“My personal life is a disaster.” This statement, made by Halsey during the Zane Lowe interview would be a great alternative title for her third album. Manic is a statement record, a type of album one records to mark an important transition in their career. The moment in which a Tumblr alt-pop artist abandons most of the popular themes in order to get more personal. Manic ticks all the “deep”, concept album boxes: spoken parts between songs, interludes as separate tracks, mysterious titles… But is the music behind the concept any good? The short answer is yes. But not as good as I expected.
Halsey’s third album opens with a self-titled track Ashley, in which singer asks herself: Is it really that strange if I always wanna change? The question is a great representation of the album as a whole. It’s been known for months that Manic is going to be a messy release with the stand-alone single Without Me released in 2018, then transformed into the lead single, another track Nightmare removed from the tracklist completely and finally Graveyard overly exposed with its 11 TV performances. On January 17th the public could finally listen to the whole album. Just like Ashley, most songs on the record are intimate ballads such as clementine, Finally // Beautiful Stranger or the closing track 929.
Halsey is known for making music poppy enough to appear in the mainstream media, at the same time alternative enough to be mentioned alongside artists such as Lorde, Marina, Lana Del Rey or Melanie Martinez. The hit factor and anthemic composition presented in the past on tracks such as Colors or New Americana is the missing element on her newest body of work. The fact that songs on Manic aren’t typical Top 40 bangers is not the problem here. Most of the time they’re simply forgettable, and that’s the main issue.
Manic is lyrically the strongest Halsey album to date. Sonically, it’s another story. Singles such as Without Me or Graveyard are not a good representation of this record. Endless efforts to make the album meaningful and conceptual ended up killing the final effect.
The album has quite a few great songs hidden in between unnecessary interludes (only the one with Alanis Morisette is decent, but well, that’s Alanis.) 3am is a catchy pop-punk ballad which sounds almost like an Avril Lavigne tribute song. I HATE EVERYBODY has some amazing production from FINNEAS and quite a few strong lyrical moments too. Finally // Beautiful Stranger could be an example of how to make a good singer-songwriter ballad. The closing track 929 is pretty strong too but again, mostly thanks to honest and strong writing; And I remember the names of every single kid I’ve met
But I forget half the people who I’ve gotten in bed (…) And I’ve stared at the sky in Milwaukee, And hoped that my father would finally call me.
I honestly feel like the purpose of this record was to make a statement. It seems to me like the singer wanted to show how many famous names she can successfully invite, tell a personal story and support it all with a strong radio single from two years earlier. Manic is definitely worth a listen… or maybe a read?