On January 17 Halsey’s new album, Maniac, released and I’ve listened to it a bunch of different times by this point. Of the three albums she’s released I think this is my favorite overall album. There are individual songs on the other two albums that I may enjoy more, but as a whole Maniac comes out on top for me.
The album starts with the song titled Ashley, named after Halsey herself (for those who don’t know Ashley is Halsey’s real name) and I find it to be a contemplative song. It’s a little sad in a sense, listening to some of the lyrics it doesn’t sound like she’s fully happy doing what she’s doing. With lines like:
But it seems I’m only clingin’ to an idea now
Took my heart and sold it out to a vision that I wrote myself
There seems to be an acknowledgment of the performance that she may be stuck in. That performance, of course, being the persona of Halsey herself. This opening song really does feel like a kind of introduction to Ashley, the person being the Halsey persona. This is also referenced on the album cover with the code H3, for Halsey’s third album, and the code A01 for Ashley’s first album.
I don’t want it to sound like I think Halsey is miserable in her career. But this isn’t a song of joy. In the Spoitfy storyline feature, the song is called a “…an introduction but it’s also a cautious goodbye.” which I think definitely comes through. The chorus and the second verse of the song really bring that feeling home for me with references to burning into flames and leaving dust behind, being committed to a ghost town, and not being strong enough to carry the weight of previous choices really bring that feeling home.
The quote Halsey left with Apple Music really sums it up:
“Starting the album with my real name is a comfortable entry point for people, like saying, ‘Hey, I’m still here, but I’m going to take you down on a different journey right now.’ A lot of this album was written as I became more aware of my mortality. Sometimes I’m on top of the world and I’ve never felt better in my life. Other days I’m like, ‘If I keep doing this, I’m going to die.’ This song is an introduction and a warning: It’s saying, ‘Here’s this album that I had to cut myself open to make, and will continue to cut myself open to tour, promote, and explain, but I don’t know how many more of these you’re going to get.’”
The song ends with an audio clip from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, one of Halsey’s favorites. The clip is spoken by the character Clementine and I really like this as not only an ending to the song but also a lead in to the next song on the album. It feels like a kind of message to us.
~ x ~
The next song on the album is clementine and I also find this to be a sad song and feels like it’s still connected to the ideas in Ashley. This song had been released before the whole album was out so I’ve been listening to this particular song for a lot longer than other songs from this album, but in context, I get a completely different message from it.
In the context of, the album the opening two lines not only reference Halsey’s bipolar disorder (Halsey has stated that she wrote this album she was in a manic state), but also the Halsey persona she’s made for herself:
And in my world, the people on the street don’t know my name
In my world, I’m seven feet tall
The next few lines of the first verse also made me think it was a reference to her disorder, but mostly because I deal with an anxiety disorder and a mood disorder (there’s a history of bipolar disorder in my family though I am not diagnosed) so the lines:
Because in my world, I’m constantly, constantly havin’ a
Or a breakdown, or a blackout
Really hit me because I know it can feel like amazing things are happening one minute and then the next minute everything is too much and you think you’re going to break.
The chorus of this song, especially the third time it plays, really hits on something deep inside of me that I’m not self-aware enough yet to fully articulate, but it resonates deep in my chest. The third time it plays with the second set of vocals that are basically yelling really makes it work. Like the song had been building to that kind of outburst even though it’s still in the background.
I honestly think about this song a lot, it feels very personal to me specifically even though…it’s obviously not. But it’s another amazing outing.
There are probably more connections to the movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and the character the song shares a name with but I’m not very familiar with that movie so I can’t speak more on it, though I’m sure information is out there.
~ x ~
The third song, Graveyard, is a shift from the first two. This song’s subject matter isn’t happy, not by a long shot, but the music makes me bob my head more than the other two did. I guess I would call it upbeat, in a sense.
But the song is about loving someone who is no good for you and following them to their dark places. Though with the use of the word “woulda” makes it seem like it’s about fighting that urge. The bridge:
Oh, it’s funny
The warning signs can feel like their
That sentiment is a real gut punch and having it before the final chorus helps the song leave a strong impression.
I don’t personally have to say but this tumblr user’s analysis of the music video is really nice so I’ll share that as well. Link.
~ x ~
The next song is You should be sad and it’s a country song! A break-up country song. I haven’t listened to much modern country music but I really like the beat on this one. I don’t find the music as…upbeat as I found Graveyard but it also makes me bob my head in time with the music.
