Halsey: Role Model For a New Generation
In a word, Halsey’s music is mesmerizing. It has the grand sounds of MS MR, the dark vibes of Lorde, and the ethereal, haunted moods of London Grammar. But then there’s a twist—the electricity that laces everything together. And that is Halsey’s own.
She rocks her blue hair, tattoos, and Doc Martens with grace and an edge of sexuality. She’s not trying to be punk rock. She’s not trying to play “the bad girl.” She’s just Halsey—to the bone. She writes about sex and sadness. She writes about the relationships that have changed her. She writes about the demons in her head and the things that haunt her. She is open about everything. She admires artists, such as Matt Healy of The 1975, that inspire her to express herself. “He’s in the ranks of those musicians that I looked up to because they were men. They moved sexually and romantically, and they had this swagger. I feel like female artists can’t do that without being objectified or over-sexualized. So I’m trying to find that sweet spot,” she said in an interview with Elle.com.
After listening to her new full-length album, Badlands, on repeat for only a couple of days, I can vouch that Halsey has found that sweet spot she mentioned she was seeking. Halsey has her own way to move with subtle, intimate swagger. Badlands is a perfect example of what it sounds like when a twenty-something woman in the music industry is pushing boundaries. The album is dark, sensual, and overflowing with gritty, personal lyrics—like a musical interpretation of Halsey’s mind.
First and foremost, the indie-electro-pop goddess considers herself songwriter. From songs about our generation (“We are the new Americana, high on legal marijuana, raised on Biggie and Nirvana”) to songs about the scars of relationships past (“You were red, and you liked me because I was blue. But you touched me and suddenly I was a lilac sky. Then you decided purple just wasn’t for you”), Halsey tells stories—no holds barred—through her lyrics. And the girl can write.
Badlands, in addition to being a fantastic collection of songs, is an exploration of Halsey’s bipolar disorder—something she has recently opened up about in interviews. In her song “Control,” she personifies her bipolarity: “I couldn’t stand the person inside me, I turned all the mirrors around,” “I’ve grown familiar with villains that live in my head. They beg me to write them so I’ll never die when I’m dead.” Similarly, “Gasoline” explores the idea that there’s a part of Halsey’s mind that she can’t control, “I think there’s a flaw in my code. These voices won’t leave me alone. Well my heart is gold and my hands are cold.” She can’t always control her mind, but she makes a point to control the conversations about her bipolar disorder by discussing it through her own experiences.
In her interview with Elle.com, she explains that sometimes, both people and the media romanticize mental illness, but in all reality, it’s not pretty like that: “It’s not all painting at four o’clock in the morning and road trips and fucking great things. Sometimes it’s throwing things and, like, getting hurt and having to pick someone up from the police station at two o’clock in the morning.” And while songs like “Control” and “Gasoline” are really lovely to listen to, they’re exploring a topic that is not so lovely. But I find it refreshing to see an artist speak so eloquently and honestly about a rather taboo subject. To see someone like Halsey succeeding and living her life with her mental illness, rather than letting her mental illness become her life, has led me to respect her even more. Based on the huge social media following she’s built up, there’s no doubt there are many other people who feel she’s done the same thing for them.
When it comes down to it, Halsey is a light on the horizon to those who are struggling with being themselves—whether that’s because of their sexual orientation, their mental illness, their racial background, or their ability to simply be comfortable in their own skin. As a woman who identifies as bi-racial, bi-sexual, and bi-polar, it’s no wonder she calls herself an “in-between role model.” She’s the role model she wishes she’d been able to look up to while growing up; the person who has good intentions, whilst still being truly themselves. She tells her own stories. She owns everything she is.
Aside from not being able to listen to anything else besides Badlands for the last couple of weeks, I think the admiration and fascination I feel toward Halsey stems primarily from the way she carries herself not only as an artist, but also as a human being. Her interviews and lyrics make it clear that she is unapologetically herself. She is, in a sense, every song she writes. She’s barely 21 and yet I find myself, at 25, looking up to her. And I have no shame in that. Halsey is brave, sharp, and real. Even though she doesn’t have all the answers, her heart and soul are in the right place when it comes to her fans and followers. Not to mention, she’s got serious edge as a musician.