I’m not one of those people who highly anticipates an album. My usual policy is not to pay attention to rising artists, but that all changed when I heard Halsey perform live this past July. The 20-year-old New Jersey native had such a stage presence that, while I was disinterested at first, a third of the way into her first song I was hooked, and by the end I forgot she was an opening act and that I was actually at an Imagine Dragons concert.
When I went to purchase her debut album, “Badlands,” I was disappointed to find out that it wouldn’t be released until Aug. 28, so I satisfied myself by pre-ordering the deluxe version on iTunes and listening to the few songs that had already been released as singles.
While only one song on the album is named “Haunting,” it is a word that aptly describes most of the album. Halsey’s voice is like someone took all the best parts of Ellie Goulding, Dan Reynolds, Ryan Tedder and Christina Perri and blended them into its own beautiful resonance. Melodious and harsh all at the same time, it’s hard not to fall in love with every note.
Halsey’s enchanting lyrics stand out in an age where every song seems to sound the same. I can jam out to popular music just as well as the next person, but there is something to Halsey’s “Hold Me Down,” a song that expresses her personal efforts to fight her demons that try to hold her down in a series of booming backbeats, to which I felt a deeper connection.
The general feeling I got from the album was that of a life lived. Many artists attempt to capture their experiences, and perhaps they do, but “Badlands” is the first album where I perceived an artist as being authentic. Part of the reason for this is that Halsey is open about the fact that she is not revealing her entire life. In her song “Strange Love,” she says “I’m gonna write it all down, and I’m gonna sing it on stage/ But I don’t have to f*****g tell you anything, anything/ That’s the beauty of a secret/ You know you’re supposed to keep it.” The entire album is full of raw and honest emotions that we are able to connect with our everyday lives, yet she still manages to keep her life her own.
I confess that as I write this I am listening to the album for the 20th time according to iTunes. It’s the kind of album that you can just let play in the background of whatever you happen to be doing. It has a sort of magical quality where if you want to pay attention to the music there is an amazing complexity to it and the songs build in on themselves which itself is beautiful. However, if you just want something to play in your earbuds so you can ignore your roommates while you have to finish a paper, “Badlands” is a good choice. The songs blend into themselves so well that it just becomes soothing noise that is still energizing enough to keep you from falling asleep on top of your notes when you should be studying.
The most popular song from the album is “New Americana,” which is not particularly surprising. Full of cultural references and with a pulsing beat, “New Americana” is easily the most relatable song on the album. In the chorus she sings that “We are the new Americana/ High on legal marijuana/ Raised on Biggie and Nirvana/ We are the new Americana.” The associations that she makes in regard to herself, her fans and America by alluding to various events and mentioning various people throughout the song are not what many of the older generations would appreciate and exactly what the typical youth of today highly enjoy. The song is catchy, and I do like it, but I like the other songs just as much, if not more.
“Badlands” is a solid album, and my favorite of 2015 so far. Sept. 6 kicks off her tour for this album, including a show at the House of Blues in Boston on Oct. 24. As an album, “Badlands” is not one you would want to miss out on.