Halsey’s latest album, “Manic,” is a confessional pop record that dives into her life post-breakup. “Manic” displays Halsey at her most open and vulnerable, only to come across as a little too on-the-nose at times.
“Manic” shows Halsey as a messy, young pop star who is fumbling through life still trying to figure it all out. This theme is present on all the tracks as Halsey battles her emotions and pushes through feelings of heartache. Even when the tracks are not sonically cohesive, there is a consistent lyrical theme on youth’s messiness.
A large part of Halsey’s appeal is how she can relate to what people her age may be going through. At only 25 years old, there is a vulnerability that listeners can easily attach themselves to whenever she sings about mental health troubles and relationship turmoil. The openness in which Halsey discusses her current and past issues, like on track “929,” feels like she is confessing directly to the listener.
There is this unsaid pre-album-listening agreement that Halsey will use this work to confess to whatever is going on in her life, even though it is a bit too on-the-nose at times. Some of Halsey’s metaphors continue to sound elementary and awkward, as they have since her debut. This is apparent on tracks like “I HATE EVERYBODY” and “You should be sad,” where Halsey gleefully expresses in the former that she is glad she did not have her ex-boyfriend’s baby.
The worst tracks on “Manic” were the more pop, radio-friendly ones that sound as if they were focus-grouped to death. “Without Me” is the track most guilty of this with its about-nothing, vague lyrics and Justin Timberlake sample. “Graveyard,” “killing boys” and “Still Learning” are also all guilty of being vague, bland and forgettable pop songs.
Truthfully, Halsey works better on softer tracks with more experimental production. Some of the better album tracks are ones where she takes it down a notch and includes some interesting production techniques, like on “Forever … (is a long time),” “3am” and “clementine.” “clementine” is a graceful, soft yet intriguing track that proves Halsey sounds best whenever she is not belting over an explosive pop beat.
“You should be sad” might have its share of goofy lyrics, but the song directs Halsey in a strong sonic direction. This glitzy, post-Kacey Musgraves country-pop sound works well for Halsey’s purring, breathy vocals. One of the better tracks off “Manic,” “Finally // beautiful stranger” has Halsey deliver a beautiful, personable country-pop ballad.
The guest features on “Manic” feel random and unnecessary. All of the interludes featuring Dominic Fike, Alanis Morissette and SUGA from BTS sound fine, but were unasked for. “Manic” would run smoother and more cohesively if it weren’t for these collaborations.
“Manic” is a pretty good pop record, even with its issues. While there are experimental, interesting tracks from Halsey, there are also bland, made-for-radio tracks that are bound to be forgotten. Halsey is a musician who has a lot of potential with her openness and knack for storytelling, she just needs to stop chasing radio hits.