The lyrics of this song are really, really good. It’s biting and sharp, taking jabs at an ex-lover (I tend to not pay too much attention to celebrity relationships so I can’t say who this song is aimed at, but I’m sure you can find out if you’re really curious) and venting out a lot of frustrations. The first verse sets up the tone of the song well:
I wanna start this out and say
I gotta get it off my chest (my chest)
Got no anger, got no malice
Just a little bit of regret (regret)
Know nobody else will tell you
So there’s some things I gotta say
Gonna jot it down and then get it out
And then I’ll be on my way
Like whoever this song is about this will be the last time she’s going to focus her time and energy on them. The line in the pre-chorus:
I’m so glad I never ever had a baby with you
It was a real gut punch when I first heard it since I do know that Halsey has had a miscarriage in the past. I was like “wow, she really went there”. I know that she’s mentioned in a tweet that the like was supposed to come off as facetious but it doesn’t come off that way to me. I think it’s because everything else in the song is so biting that I personally can’t find it humorous, but I can understand the intent.
The outro where she says the title of the song felt like a nice comedown after the song. It felt like a kind of catharsis; all of the emotions have been released and now it’s time to move on to something else.
~ X ~
Forever… (is a long time) is the fifth song on the album and I’m not too sure how I feel about it, even after a week. I think it’s the long musical interlude. I don’t know what it is about it the musical interlude but it leaves me kind of floating. I think it’s because I simply don’t listen to a lot of music with no lyrics to accompany it.
The beginning of the song comes off as kind of contemplative and sweet. Mentioning watering a plastic plant which is a reference about trying to nurture something that won’t grow or change is a nice line and the next bit about covering honesty with sarcasm really hit me. I think it’s something a lot of people can relate to especially at the beginning of a new relationship. Halsey said this about the song to Apple Music:
“On this song, I’m falling in love. The instrumental is major, all these beautiful twinkling tones and birds are singing, everything’s sweet, it’s Cinderella. And then I start getting in my own head.”
The end of the song to be really really effective. It switches from major to minor and the lyrics sound like she’s having a kind of break down with its static sounds. It works really well and leaves me holding my breath. It really does feel like something bad is just around the corner.
~ x ~
Dominic’s Interlude is the first interlude on the album. Halsey has said that this song represents brotherly love. I know if that means it’s about actual love from a brother or brotherly love in the sense of friendships but I like this interlude. It’s nice and short and I feel that it’s direct, this is directed to Halsey (or at the very least the narrator of the album if you want to claim those things are different). I don’t have a lot to say about this one honestly but it’s good.
~ x ~
The next song is titled I HATE EVERYBODY. The music of this song is fun but the lyrics come off as defensive. There’s something about how the chorus starts with:
So I’ll just hate everybody
That pushes the idea that it’s just a kind of temper tantrum. It’s cool. The opening verses are my personal favorite in the whole song. It felt so relatable like I’ve been in that exact mind frame before, blaming my ability to understand someone else’s feelings (look at me empathizing with this song) for getting myself into certain situations or even developing some kind of feelings for them. The next two lines were nice too. It invokes a kind of…dragon. I know that might sound kind of weird but the two lyrics together make think of a selfish dragon, wrapped around something precious that they don’t want to lose.
I’m my own biggest enemy
Yeah, all my empathy’s a disaster
Feeling something like a scaly thing
Wrapped too tightly round my own master
The second verse is interesting to me because it comes off like a realization about a relationship that wasn’t really built on anything. Or at least it’s not mutual. There’s mentions of exaggeration and memories that perhaps don’t exist. The bridge before the final chorus really brings the song home for me.
If I could make you love me
Maybe you could make me love me
And if I can’t make you love me
Then I’ll just hate everybody
And that really just says everything doesn’t it?
~ x ~
The next song on the album is titled 3am and this song is the aftermath of the previous song (as stated by Halsey herself) and I love it. It’s about being drunk and calling almost everyone on their phone for some kind of validation. The music of this song does make it sound kind of desperate.
The kind of self-awareness is present here as well. Like you know you’re messing up and falling into unhealthy patterns but you can’t really help it. The first verse has:
My self-preservation and all of my reservations
Are sitting and contemplating what to do with me, do with me
Think I took it way too far
And I’m stumbling drunk, getting in a car
My insecurities are hurting me
Someone please come and flirt with me
The second verse has:
I’m the worst of my enemies
And I don’t really know what to do with me
Yeah, I don’t really know what to do with me
This is such a good set of lines. The kind of personification of ‘self-preservation’, ‘reservations’ just looking down at you and shaking their heads cause they’re at a kind of loss. Insecurity hurting is pretty universal I think the following line begging for some kind of positive interaction, something to prove that you’re desirable. And the second verse about being terrible for yourself is such a strong image.
I find the bridge of this song to be pretty interesting as well. It seems like trying on different personalities with different people and seeing which one gets the best reaction. That’s the feeling I get from it. I’m not too sure what the last lines of the chorus mean. I think it could be referencing that that kind of digital validation is…safer in a sense.
The song ends with a recording of a message from John Mayer giving that digital validation. I think he’s talking about the next song on the album, Without Me; a song I really don’t have a lot to say about it though I do enjoy it a lot.
