash staple, Walk the Line, to close things out. Diverse and well-versed, indeed.
Halsey at Barclays Center (photo from PureVolume)
Deluxe Edition Track List: *= deluxe track
2- Hold Me Down
3- New Americana
6- Roman Holiday
9- Colors, Pt2*
10- Strange Love*
11- Coming Down
15- Young God
16- Walk the Line*