Badlands by Halsey- A track by track review

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To the people who mistakenly think that New Jersey is nothing more than a boring suburb of New York, think again. New Jersey has gifted the world with tons of awesome stuff and people, one of those people being Halsey. Ashley Fragipane, more commonly known as Halsey, is a 22 year old American singer-songwriter. One of her most recognizable songs is “Gasoline”, which is featured in Badlands Deluxe. Her most recent release is “I’m Not Afraid Anymore”, which is for the new movie 50 Shades Darker. Badlands is actually her most recent album and it came out in 2015.

I have been listening to this album long before I decided to write about it. I really like it, I think that its interesting, and inspirational, and just really fun. When I’m drawing I usually listen to a playlist that consist of Halsey and a couple of other artist because her music inspires me and really helps my creative process. So when I was thinking about what album to do a track by track on this seemed like the obvious choice. Badlands only has 11 songs-“Castle”, “Hold Me Down”, “New Americana”, “Drive”,  “Roman Holiday”, “Colors”, “Coming Down”, “Haunting”, ” Control”, “Young God”, and “Ghost” – on it, while Badlands Deluxe has 17 songs.

I really admire Halsey as a singer for a lot of reasons. First of all, I really love her vocals. She has a way of bringing the music to life with her voice. She really has a lot of control over her voice which allows her to manipulate it in an amazing way. I also love her lyrics, a lot of people write off her songs as the standard angst teen music, but I think that there is a lot more to her music than people see on the surface. By actually listening to her lyrics it becomes obvious that they are well thought out and poetically crafted. She uses a lot of metaphor, but at the same time her lyrics are mostly straightforwards. She works really hard on her music and when you listen to it you can tell.

The first song on Badlands is “Castle”. The melody of “Castle” is very rhythmic and something between gloomy and neutral, and you can definitely here the electric pop. I really love her vocals in this song. I love how she is able to sound neutral, but emotional at the same time.

The second song is “Hold Me Down”. This was actually the first song I heard by Halsey and it brought me to her music. I really like this song because even though it was about her own personal experiences with someone she was able to make it relatible. Everyone deals with issues that they struggle to overcome. The first 14 seconds of the song is just music, no vocals, and the tune is very suspenseful. It leads up to the lyrics really nicely. To me it emphasizes how well the music and lyrics blend together. Throughout the song the music stays relatively suspenseful, but rhythmic. Unlike some artist, Halsey does not sugarcoat her lyrics, she goes right into what she’s trying to say. The first verse of “Hold Me Down” is “My demons are begging me to open up my mouth/I need them mechanically make the words come out/They fight me, vigorous and angry, watch them pounce/Ignite me, licking at the flames they bring about”. She goes right into talking about her personal demons and how she struggles against them.

The next song was “New Americana”, which is really an anthem for the people who grew up in the era that she keeps mentioning. Unlike in the previous song New Americana starts with Halsey singing instead of unaccompanied music. The music starts off light and airy- I can’t help but think of it as twinkly. Its kind of like a false upbeat sound because the airy bell sounds in the background sound almost foreboding. The music eventually becomes upbeat, its like a chant or a battle cry. The melody of the chorus sounds like marching. I really loved the chorus, the lyrics are extremely memorable, catchy, and inspiring and the music is upbeat-though not too upbeat. My favorite part was, “They’re Monaco and Hampton’s bound, but we don’t feel like outsiders at all./We are the new Americana (ah, ah, ah)/High on legal marijuana (sky high)/Raised on Biggie and Nirvana (ah, ah, ah)/We are the new Americana (ah…)”. I also loved the social commentary and real life experiences included in the song, it makes it much more interesting and if you actually listen to the lyrics you can here the stories that Halsey is trying to tell.

The fourth song of the album was “Drive”. “Drive” starts off as sounds from a car and morphs into the music of the song. I thought that that was a very interesting choice to make. The song in general sounds melancholy and a little foreboding. Despite-or maybe in spite- of the melancholiness of the song I find it really enjoyable and catchy. I have never even been to California, but I can’t helping singing along to “And California never felt like home to me/And California never felt like home”.

