REVIEW: Halsey – Manic

(Here is another unpublished review)

You’d have to have been living under a very big rock to not have heard anything from Halsey. The New Jersey native has been one of the biggest rising stars in music as a whole since her first EP in 2014, gaining scores of top-selling singles both as a solo artist and in collaboration with other artists such as The Chainsmokers, Justin Bieber, Khalid and BTS. With this in mind, it’s no surprise that her third studio album “Manic” was one of the most hyped releases in pop.

Surprisingly, for a pop album, “Manic” isn’t an easy listen in any respect really. Fittingly considering the title, it’s an album that’s musically very busy. It flits between different styles and moods as it progresses from song to song, although everything is still very much recognisable within a pop or alt-pop framework. The first few songs of the album alone show the huge stylistic range that Halsey is unafraid to walk between. Graveyard is a stuttering, of the moment alt-pop song, whilst Clementine is a quirky ballad led by a Trent Reznor style heavily processed piano and You should be sad dips heavily into americana to create something that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Kacy Musgraves or Cassadee Pope album. I HATE EVERYBODY crosses into something that sounds like “Death Of A Bachelor”-era Panic! At The Disco, whilst 3am goes into the most guitar-centric territory that Halsey has explored in her career thus far.

One of the album’s unexpected standout tracks is Finally // beautiful stranger. Another song that embraces Halsey’s influences from country music and americana, it’s a beautifully twisted ballad full of heart-wrenching vocals and guitar licks. Without Me, the first single to be released from “Manic” back in 2018, is also one of the album’s biggest standouts. It’s a powerfully personal song that subtly takes cues from the playbook of 00s alt-rock and emo and puts them into a contemporary dark-pop context, delivering what is easily one of the best songs of Halsey’s career.

The stripped down 929 is a fantastic album closer where we hear Halsey at her most exposed, most emotional and most vulnerable. She vents her frustrations and life experiences over effects heavy guitar parts, whilst occasionally interjecting with little bits of her messing around in the studio. 929 is the most human and most ‘real’ Halsey has ever been on record and it’s all the better for it.

One of the most unexpected parts of “Manic”, an album that already plays with our expectations as it is, is the guests that Halsey managed to get for the small interlude tracks. Dominic Fike, Alanis Morissette and SUGA of BTS all lend their talents to each of the three interludes. Alanis’s interlude is one of the most interesting songs on the whole album, with an incredibly driving almost industrial backbeat and upfront lyricism. Alanis puts on a stunning vocal performance too! Meanwhile, SUGA gets the chance to really show off his skill as a rapper on his interlude, playing off Halsey’s hooks with the incredibly fast flows that he’s become notorious for in the K-pop scene.

Whilst the beginning of “Manic” is fairly subdued and slow-paced, meaning that you have to have a bit of patience when you first sit down and put it on, your patience is definitely rewarded. With “Manic”, Halsey manages to consolidate all of her influences that range everywhere from goth rock and emo to modern, hyper-produced pop and twangy country music into a heartfelt package full of luscious production. It’s no doubt going to be one of those albums that defines the early 2020s, at least in the perspective of mainstream pop music, as well as one of the most definitive recordings of Halsey’s career.


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