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Album Review — Halsey’s “Manic”

As a hardcore Halsey stan since the pre-Badlands era, I could not wait for the arrival of Halsey’s third full length studio album, Manic. After months of anticipation, staying up to listen to each single on the night of its release and finally listening to the full album on January 17, my expectations were surpassed. As she stated in an interview about the album, Manic is different from Badlands and hopeless fountain kingdom because this album has no subplots or characters that she can hide behind—it’s purely Halsey. She clearly pushed herself as she poured her heart out in these songs that cover a wide range of genres, from country bop “You should be sad,” to radio hit “Without Me” and her first love song, “Finally // beautiful stranger.” Below, I review each song on the album and share my favorite lyrics (because they’re just so good!).

“Ashley”

It’s fitting that the first song on an album so deeply personal is Halsey’s real name. She touches on her mental health with some allusions in the song to her fame and the legacy she will leave behind with her music. The song ends with a sample from “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” where the main character, Clementine, essentially says that she needs to focus on herself and can’t be responsible for the peace of mind of others.

Favorite lyrics: “Some day, when I burst into flames // I’ll leave you the dust my love.. I told you I spilled my guts, I left you to clean it up”

“clementine”

Named after the main character from “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” this song transitions from “Ashley” beautifully. Halsey provides some more commentary on her mental health and discusses her feelings in general. There are also a few allusions to some of her older songs and albums, which is exciting for fans to hear.

Favorite lyric: “I don’t need anyone // I just need everyone and then some”

“Graveyard”

One of the most popular songs from the album and a radio hit, “Graveyard” is a song that grew on me the more I listened to it. Halsey addresses a former lover, essentially saying she would have done anything for him. She would have stayed by his side until death, had he not made the mistakes he did. It’s a bit sad, but transitions into the next song well, where Halsey realizes that the breakup was not her fault.

Favorite lyric: “It’s funny how // The warning signs can feel like the butterflies”

“You should be sad”

Fans were surprised to hear a country song on Halsey’s album, but I personally think that it fits wonderfully in the album. Transitioning from the sadder lyrics in “Graveyard,” “You should be sad” is more of a “fuck you” anthem and I love it. She addresses ex-boyfriend G-Eazy as she comes to the realization that she did nothing wrong in the relationship. She tells him that he lost a strong woman and that any regret he could have for what he did to her is well-deserved.

Favorite lyric: “I’m gonna start this out by saying (By saying) // I really meant well from the start // Take a broken man right in my hands // And then put back all his parts”

“Forever … (is a long time)”

Buckle up ladies, this is where the peak of the album begins. From this song through “3am,” the album just SLAPS. This song starts with a realization that an old love that she tried to keep alive was perhaps never really there (“I spent a long time watering a plant made out of plastic”). By the end of the song, Halsey is discussing how maybe in some relationships, she is the cause of the downfall due to her insecurities and paranoia. Relatable.

Favorite lyric: “To my surprise, not six feet high // Who’d reach and grab the moon if I // Should ask or just imply // That I wanted a bit more light // So I could look inside his eyes // And get the colors just right”

“Dominic’s Interlude”

This song features American singer Dominic Fike and is the first of three interludes on the album. It seems that Fike is addressing a love interest, telling her that he can see that she isn’t happy with her current love. He tells her to take a chance on him instead. This song then seamlessly transitions to “I HATE EVERYBODY.”

Favorite lyric: “There’s power in the words you whisper”

“I HATE EVERYBODY”

My favorite song of the album. Let’s talk about that transition first. If you weren’t looking at your phone/radio, you would have no idea that the song even changed. The beautiful and seamless transition is incredible. This song is so lyrically powerful and its light melody almost masks the sadness of the song. The first time I listened to it, my jaw dropped when I heard the chorus. Number one song on the album in my opinion, hands down.

Favorite lyrics: “I’m my own biggest enemy // Yeah, all my empathy’s a disaster”

“If I could make you love me // Maybe you could make me love me”

“I’ll hate everybody // Well, then why can’t I go home without somebody? // And really, I could fall in love with anybody who don’t want me // So I just keep sayin’ I hate everybody // But maybe I, maybe I don’t”

“3am”

With more of a rock vibe, this song goes HARD while still fitting the vibe of the album lyrically. A drunken Halsey feels lonely after a night at the bars and is looking for company from a friend or a lover, but no one will answer her calls because it’s 3am. The song ends with a sample of a voicemail she received from John Mayer, where he tells her congratulations for her song becoming a massive hit on the radio. The song then transitions into the song the Mayer was referring to.