“Roman Holiday” is the next song that plays and it is a very rhythmic song, that is also a little light. The song is nostalgic, but forward-looking at the same time. Halsey also reflects this concept in the melody of the music.My favorite part of the song is when she drags out the note of certain words in the chorus, it makes the song sound very emotional. “We’ll be looking for sunlight/Or the headlights/Till our wide eyes burn blind/We’ll be lacing the same shoes/That we’ve worn through/To the bottom of the line/And we know that we’re headstrong/And our heart’s gone/And the timing’s never right/But for now let’s get away/On a Roman holiday”. This technique emphasizes the control that she has over her voice.

“Colors” is the sixth song on the Badlands album. The melody of this song is kind of upbeat, I think that its because of the bells playing in the background of the song, they really lighten it up. About 2/3rds of the way through the songs Halsey stops sings and starts to talk instead. She says, “You were red and you liked me ’cause I was blue/You touched me and suddenly I was a lilac sky/And you decided purple just wasn’t for you”. This is very notable, because this is the only time that she does this in the whole album. Lastly, “Color’s” lyrics are very matter a fact, but there is also a lot of symbolism, which I think makes it fun to listen to.

“Coming Down” is the seventh song on the album and it is the song with the most religious metaphors and references. With the amount of metaphors and symbolism found in her songs, it is very apparent, that Halsey puts a lot of thoughts into her lyrics. The music of this track is mellow and a little melancholy. the guitar gives the song a very calm feel. This song definitely feels much more laid back then the other songs, only in terms of melancholy though, because the lyrics are still personal and metaphoric.

The title “Haunting”, the eighth song on the album, describes the track perfectly. The melody of this track is haunting and ominous, though it is still rhythmic and catchy. The lyrics are also pretty gloomy. Essentially what Halsey is trying to get across is that despite all the bad things she’s done and previously trying to get rid of whoever she’s singing about, she desperately wants them to stay in her presence. Despite all of this, it is still a pretty good song.

“Control” is the ninth track on the album and it is one of my absolute favorite songs on the album. I can listen to it dozens of times and it never gets old. The melody of this song is gloomy and haunting just like the last song. I also noted that Halsey is able to make her voice sound as haunting as the music, which is really cool. My favorite part of this song is the chorus, “And all the kids cried out,/’Please stop, you’re scaring me.’/I can’t help this awful energy/Goddamn right, you should be scared of me/Who is in control?”. This part of the song just gives me goosebumps, its so good. I also liked that she says a lot of positive stuff in this track. When she sings, “I’m bigger than my body/I’m colder than this home/I’m meaner than my demons/I’m bigger than these bones”, she’s inspiring listeners to take back control of themselves and face their “demons”.

The next track is “Young God”. Within the first seconds of this song you can tell that it is much lighter and upbeat than the other songs on the album. It is also very dreamy and rhythmic. Even thought the track is only three minutes long it feels much shorter than that.  I think that’s due in part to Halsey singing some parts of the song fast. And by fast I mean fast for her because she tends to drag out her lyrics down to the syllable in a way that feels very thoughtful and emotional.

The final track on the album is “Ghost”. What’s really interesting about “Ghost” is that Halsey actually wrote it first, long before any of the other songs, but it still ended up being the last song on the album. This song is pretty fat and the melody is rhythmic and dreamy. The lyrics are nostalgic and remind me of Haunting. I feel like it really sums up the album, but at the same time it leaves the listener with something new. I think that this song was a perfect one to end the album to.

Overall Badlands is a worthwhile album to listen to. I really recommend listening to any of the songs on there, or any Halsey song for that matter. Halsey clearly put a lot of thought and work into this album and it shows, so if you ever need music to paint to I strongly recommend giving this album, or the individual tracks on this album, a listen.

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