“BADLANDS” is a new album by up-and-coming singer/songwriter Halsey (with real name Ashley Frangipane). Earlier this year she was opening on tour for Imagine Dragons. Halsey was signed in 2014 when one of her songs (Ghost) gained a lot of attention online. She has since put out an EP and is now releasing her first full studio album. BADLANDS is a mix of electro-pop, alternative and indie pop and it’s also leaning towards some kind of dream-pop. For the fact that Halsey is still rather unknown and more “out there” than a lot of other artists, BADLANDS is surprisingly good. I personally have only known who she is for about two weeks when I discovered “New Americana” (one of the songs on the album) and she instantly caught my attention which is why I decided to make a review on her album.
I will review the album track by track and then give my general feedback on the album at the end! You can see the scores for each song below the track reviews
- Castle – 7/10
This is a really interesting track. First of all, there’s quite a lot of interesting elements in its production. I’m not gonna get in too deep with this one, but for example there’s a choir in the background in different parts of the song. “I’m headed straight for the castle, They wanna make me their queen and there’s an old man sitting on the throne that’s saying that I probably shouldn’t be so mean”
- Hold Me Down – 6/10
Hold Me Down is one of the harder hitting songs on BADLANDS. The best part of this song are its lyrics. Everything just blends in extremely well. The chorus is the best part though. “Hold me down, hold me down, Sneaking out the back door, Make no sound, Knock me out, knock me out, Saying that I want more, this is what I live for” (Lyrics during the chorus)
Overall, I would however consider this song one of the weaker ones on the album.
- New Americana – 10/10
New Americana is mid-tempo song and for me probably the best track on the album. The song features march drums in the background during most of the song. I would say New Americana is the catchiest song on the album. The song might not be quite as unique (especially in terms of its production) than a lot of other songs on the album, but that’s what makes it stand out. I absolutely loved this track from the first time i’ve heard it.
“We are the new americana, high on legal marijuana, raised on Biggie and Nirvana, we are the new americana”
- Drive – 8/10
Drive is a bit slower than most of the songs on BADLANDS. The song is still a stand out on the album though. Drive is intentionally a bit unstructured and with various car sounds throughout the entire song really unique and interesting. The best element in the production however is the acoustic guitar that keeps re-appearing mainly during the chorus. Even though the song isn’t even that lightly produced, this adds a nice acoustic element to the song which is, along with the car sounds, exactly why this is one of the more memorable songs when you listen through the entire album at once.
“All we do is drive, All we do is think about the feelings that we hide, All we do is sit in silence waiting for a sign, Sick and full of pride, All we do is drive”
- Roman Holiday – 5/10
The song isn’t actually all that interesting, so it’s no surprise i almost forgot it when writing this review. But even so, the song is actually kind of… cute? It’s one of the more happy moments on the album and definitely a good break from all the heavy lyrics. But still, one of the weaker tracks.
- Colors – 8/10
Colors is another mid-tempo song that is quite literally a song that would be the definition of dream pop for me. It actually reminds a lot of a song that Tove Lo would make. The song also features one of the best lyrics on her album, especially the line
You were red and you liked me because I was blue, You touched me and suddenly I was a lilac sky and you decided purple just wasn’t for you
It’s also, from what i’ve heard so far, one of the fan favorites. This is a beautiful song that has the ability to make you enter a dream world when you listen to it. Colors is really enjoyable to listen to and definitely one of the best songs on the album.
“Everything is blue, his pills, his hands, his jeans and now I’m covered in the colors pulled apart at the seams and it’s blue, and it’s blue”
- Coming Down – 4/10
Coming Down is another one of these tracks that get lost a bit. I don’t even have a lot to say about this song… it’s just there. The acoustic guitar is really nice though… but yeah, it’s kind of a filler.
- Haunting – 6/10
Another track that could be a Tove Lo song. Haunting is mid-tempo but still pretty rhythmic with a nice and steady beat throughout the entire song. The verses aren’t very memorable but the chorus is actually really good.
“‘Cause I’ve done some things that I can’t speak, And I’ve tried to wash away but you just won’t leave, So won’t you take a breath and dive in deep, ‘Cause I came here so you’d come for me”
This is what Halsey sings in the chorus followed with several repetitions of “I’m begging you to keep on haunting (me)”. The song is actually not as “haunting” as you’d think, it’s more of a love song. The chorus really saves this song from being completely forgettable, so overall i would say it’s still a solid song.
