Halsey shows us the person behind the mask with ‘Manic’.

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Capitol Records

The cover of Halsey’s third studio album, ‘Manic’.

Mason Montano, Music Editor

Known for her unique voice and creative album concepts, American singer-songwriter Halsey is a prominent figure on the mainstream music scene.

She released her debut single, “Ghost”, through Astralwerks in July 2014 after it blew up on SoundCloud earlier that year, and her debut EP, Room 93, followed that October. Her debut album, Badlands, arrived in August 2015 and spawned the successful singles “New Americana” and “Colors”, and her second album, hopeless fountain kingdom, was released in June 2017 and spawned the equally successful singles “Now or Never” and “Bad at Love”, solidifying her status as a major pop star.

In October 2018, Halsey dropped “Without Me” as her first solo track since 2017 and her first release through Capitol Records. The song quickly became her biggest hit yet, topping the Billboard Hot 100 — making it her first #1 hit single — and has since been certified platinum seven times in the United States, but more importantly, “Without Me” marked a turning point in her career. 

Although heavily inspired by personal experience, the lyrical content of Halsey’s previous songs largely pertained to the concept of their parent album and were sung from the perspective of various characters. “Without Me” was her first song to directly address events from her own life, referencing her then-recent break-up with American rapper G-Eazy, and while initially billed as a standalone single, it would eventually become the lead single from her third studio album, Manic.

“Without Me” replaced a song called “Nightmare”, which was released in May 2019 as Manic’s original lead single but was ultimately cut from the final tracklist due to Halsey changing the direction of the project during the writing process. She initially planned to create an intense and aggressive record, but after writing “Nightmare”, she found that she had inadvertently vented out all of her frustration and had a change of heart, opting for a more calm and introspective approach instead.

Following several more singles, including the moderately successful second single, “Graveyard”, Manic was released in mid-January and sees Halsey at her most raw and vulnerable. She described the writing process as having been “a lesson in forgiving [herself]”, and the album opens with a song called “Ashley” — her real name — indicating that Manic doesn’t hide behind a concept or story, allowing Halsey to show a more authentic version of herself.

The title was inspired by her bipolar disorder as well as the fact that the record was written during a rather “manic” period of her life, and this concept is reflected by the production, as it bounces around between a wide variety of genres, blending elements of indie pop, country, hip-hop, rock, and more. 

Despite the result not sounding the most cohesive, the idea is well-executed and the blend of genres does not distract from the lyrical content, which is brutally honest and deeply personal. Manic covers a wide range of topics; including relationships, mental health, sexuality, fame, family, etc.; and although there are many tracks worth discussing, such as the lead promotional single, “clementine”, and “Alanis’ Interlude” with Canadian-American singer-songwriter and actress Alanis Morisette, I would argue that “More” and “Still Learning” are the most notable.

On “More”, Halsey laments over her endometriosis — a disease in which the layer of tissue that normally covers the inside of the uterus grows outside of it, resulting in an array of health issues, including chronic pain and infertility, that has caused her to suffer three miscarriages in her lifetime, and this heartbreaking track sees her expressing her longing to finally meet her first child, who seems unlikely to ever arrive due to her condition.

On “Still Learning”, she reveals that in spite of her fame and success, she still struggles to love herself, discussing a lack of self-esteem and self-worth and reminding us that behind the glitz and glamour, she’s still a human being with real problems just like you and me.

The final track, “9:29”, is a self-reflective look at Halsey’s life written in a stream-of-consciousness style in which she explains how she’s learned more about herself and now has the tools necessary for improving her mental health, coming full circle from “Ashley” and bringing the record to a satisfying close.

While it may not be her most cohesive or coherent project, Manic is arguably Halsey’s best, as it not only features raw vulnerability, but showcases how being open and honest about one’s personal struggles will only make you stronger in the end.

Manic is available now across all online and streaming platforms.

Stream Manic on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/68enXe5XcJdciSDAZr0Alr?si=A_t744EnRRCYx4kMM7BINA 

Watch the music video for “Without Me”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZAfAud_M_mg 

Halsey in the music video for “Without Me”.