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.
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.”
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 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).