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Kristin Smith

Album Review

Ashley Frangipane is best known as 25-year-old pop star Halsey. And Halsey is best known for her collaborations with big names such as The Chainsmokers, as well as her two platinum albums Badlands and Hopeless Fountain Kingdom.

Now, she’s just dropped her third album, Manic. A combination of piano ballads, contry-rock hybrid tunes, pop sounds and alternative vibes, Manic is packed with deep themes. Halsey opens up about her own manic episodes, for example, as well as her struggles with bipolar disorder, her destructive tendencies and the experiences (both helpful and harmful) that have shaped her.

That said, Halsey’s raw lyrics often veer far away from anything that could be considered kid-friendly. Seven of 16 songs have an explicit label, and many others are quite graphic and vulgar, too. One thing’s for sure: Halsey is not afraid to openly wrestle with the good, the bad, and everything in between.

Pro-Social Content

Halsey openly confesses that she needs to be healthy and to move away from destructive patterns. In “Graveyard,” she realizes there’s a difference between love and infatuation (“Oh it’s funny how/The warning signs can feel like they’re butterflies”). In “You Should Be Sad,” Halsey is thankful she’s not with a former boyfriend and offers him some advice: “No, you’re not half the man you think that you are/And you can’t fill the hole inside of you with money, drugs, and cars.” And lyrics on “Finally // Beautiful Stranger” tell us that the singer feels she’s met someone who makes her feel loved and safe.

Halsey also opens up about her struggles with bipolar disorder on the song “Clementine,” where she gives fans a sneak peek into her ever-fluctuating mental state: “Because in my world, I’m constantly, constantly havin’ a/Breakthrough (Hmm)/Or a breakdown, or a blackout.” Obviously, breakdowns and blackouts aren’t positive things. But Halsey seems to recognize those unhealthy tendencies (even though she sometimes seems to give into them).

On “Forever… (Is a Long Time),” Halsey works toward self-improvement through introspection: “I spent a long time substituting honest with sarcastic/And I cursed my tongue for being mean.” And in “I Hate Everybody,” she realizes how others’ love for her—or lack thereof—shapes her self-esteem: “If I could make you love me/Maybe you could make me love me/And if I can’t make you love me/Then I’ll just hate everybody/But maybe I don’t.”

In “Still Learning,” Halsey says that she’s working on loving herself and righting wrongs: “I know that I’ve done some wrong/But I’m tryna make it right/ … To all my friends, I’m sorry for/And know that I love you.”

Halsey opens up about her painful miscarriages on “More,” where she also dreams about one day having children: “Wooden floors and little feet/A flower but in concrete/Feelin’ so incomplete/Wonder will we ever meet?”

Halsey thinks about what she would do if she ever gave up her musical career on “Suga’s Interlude.”

Objectionable Content

A strong reoccurring theme here is Halsey’s codependency and addiction to unhealthy, destructive relationships. In “Graveyard,” she feels she’s nearing “death” the longer she clings to one particular lover (“It’s crazy when/The thing you love the most is the detriment”). “Without Me” admits that her attempts to help an ex-boyfriend ended in misery (“Just runnin’ from the demons in your mind/Then I took yours and made ’em mine/I didn’t notice ’cause my love was blind”). Similar themes are heard on songs such as “Dominic’s Interlude,” “929” and “I Hate Everybody.”

Halsey threatens to get revenge against an ex-boyfriend on “Killing Boys” (“And I won’t ever try again/And all I want in return is revenge”).

Sadly, Halsey confesses that she often does not feel worthy of love and struggles to love herself in “Forever… (Is a Long time)”: “How could somebody ever love me?” she asks.

References to suicide, mental instability and bipolar disorder show up in “Ashley” (“I only wanna die some days”) and “Clementine” (“I don’t need anyone/I just need everyone and then some”). The latter also reminds fans of her bisexuality in “Clementine” (“And the boys always call, and the girls do too”),

“Alanis’ interlude” is a sexually graphic and vulgar duet with Alanis Morrissette. Still more explicit sexual content is found on “3 am” and “929.”

Harsh language shows up in multiple songs, including uses of the f- and s-words. We hear a few references to reckless, drunken nights, as well as the use of cocaine and heroin by former lovers.

After multiple miscarriages and difficult circumstances, Halsey says she’s lost faith in God on “More.”

Summary Advisory

In an interview with Zane Lowe on Beats 1, Halsey said, “Taking responsibility is a painful experiment. The way that I see it is like if everyone is going to call me out for what they think is wrong me, I can at least take the narrative in my own hand and say, well that’s not what’s wrong with me, but I’ll tell you what is.”

And that’s sort of what Manic is all about, in a nutshell. It’s about openly admitting faults… even as they’re messy and painful.

I appreciate Halsey’s transparency. But at the same time, a lot of caution is warranted for anyone scrolling through these tracks. Because while some of them are beautifully and refreshingly honest, others are graphic, profane and dark. Language can be startling. References to sex and sexual proclivities are often vulgar. Combine those moments with Halsey’s dramatic dance on the razor’s edge between healthy and unhealthy choices, and you’ve got an album that justly warrants its explicit warning.

Kristin Smith

Kristin Smith joined the Plugged In team in 2017. Formerly a Spanish and English teacher, Kristin loves reading literature and eating authentic Mexican tacos. She and her husband, Eddy, love raising their children Judah and Selah. Kristin also has a deep affection for coffee, music, her dog (Cali) and cat (Aslan).

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