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Track Review

Ashley Nicolette Frangipane, New Jersey Native—known professionally as Halsey—rose to fame courtesy of her parody of Taylor Swift's "I Knew You Were Trouble." Record labels soon came knocking. And Halsey parlayed YouTube and SoundCloud notoriety into a record contract with Astralwerks, resulting in her debut solo album, Badlands, in 2015.

Two years later, things are still "bad" for her. Halsey's latest hit, "Bad at Love," features a woman who just can't seem to get the hang of "love," no matter how many times she may try.

The Honest Truth

Being "Bad At Love," means that no matter how many relationships you may find yourself in, they're all going to end the same way: badly.

The song opens with a reference to a previous relationship with "a boy back home in Michigan" who "tastes like Jack [Daniels]." The relationship ends because he can't cope with Halsey's honesty: When she says she "never really liked his friends," he responds by calling her a "b—ch."

Another relationship "with a guy … in a garden state" ends because Halsey refuses to be the girl who is "in the kitchen with a dinner plate." The implication here is that she won't conform to what his ideas of what a girlfriend (or wife) should be.

Halsey then moves on to her romantic relationships with other females. She tells us that one promising relationship—with a woman with "California eyes"—failed because of her addiction to cocaine: "She fell in love with little white lines."

Then there's a trip to England, where she flirts with the idea of calling up a past lover, a "London girl with an attitude." But, she reasons, they "both got way better things to do."

Though Halsey is to quick identify her many lovers' flaws, she also takes responsibility for her role in these failed relationships, too. The common denominator? Jealousy, she says: "I believe, I believe, I believe, I believe/That we're meant to be/But jealousy, jealousy, jealousy, jealousy/Get the best of me." She also notes her partners' anxiety that she's going to pack it in when things get tough: "I know that you're afraid/I'm gonna walk away/Each time the feeling fades," but she doesn't do much to dispel that anxiety.

In the end, Halsey simply admits, "I'm bad at love/But you can't blame me for tryin'."

A Tough Girl on the Run

The video opens with the camera focused on a rough, tough-looking Halsey, who's parking her motorcycle at a desert gas station. She's decked out from head to toe in knee-high military boots, a worn leather jacket and cuts across her face. There's a $20,000 reward on her head, we learn. And as she walks into the gas station, she's paranoid about everyone around her, especially three women who look her up and down.

Walking to the bathroom, she opens the door to find an ominous figure, a cloaked man wearing a bird mask, sitting on the toilet. He picks up a Tarot card, as if holding the details of her future, and throws it toward her. Afraid, she runs into the lobby and is pushed up against a cooler by one of the women. In her state of distrust, she retaliates, only to find that the women were only joking.

Two police officers soon arrive, looking for Halsey. But the women protect her by trying to seduce the male officers, handcuffing them to their own vehicles. The four women then drive off in a convertible to a free-spirited camp in the middle of the desert, where they greet a little boy (presumably the son of one of the women) and toast their new friend's freedom.

Bad At What? At Love?

Despite the "tough girl" image Halsey strives to project, the video perhaps suggests that she's actually on the run from an unknown future (thanks to the bird-masked, Tarot-card reading creature), and that she may not be as tough as she looks. We see her struggling with her own façade, running from the unknown and the ominous, visual cues that reinforce the idea she's running because she is "bad at love."

But what is love, according to Halsey? Well, it's mixed with broken relationships with both men and women. Some are alcoholics and drug addicts, some are misogynists and verbally abusive. The sad reality here is that Halsey portrays love as little more than a feeling that inevitably fades. She repeatedly tells us that she's bad at love. But I can't help but wonder if Halsey really knows much about what real love actually looks like.

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Reached No. 11.

Record Label





August 22, 2017

On Video

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Kristin Smith

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