- Control – 9/10
Control is probably the creepiest track i’ve heard in a long time. The song starts out with a haunting melody reminding of the Pokemon Lavender Town theme (LOL) followed by a string part that reminds a lot of the stuff that they use in horror movies. You know, the time when someone slowly turns around because a murderer is behind them. “I sat alone, in bed ’til the morning, I’m crying, “They’re coming for me”” are some of the lyrics during the verses, continuing to be accompanied by different sounds and creepy sounding instruments. That way the music and lyrics are actually perfectly connected and it doesn’t sound like a recorded song at all, more like a musical story. The song also leaves the listener quite some interpretations with lyrics like “I’m well acquainted with villains that live in my bed, they beg me to write them so they’ll never die when I’m dead; And I’ve grown familiar with villains that live in my head, They beg me to write them so I’ll never die when I’m dead”
The “villains that live in my head” line makes me think this song is about your own inner demons that take over the “control” of your thoughts. Another interesting line is “And I couldn’t stand the person inside me
I turned all the mirrors around”, talking about another “person” being in her mind. Meanwhile the inside is put on the outside aswell and she can’t stand to look at the person inside her or the person she herself has become so she has to turn the mirrors around.
Of course this is just one interpretation and I don’t know whether Halsey wrote this with herself in mind or just wanted to capture a specific emotion, but i do feel like this song is really open for interpretation to anyone and everyone is probably going to see it differently. All of this makes the song extremely haunting and captivating and what it does really well is make the lyrics count for something. They’re not just lyrics that are just there, Halsey really makes you think about what these lyrics are about.
- Young God – 6/10
Young God is another good track, even though it’s probably more in the middle field overall. Again, I don’t really have a lot to say about this song.
“Do you feel like a young god? You know the two of us are just young gods and we’ll be flying through the streets with the people underneath and they’re running, running, running”
- Ghost – 9/10
Ghost is a electronic influenced mid-tempo song and possibly one of the most “mainstream” songs on the album. The song is, along with Colors, one of the better examples of dream-pop. The reason for this is mostly the production and the way the melody is composed, but of course the lyrics are important aswell. Compared to the rest of the album Ghost is actually sort of uptempo, even though it’s not super fast, which is also kind of surprising because the first 15 or something seconds make you think the song is a ballad.
“My ghost, where’d you go? I can’t find you in the body sleeping next to me”
And now on to the Deluxe tracks.
Hurricane is mid-tempo song and another example of a dream-pop kind of production. It’s pretty good, but it’s definitely not one of the song that stands out on this album. 6/10
Strange Love is a quite upbeat song about a mysterious love relationship everyone wants to know about but that is being kept a secret. I actually do not know why Strange Love is not on the standard edition as I prefer it over songs like Coming Down or Roman Holiday. 8/10
Probably the track with the heaviest production on the album, and it’s awesome! The song starts with some sort of string instrument, it sounds like a banjo actually. The verses are still rather calm compared to what’s coming in the chorus. “Are you insane like me? Been in pain like me? Bought a hundred dollar bottle of champagne like me?” Halsey sings in Gasoline, followed by some explicit lyrics which we will not go in detail at this point. Each line in the verse ends with “like me” as a rhetorical device to put emphasis on the last words. I believe this is what we would call an Epistrophe (which is Greek for “return”) or Antistrophe. You might know it as epiphora (so basically the opposite of anaphora, the technique of having the same words at the beginning of each phrase). This makes the listener extremely aware of the lyrics and it’s a good thing.
After the verses the song goes up a notch in terms of production with big beats being added along to her vocals getting some different layers aswell. Yet again this song has really interesting lyrics. “And all the people say, you can’t wake up, this is not a dream, you’re part of a machine, you are not a human being, with your face all made up, living on a screen, low on self esteem, so you run on gasoline” 10/10
I Walk The Line is a ballad, however it is still pretty mid-tempo. Although, since everything is kind of mid tempo in this album this does feel like a slow song. The song is also one of the only songs to have a noticeable piano in the background, which is definitely nice!
I Walk The Line sounds like a song on a movie soundtrack. Really interesting! 7/10
Overall, this is actually a really good album. As a total score I would give it a 8/10, which is definitely a great score. The album is definitely coherent, but sometimes the overwhelming amount of mid-tempos on the album makes the lines between the songs really blurry so they seem less distinct. I really wish she had at least one completely untouched acoustic ballad, Halsey actually seems to have really good vocals so that would be a way for her to show them off.
Standout tracks: New Americana, Colors, Control, Ghost, Gasoline
All in all this could end up being one of the best albums released this year, which is amazing for a new artist like Halsey. She’s also growing fast in popularity, so i really do think this album will kickstart her career! Good Luck!
What did you think of BADLANDS? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.