~ x ~
The next song I’ll talk about is Finally // beautiful stranger and I find this song bittersweet. That’s because I know that this song is about Halsey’s ex YUNGBLUD and this song is about her falling for him and their first meeting.
Still, this song is so sweet. The music of this song is relaxed. When Halsey sings that it’s safe for her to fall it feels like that because of the music. You can just lay down and relax to this song. All the lyrics are very on point, conveying tentative steps towards a new relationship and hoping that it’ll be good.
The chorus references past relationships that didn’t turn out too well:
Beautiful stranger, here you are in my arms and I know
That beautiful strangers only come along to do me wrong
But this is ultimately a positive song about falling for someone. Even though in hindsight it’s a bit bittersweet for me to listen to.
~ x ~
So, Alanis’ Interlude huh? I don’t know anything about Alanis Morissette but Halsey really likes her (she had a big impact on her). This song is about Halsey’s sexuality…or at least it a giant reference to it. Since all the interludes are about different types of love this one is definitely about sexual love. I mean, with lines like:
‘Cause your pussy is a wonderland
It’s pretty explicit. I like the mention of biting nails down so they don’t scratch the other person. I also really like the post-chorus of this interlude. It feels like an expression of bisexuality’s fluidity and the word choice bounces pleasantly.
killing boys is a short song and this one sounds like it’s about frustrations. It starts off with a snippet from the movie Jennifer’s Body (a deleted scene) that started Amanda Seyfried and Megan Fox. Looking at the intro and then the lyrics of the song I think having both of these characters’ dialogue sort of set up the song. Megan Fox’s lines line up with a kind of anger while Seyfried’s lines are about letting go.
In context of the song anyway.
Both verses are about going to the guy’s house and breaking in or destroying his property in anger and revenge. There’s a reference to Uma Thurman and I think it’s about how she starred in the Kill Bill movies, where the goal is the title. But that reference to Uma Thurman is about her stopping herself from causing more harm. It’s a nice touch.
I also like that the song ends with the line
And I don’t need you
It’s a nice bit of finality to the song.
~ x ~
So now I’m at SUGA’s Interlude and I’m kinda stuck, only because I haven’t looked up a translation of the song. While I find the music of this piece contemplative since I don’t know what SUGA is conveying in a majority of his sections of the song.
So I went to google translate to try and figure it out. Looking at Halsey’s part of the song I think it’s about her being a popstar (having it all) and not being a songwriter (giving it up), plus there are the lines about not knowing what will happen if she falls out of love with singing.
Reading the google translated lyrics from SUGA I get a similar message, there’s self-loathing, keeping faith in yourself. But google translate isn’t the best and I feel like I’m missing some kind of meaning with how google translated the lyrics.
~ x ~
The next song is More and it’s a song about longing. I’m pretty sure this song is about the fact that Halsey wants to have a baby and be a mother at some point. I believe there are references to her medical issues that make having a baby difficult and the fact that she’s had a miscarriage in the past.
This song is very sad and all of the lyrics feel so intensely personal. I always feel like I’m about to start crying when I listen to this song. I’ll simply leave the quote from Apple Music:
“I’ve been really open about my struggles with reproductive health, about wanting to freeze my eggs and having endometriosis and things like that. For a long time, I didn’t think that having a family was something I was going to be able to do, and it’s very, very important to me. Then one day my OB-GYN tells me it’s looking like I maybe can, and I was so moved. It felt like this ascension into a different kind of womanhood. All of a sudden, everything is different. I’m not going to go tour myself to death because I have nothing else to do and I’m overcompensating for not being able to have this other thing that I really want. Now, I have a choice. I’ve never had a choice before. Lido [the producer Peder Losnegård] and I built the fading instrumental at the end of the song to sound like a sonogram like you were hearing the sounds from inside a womb. It’s one of the most special songs I’ve ever made.”
~ x ~
I don’t have a lot to say about Still Learning other than that I find it effective and a well put together song. I think that’s because it’s something a lot of people will still struggle with, loving themselves. Things might seem good on the outside but everyone is going through their own struggles.
~ x ~
The last song on the album is title 929 a reference to her birthday. This song feels like a ramble like she’s just talking about whatever comes into her head at that very moment. It’s rambling, bouncing from place to place, talking about her family, failed relationships, breaking an addiction, ect, ect.
I like this approach for this song. It’s like…a come down from a lot of intense emotions from the album. Now things just come and go, they move through you and you keep moving forward because that’s life. You learn new things about yourself and you’re always growing.
~ x ~
Thank you for reading my thoughts on this album and the songs. Let me know what you thought of the album. If you found this interesting to read check out my patreon where I’ll be sharing thoughts of Halsey’s previous two albums and seeing how time has changed my feelings on them if at all.