Album Review: Halsey – Badlands

Halsey Badlands cover

Halsey is an anagram of the name Ashley [Frangipane], the latest of a string of electro-pop stars who will soon conquer the airwaves with her début album Badlands. She shares a similar synth-based pop sound to Lorde, Broods, Ellie Goulding. Her voice is like Taylor Swift at times, but she also has a bad girl attitude like Taylor Momsen or Miley Cyrus. Halsey is going to be huge; a hybrid of all trending chart toppers.

The music is likable enough. Dreamy synths? Check. Percussion driven? Check. Computerised sounds? Check. Repetition to the days? Double check.

It’s unashamed manufactured pop, but it is nice to see that the artist herself has at least a co-writing credit on every song on the album. There is also some odd additions thanks to the slick production, like a cinematic choir on ‘Castle’, or the stunning violin on a number of tracks. There are rap and alt rock influences that are detectable through the punky attitude.

Because that’s the last part of the success formula. If you want to sell your product, it’s as much about image as it is about the music. This music is pop with an edge. Halsey is working on her bad girl image like the aforementioned Momsen or Cyrus. She sings about smoking and using drugs and attracting boys older than her. It’s enough to both upset parents and appeal to rebelling tweenage girls. Those messages could be justified as feminist, but I think it’s just clever marketing.

Badlands lasts roughly an hour, with 16 songs. I enjoy most of the songs, but an hour of it is a bit much. The music starts to lose its punch when it doesn’t deviate enough. That said, the demographic that this music will appeal to tends to listen to singles instead of albums, so the music it won’t lose its effectiveness outside of an album context.

Halsey has a great voice. Coupled with slick producers, and riding a trending genre, there’s no way she won’t sell. Hear her blasting from a defiant teenage girl’s bedroom soon.

Joseph James