It’s been a dramatic couple of years for Halsey. After releasing her debut album Badlands in 2015, she received mild attention that soon skyrocketed alongside her collaboration with The Chainsmokers on the massively successful “Closer.” Now, she makes a return with hopeless fountain kingdom, an album that differs greatly from Badlands in terms of a darker tone and composition, but also feels like a natural evolution. It’s comforting to know that she didn’t take any cues from her fellow collaborator, because Halsey thrives on smart lyrics coming from personal experiences. In fact, Halsey’s album is a lot more interesting than what The Chainsmokers has to offer…sometimes.
“The Prologue” is an unnecessary detriment to the entire perception of the album. It’s a mostly spoken word segment that uproots lines from ‘The Prologue’ in Romeo and Juliet, and then ends with Halsey’s interpretation of the story; but to be inherently critical, you can listen to the entire album and not get that impression whatsoever. Prologues prepare listeners for a great epic, but looking at the album that way sets the expectations too high. I highly recommend skipping this song and listening to the rest.
“100 Letters” is Halsey at her finest, emphasizing the power of feminism and being your own person. A real or metaphorical King Midas, who turns everything to gold with a single touch, vies for Halsey to be touched by him. King Midas comes off as above her, putting her down by explaining why she doesn’t “have any friends,” but Halsey bites back with “I find myself alone at night unless I’m having sex.” She’s “not something to butter up and taste when you get bored,” fighting back Midas’ touch and accusing him of greed, gluttony, and lust. It’s a really well thought out song.
It’s important to talk about the lyrics because they are what really makes Halsey stand out among all the other semi-pop acts. She can be fairly clever, like in “Eyes Closed.” “Now if I keep my eyes closed, he looks just like you,” should be a really bad line, but it’s a loaded line about Halsey’s character sleeping with different people to get the same thrill as the one that left. When it’s not clever, it’s a subtle introspection into Halsey’s personality, like in “Alone” where her popularity is reaching such a high that she can’t have personal connections with many people. When she says “She asked if I recognized and I told her I might,” it signifies how aware Halsey for how out of control the situation is, even if she’s still letting it all happen.
“Devil In Me” doesn’t really work. There is too much of a crutch on metaphor that reaches points of obtuseness. When it’s not obtuse, it’s too simple, with a repetitive chorus and a bare-boned beat in the background that tries to be atmospheric but doesn’t have much emotional weight. In fact, seeing the title basically describes everything that needs to be known about the song.
“Devil In Me” signifies one of the largest issues with the album. When the lyrics aren’t amazing, the album reaches a state of sheer mediocrity. Halsey is not a bad singer, but she’s not a powerhouse and the production doesn’t do much to support her. Songs like “Sorry” are fine, but it’s a simple piano ballad with very little to add other than the occasional fun lyric.
hopeless fountain kingdom would be a good album if it was more consistent. It hits high at the very beginning and then grows tedious over the course. The first set of songs are a joy to listen to, but after a while, the lyrics grow tired, the music grows tired, and then I get tired. She just doesn’t do enough in this album to keep the interest lasting, and there’s enough evidence that she can since Badlands is a joy to listen to from start to finish. It’s such a shame because Halsey has a talent for lyrics that may not be amazing prose, but they capture the quirks of her personality that give her instant appeal. Listen to the first half – sans the prologue – when there’s a good time to be had. OK.