Album Review: Halsey – ‘Badlands’

The Breakdown

It's an album you want to continue long past its final track as it's expression and honesty is incredibly captivating

It’s a rare thing to find an album that is a complete experience, where it’s emotions, themes and atmosphere jump right out of the audio and leave you with the knowledge that you’ve felt something as opposed to just hearing it. The debut album from Halsey is exactly that. There’s going to be artist comparisons aplenty I’m sure as the popularity grows but this album is one that stands entirely on its own. As a very loose example it’s electronic pop but if you’ve got any stereotyped and cliched preconceptions before listening then chance is you’re going to miss the point. Go into this with an open mind and you’ll be rewarded for it.

It’s a hard one to pin down without an overuse of listing genres, subgenres, styles etc but to say it in its simplest form it’s a pure expression. Musically it’s very close in style to the writing of Bret Eason Ellis. The lyrical content describing the thoughts and feelings of a generation that has experienced a lot more than maybe they should, the feeling of being lost yet being in complete control and the overall knowledge that’s held within each individual from what society and media exposes them to. This is brilliantly personified in ‘New Americana’. There’s a focus on sex and drugs but that’s become much more commonplace in many societies over the years and to hear it in these lyrics in this concept, it manages to appear normal and yet shocking to brilliant effect.

One listen is enough to hook you in, but with repeat listens there is so much more to discover. Each listen taking you further on the journey that Halsey presents. There are multiple factors as to why this album works so well. One key point in particular is the flow and progression of the album. Not just a collection of tracks, its theme peels back more layers as it goes on. Tied into the feeling set up in Ellis’s writing, each song feels like a chapter in the ‘Badlands’ story and further listens reveal more details you missed the first time. Another is that it expresses multiple emotions. Feelings of euphoria, arousal, love, turmoil and progression. It creates pictures in the mind and makes sure that they stay there. Most important of all  are the compositions of the musical elements  and they work perfectly alongside the lyrical content with a range of styles and instruments that really creates the full effect. This album is its own character and it’s a hard one to ignore as it treats each element within with the respect and attention it deserves.

It’s been an interesting year for music so far, and I’ve gotten to the point where I know how I feel about something even halfway through the first listen as most of it has felt pretty much the same. Nothing much has surprised me and very little has stood out. This album entirely changed all of that and this is the first album of the year I’m giving a full 10 out of 10 to. After listening to it for over a week it still retains the feelings I experienced on the first listen and still remains incredibly powerful.

I highly recommend checking this one out and especially recommend the deluxe edition as it expresses so much more than the standard album. It’s an album you want to continue long past its final track as it’s expression and honesty is incredibly captivating and overall it results in something that’s hard to forget. This is music that can be classed as art. An expression of character with songs that have multiple layers and a great amount of depth.

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