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Album Review // HALSEY ‘Manic’

After months of teasing, catchy singles, and award show performances, Halsey’s hotly anticipated third album, Manic, has entered the world.

Halsey - Manic - album artwork

Following the release of hopeless fountain kingdom in 2017, Halsey has returned from the dystopian worlds she built up in her first two albums with her newest release, Manic. It is her most honest piece to date with songs touching on everything from self-exploration to FU breakup songs to exposing the true fragility of her hopes and dreams surrounding motherhood.

Two things, in particular, were striking about this record. The first is that while it is still very much a Halsey album, you can hear the evolved, more mature sound and lyrics throughout. It is a step back from the fantastical narrative that she produced in Badlands and hopeless fountain kingdom. With this album, she is saying: “This is me; this is Ashley.” The second thing is how cyclical the record is as a whole. The album opens with Ashley and ends with 929 – both autobiographical in nature. The opening and closing notes are less about a character, an image, an idea and more about Halsey as a human being.

Ashley kicks off the album with a soothing synth, hip-hop beat that builds as the song goes on. It sets the tone for the next fifteen songs with upfront lyrics surrounding her mental health and where she is in life. Pulling from one of her favourite films, the song finishes with a sample from ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’: “Too many guys think I’m a concept, or I complete them, or I’m gonna make them alive. But I’m just a fucked up girl looking for my own peace of mind. Don’t assign me yours.”

The transitions on this record are something to be admired. This line, spoken by Clementine in the film, guides the listener into the second track, which shares that character’s name. clementine is a song that sounds so peaceful on the outside with its melodic music box aura that you almost forget that she’s self-analyzing her neediness. In tune with the rest of the album, the layered vocals – one soft and delicate, the other raw and emotional – creatively represents the overarching theme of the true self trying to break free from the public image, which we see in other tracks like SUGA’s Interlude.

While the second single from the album, Graveyard, did not see the chart success Without Me did, it should not be discredited as a good song. However, if the third single You should be sad doesn’t skyrocket to the top of the charts it will be surprising. It has all the elements of a perfect Fuck You pop song – a tune you can’t get out of your head, pointed lyrics about the ex, and an NSFW “look at what you’re missing” music video.

The second smooth transition comes between three songs: Forever…(is a long time), Dominic’s Interlude, and I HATE EVERYBODYWithout really realizing it, each of these songs blends perfectly into the next. Who doesn’t love a slick transition?

Forever…(is a long time) also has a unique transition within the song itself, moving quickly from a Major to Minor key or in layman’s terms, it goes from happy to sad chords. It’s a subtle change but shows the thought that has gone into every song.

The middle track, 3am, channels the vibe Halsey gave with her one-off single Nightmare in 2019. With a punchy, early 2000s, soft pop-punk feel to it, this is a bop. The story is one that resonates with many, too; desperately trying to find someone to talk to so as not to be alone with your thoughts.

Towards the end of Manic, Halsey gives us More. Plain and simple, it’s harrowing. The plea for a baby echoes around you; you feel her pain and desperation for the three she has lost. Halsey has been upfront with her endometriosis diagnosis and the difficulty to conceive that can come with that, but in this song, accompanied by the tinkling sound of a baby mobile you can also hear her hope. It is a touching piece of vulnerability wrapped up in the enjoyability of a pop song.

The closing track, 929, is a sweet outro that ties a pretty bow on the entire Manic experience. If the track feels like one long stream of consciousness to you, that’s because it is. On 929Halsey says: “This one was almost like a freestyle in the booth. I barely wrote anything down. I just started spilling all of my thoughts about myself and my fans and my family, and I admit so many faults and flaws all in one go. It’s forgiving, however, it ends with the acknowledgement that I am learning and growing, minute by minute.”

Despite the playability as individual songs, this is an album that serves you best if followed chronologically for the cohesion and flow.

Skip the shuffle.

Your ears will thank you.