I’m crazy for ‘Manic’

January 31, 2020

Genre-defying and sonically cohesive, Halsey’s “Manic” is the strongest album released in months. Halsey uses these 16 tracks to tell a story of an insecure girl navigating the world, and she’s not afraid to show the ugly sides of her life. The tracks range from slow and sweet to fast and angry to jerky and nervous. “Manic” is not an album to be missed.

The most important thing to do when listening to “Manic”—or at the very least, when listening for the first time—is to listen in order. Halsey arranged these tracks to tell a story. She is an artist who cares about the album as an art form. The tracks bounce around from high to low in pace and feel, but thanks to some seamless transitions from track to track, the order fits. My personal favorite transition is from “Dominic’s Interlude” to “I HATE EVERYBODY.” It is so smooth that I don’t even notice that the song has switched until the vocals come in on the first verse of the latter track.

Transitions from song to song are not the only way Halsey helps listeners understand the album. Collaborations are also a unique aspect of “Manic.” Halsey uses her featured guests as a guiding hand to help move the material from subject to subject, from vibe to vibe. Halsey has three different interludes on the album: one from Dominic Fike, an up-and-coming singer and rapper; one from Alanis Morisette, the queen of angst; and one from SUGA, her friend Min Yoon-gi from K-Pop band BTS. 

“Graveyard” is an early song on the tracklist, and though it is not my favorite on the album, it’s crucial in understanding the work as a whole. This is an acoustic song, softer in sound than many on the album. Despite this, I think the song is the most intense part of “Manic.” This song highlights the strength of Halsey’s love; she was so loyal to her partner, so in love with him, that she would’ve followed him anywhere. Until he went and screwed it up. 

Immediately following “Graveyard” is “You Should Be Sad,” which has a very different feel, diverging from Halsey’s typical genre. This track is a country song, a Carrie Underwood-esque breakup anthem. Here, Halsey is trying to get over the breakup by acknowledging that she really dodged a bullet by ending this relationship. The man she is singing about is selfish and just holding her back. 

It’s around here that fans hear the first guest feature. “Dominic’s Interlude” signals a switch to a new part of the album, the part where Halsey starts going back out. But she’s still too sad to truly appreciate the atmosphere. 

Halsey’s highest point on the album is a track describing her lowest point. “3 am” is painfully real. It’s a mental breakdown of a song, detailing her insecurity and how she relies on others’ praise to feel good, but that she fears actual intimacy. The tune to this track is incredibly catchy, and it’ll get stuck in your head by the middle of the first verse. The chorus is the actual breakdown part, the verses just detailing how she got there. The song ends with an uplifting voicemail from her father, an adorable, if dissonant, anecdote to the rather sad song. 

“Without Me” is an angry pop song that will—and did—chart well on the radio. With this song, Halsey explicitly states that maybe she’s not over her breakup. I know she wrote this song early, likely before the rest of the album, but it feels like it fits in its place. She has a breakdown about her ex, gets over him, realizes that maybe she isn’t over him, until finally she uses this song as a last moment of closure. 

“Finally // Beautiful Stranger” is one of my favorite Halsey tracks of all time. This song is slow and sweet, moving away from a pop sound to create a beautiful serenade. With a simple melody and production, this track is carried by her vocals, stunning and strong. It also showcases a soft side of Halsey that listeners very rarely get to hear in her work. It seems the aftermath of “3 am” has led to her new outlook. 

Fans can assume this beautiful stranger mentioned in the former song is the subject of “Alanis’s Interlude.” “SUGA’s Interlude” comes shortly after, bringing this album back to what is truly most important in Halsey’s life: herself. “Manic” is very much an album about love, but at its root, it’s a story of a girl. 

“Manic” is easily the strongest release of 2020 so far, and I imagine that few will even come close to releasing an album as good before the year is up. This album is a must-listen for anyone who loves angry or sad music, who loves rock or pop or country music, who loves good storytelling in song.

Menu Title