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Music review: Halsey’s ‘Badlands’

Singer Halsey waves her brash honesty with lyrics that address sexism in the male driven music world. ( Astralwerks) [1]

Singer Halsey waves her brash honesty with lyrics that address sexism in the male driven music world. ( Astralwerks)

In an era where it’s considered obligatory to keep up with everyone, from your high school lab partner to your favorite cast member of Orange is the New Black via social media, it becomes difficult to separate people and their work from their meticulously cultivated online presences.

Ashley Frangipane, known professionally as Halsey, has gained a reputation in the Twittersphere for her brash and uncompromising attitude. Her website’s bio simply reads, “I write songs about sex and being sad. I will never be anything but honest.”

On Badlands, her debut full-length album, it becomes apparent that there is no need to separate Halsey’s music from her public persona. With Halsey, what you see — or hear, rather — is exactly what you get.

The opening track, “Castle,” whose lyrics confront sexism in the music industry, serves as both a mission statement for the album and an introduction to Halsey herself. Over scattershot electropop beats, she sings of “an old man sitting on a throne/saying [she] should probably keep [her] pretty mouth shut.”

Though the rest of Badlands follows “Castle’s” genre construction of new wave electropop, the album is anything but homogenous. While the gorgeous, vivid “Colors” finds Halsey looking back on the profound influence of an ex-lover, “Gasoline” uses synthesizers and distorted vocals to illustrate the chaotic nature of identity crisis.

Whether she’s confronting the media’s obsession with her personal life or “the villains that live in [her] head” (“Control”), Halsey creates an unflinching and refreshingly honest portrait of young adulthood that this writer very much appreciates. It’s about time we heard something real.