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‘Manic’ is the Album for Our Twenties

On Jan. 17, 2020, Halsey released “Manic.” This is an album that delves into the 25-year-old singer’s life. This work differs from “Hopeless Fountain Kingdom,” which told her love story through the lens of the classic “Romeo and Juliet,” and indie pop “Badlands.” “Manic” is an album meant to be listened to in order, because some songs blend into each other and are a collection of various genres. No matter how different the songs are, they come together to create art that is “made by Ashley for Halsey.”

When fans heard that Halsey was releasing an album sometime soon, many thought it would be one full of rage. The single that she put out called “Nightmare” was a song about the rage she feels about being a woman that is constantly being constrained. While the single was a big hit, Halsey didn’t put it in her album because it didn’t fit the story she was trying to tell. She talked at the Grammy Museum about her the making of “Manic.”

“I sat down to make a list of things I didn’t like about myself because I thought it would help me make an angry album, and I wrote it and I cried,” she said. “I read it and let some of my friends read it, and after writing it, I couldn’t find any anger at myself, I just found forgiveness. I looked at the list and said, some of these things are true, some are not. You may feel that way about yourself, but it’s okay, you’re going to be okay.”

After having her album on repeat for the last month, which included moments where feelings about myself were complicated, Halsey really hit the spot when it came to having complex emotions about yourself while coming to terms with it being okay. After talking with friends and other women in their early 20s, I think I can conclude that “Manic” is not just applicable to Halsey or my life but to everyone who is coming to terms with people who have done regrettable things that deserve forgiveness from the most important person in our lives—ourselves.

At the start of the album is a song called “Ashley” that doesn’t stray away the pain she has felt. It ends with the a quote from one of her favorite films, “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”: “I’m just a fucked up girl who’s lookin’ for my own peace of mind; don’t assign me yours.” This seamlessly transitions into the next song appropriately titled “Clementine.” These are two songs about how she sometimes despises herself because of her desire to matter to someone, but how she has the habit of becoming a manic pixie dream girl just like Clementine was. Being a woman that unabashedly is herself in any way can cause an image to be created of her based on small aspects of her personality, especially if that woman is  famous. But it can happen to any of us.

Now, jump to the most recent single called “You Should be Sad” and your ears will hear a country song reminiscent of Carrie Underwood. In the song, you can see she has moved past the despair of being used and cheated on, and instead, is soaking in the knowledge that her ex made a huge mistake and that he will regret it more than she ever will. There’s a strong sense of relief in this song. She says in the chorus how she’s “glad I never had a baby with you ‘cause you can’t love nothin’ unless there’s somethin’ in it for you,” vocalizing her realization that she dodged a bullet that would have ripped through her life. We can have some bad relationships with people who don’t value you us the way we deserve, but we will get to the point where we realize that there is so much better out there for us.

“Finally // beautiful stranger” was not a song I expected from Halsey on this album. The surprise and yearning in her voice as she recalls self-sabotage and insecurities that have prevented the success of her previous relationships while saying it’s “finally, finally, finally, finally, finally safe for me to fall” tore at me because of how familiar those thoughts and feelings were. Dating can feel like you’re constantly putting yourself out there just to get hurt, so when you find someone to take that risk with again there’s a lot of hesitation.

My favorite song on “Manic” is “Still Learning.” Of all the songs, I think it perfectly captures the hardest part about being a young adult, which is loving yourself. The song doesn’t focus on her relationship with herself separated from everything else. Instead, it recognizes that her love for herself is tied to her relationships with everyone around her. When the way we see ourselves is connected to how others see us, it is something we have to learn to separate. Our early 20s are when we’re still learning how to love ourselves when others may not.

“Manic” was an album for Halsey by Ashley, but I think for many of us it’s an album that many of us can relate to. All the regret and anger we have towards ourselves can be soothed by the forgiveness we are learning to gift ourselves. “Manic” is a personal album that has the ability to relate to many people.

Racheal Jones is a senior at the University of Florida studying Sociology. She's completed research on family violence and is currently working on a new research project. She loves Marvel movies, sapphic fantasy novels and Taylor Swift. Outside of school, she's learning how to roller skate, take care of her plants and rock climb.
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