Since the release of 2018’s Without Me, Halsey’s third studio album has been one of the most highly-anticipated records of the last year. Praised heavily for its emotional intensity, it was clear that her forthcoming album would follow suit. Released now via Capitol Records, Manic is Halsey’s most introspective and uncompromising work to date, introducing the world to the woman known as Ashley Frangipane.
Paying homage to some of her earliest releases, the aptly-named ‘Ashley’ opens the record with a lo-fi R&B sound that draws focus towards the track’s vocal elements. With all her anxieties and vulnerabilities on show, the song introduces the album as an unabashed exploration of Halsey’s – or rather, Ashley’s – innermost thoughts, while the playful and fragile ‘Clementine’ solidifies a break away from the “performer” persona. With dual vocals fighting for centre-stage, the song sees Halsey’s inner child scream her heart out in defiance.
This child-like influence continues in ‘929’ through Halsey’s unconditional belief in magic, as she recounts the ups and downs of her early-twenties alongside simplistic guitar melodies and a running joke about her birthday. On her Twitter account, Halsey referenced the song, stating that the “Most Ashley thing ever is being absolutely positive I was born at 9:29 on 929 bc it’s magic and then realizing I wasn’t.” Of course, this unfiltered freedom of expression has allowed her to experiment with Manic, be it through playing the villain in the vengeful ‘killing boys’ or portraying the unapologetic ‘fuck you’ nature of country-pop single ‘You should be sad’. Yet some of the most outstanding songs on this release come in the form of collaborations with some of the biggest artists in the industry, most notable of which include SUGA of BTS fame, and nineties alt-rock hero Alanis Morissette.
Every aspect of Manic is relatable and raw, perhaps none more so than single release ‘Graveyard’. Exploring the cost of losing ourselves within a relationship, the track draws on the singer’s own experiences as she’s forced to learn how to trust herself. Halsey’s battles with loneliness and dependency continue throughout ‘I HATE EVERYBODY’ and ‘3am’, but the album does present subtle, underlying themes of self-love and overcoming our own mistakes, most prominent in the anthemic ‘Still Learning’, as Halsey addresses the struggles that come with fame and success.
While these concepts were inevitable on a Halsey record, the track setting Manic apart from any of her earlier releases is the cathartic and remarkably intimate ‘More’. With Ashley at her most vulnerable, her words echo throughout bittersweet, lullaby-inspired melodies, sharing her experience with miscarrying and her desire to be a mother, as the song takes the form of a sincere and deeply personal love letter to the child she lost. At its core, Manic is unfiltered and barefaced, and everything Ashley needed to say.
Buy: Halsey – Manic
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Photo credit: Aidan Cullen