Favorite lyrics: “I don’t really know what to do with me”

“I’ll take fake moans and dial tones // Let ‘em spill right down the microphone // I need it digital ‘cause baby when it’s physical // I end up alone, end up alone”

“Without Me”

“Without Me” was released over a year before Manic was released and had been at the top of the charts before the album was even announced. However, it fits perfectly with the rest of the album’s theme. In this “break-up note” to G-Eazy, Halsey addresses the end of their relationship and accuses him of wronging her after she tried so hard to make him the best version of himself. If you’re looking to see a power move, I suggest watching Halsey’s performance of this song on Saturday Night Live from 2019.

Favorite lyric: “I got you off your knees // Put you right back on your feet // Just so you could take advantage of me”

Finally // beautiful stranger

Halsey said in an interview that this is the first love song she’s ever released, and it didn’t disappoint. The typical Halsey ~sad girl~ vibe is still there as she seems to go back and forth from being nervous to fall in love and feeling safe to finally do so. Lyrically and melodically it’s a beautiful song, and I’m here for it.

Favorite lyric: “Beautiful strangers only come along to do me wrong”

Alanis’ Interlude

This song, featuring Alanis Morissette, is an ode to bisexuality as Halsey describes having sex with other women and oral sex with a man in the first verse. The chorus, sung by Alanis Morissette, then addresses how both women have never “felt a difference” when it comes to partners—they are attracted to both, and labels are tiring and outdated.

Favorite lyric: “Soft skin, soft eyes // All these beautiful laughs and beautiful thighs”

killing boys

Opening with a sample from Jennifer’s Body, the lyrics of this song are angry, but a chill vibe is still maintained throughout it. Halsey noted in an interview that this song was more about a lack of communication in a relationship than anything else, especially in younger relationships. Overall, the song is about Halsey being frustrated with lovers, feeling like the only way to get through to them is to tie them down.

Favorite lyric: “Where do you go when I don’t need you anymore?”

SUGA’s Interlude

This song is my least favorite on the album. Featuring SUGA from K-pop boy band BTS, the majority of the song is sung by SUGA in Korean. I’ve never been a fan of K-pop, so I just don’t really vibe with the song. However, if you’re into BTS, check it out!

Favorite lyric: “I’m stuck between the having it all and giving it up”

More

In an interview with Apple Music, Halsey explained that this song is kind of an ode to her unborn child and about her issues with her reproductive health. Halsey is very open about her struggle with endometriosis and has had three miscarriages throughout her life. She stated in the interview that she had essentially lost hope of having a child in the future until one day her OB-GYN gave her different and more positive news. She was so moved and wrote this sad, but beautiful, song.

Favorite lyric: “Nothing could stop me from giving a try // I’ve loved you for all of my life”

Still Learning

In this song Halsey explores the downsides of fame and fortune—feeling unsafe in public, feeling used for her money and having lovers feel intimidated by her success. She describes all of these things building up inside her and ultimately bringing her down. In the chorus, she says she’s still learning to love herself, and this translates to how she treats others.

Favorite lyric: “I should be living the dream // But I go home and I got no self-esteem”

929

Named after her birthday, this song is basically a deeply personal stream of consciousness about Halsey’s life. She told fans that it was recorded in one take, and you can hear the emotion behind every word she sings. It’s a perfect way to end this beautiful album!

Favorite lyric: “Soft and slow, watch the minutes go // Count out loud so you know // You don’t keep them for yourself”

There’s your brief overview of Manic by Halsey! I’m a sucker for sad songs, and if you are too, I would highly suggest listening to this album! Either way, it’s beautiful.

Sara Brodsky

CU Boulder '22

Sara Brodsky is a sophomore studying integrated physiology and French at CU Boulder. She enjoys kickboxing, listening to and playing music, watching movies, and spending time with her friends. She is an active member of Tri Delta and tries her best to make others feel good.
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