Pop artist Halsey entered the new decade by releasing her most genuine album to date. “Manic” is the singer’s third studio album, with 16 tracks of self-reflection, pain and growth. Halsey, or Ashley Nicolette Frangipane, abandons the persona of her stage name and introduces herself without the theatrics of her previous records.
The beloved radio track on the album is her single, ‘Without Me.’ It was released back in 2018, and it is the ultimate break-up song, detailing her doomed relationship with G-Eazy. Like ‘Without Me,’ much of the rest of “Manic” touches on her insecurities and reflections of her previous failed relationships, which lead her down the road of trust issues, self-loathing and dealing with betrayal.
Unlike her previous two records, “Manic” is strictly Ashley, which is evident by the first track, appropriately titled “Ashley.” Halsey makes it clear that the real Ashley is here to pour out the raw emotions she has experienced without the narrative or props of her previous albums, “Badlands” and “hopeless fountain kingdom.”
While the album is based heavily on the introspection of herself in relationships, the overall concept and feeling left after a listen is deeply individual. Halsey is aware of her public image and wants the world to know more about herself behind closed doors, rather than the persona she has presented and the public relationships she has been through. On ‘Ashley,’ she sings, “And I don’t wanna be somebody in America just fighting the hysteria / I only wanna die some days.” Regardless of what relationship she is in, she is also an individual dealing with fame, in addition to attempting to make sense of the world and herself, just like the rest of us.
Halsey has an extraordinary gift for capturing her vulnerability and growth in a single album, which she has proven once again on this record. From songs like “Forever … (is a long time)” to “killing boys,” she goes from singing, “What am I thinking? What does this mean? / How could somebody ever love me?” to lyrics like, “And I won’t ever feel this way again / ’Cause you don’t need me anymore, woah / And I won’t ever try again / And all I want in return is revenge.” The combination of heartfelt ballads and power anthems is an excellent display of Halsey’s versatility and the representation of the battles she has with her emotions.
Like her previous album “hopeless fountain kingdom”, Halsey invited other artists to feature on the interludes of the album. Dominic Fike, Alanis Morissette and SUGA of BTS all appear on “Manic.” ‘Alanis Interlude’ is a track about sexual empowerment, a recurring theme in many of Halsey’s other records. Halsey has also said that ‘SUGA’s Interlude’ is a track about being “both blessed and tormented.” Halsey and the K-pop group BTS are known to be great friends, and she was featured on their single “Boy With Luv” last year.
Although “Manic” is unlike her other records where there is normally an overarching narrative, like the Romeo and Juliet theme of “hopeless fountain kingdom,” Halsey wrote on Twitter that every record she puts out should be heard in the tracklist order, at least on the first listen. On this album, the last track is ‘929’, where she ends the record with the lyrics “Soft and slow, watch the minutes go / Count out loud, so we know you don’t keep ’em for yourself.”
Those lines hit the message she wants to end the album with and what she wants to remind herself regarding the feelings she has released throughout the music. Like the introduction of her real self on this album, she wants to also continue to express her real feelings and emotions, without the pain of bottling it up as she has before.
“Manic” is an album about struggling with relationships, self-worth, identity but also about being honest and truly yourself in order to grow. Halsey’s vocals and hard-hitting lyrics continue to amaze her fans and the world, and it is refreshing to see a young woman be as impactful as she has within the music industry.