Halsey is without a doubt a staple of the new age of emo pop music alongside Melanie Martinez. Badlands, her first LP, struck gold, making quite the impact and expanding the fanbase she had already acquired with the release of her Room 93 EP. Earlier this year, Halsey announced that she would be releasing her second studio LP on Friday, June 2nd, titled Hopeless Fountain Kingdom and soon after premiered her first single, “Now or Never.” Two more singles later, “Strangers” and “Eyes Closed,” the record is finally here. Had Halsey peaked with Badlands or is she still going strong with her second, 16 track record?
The album includes some skits, and even starts with one, titled “The Prologue.” Unfortunately, they are definitely the most lackluster parts of Hopeless Fountain Kingdom. It was almost surprising that she even felt the need to include them by the way she tells stories with her more interlude-ish tracks. Once you get done with “The Prologue” though, you’re greeted by “100 Letters” which is a Halsey track from the intimate beat and lyrical themes. Hopeless Fountain Kingdom does play in quite a special way if you listen front to back, and you can tell from the transition to “Eyes Closed.” The track makes you wonder who hurt Halsey as it’s about having sex with someone but imagining someone else. That’s always been the mystery behind Halsey’s music: is she writing about someone, or just writing universal breakup songs? Whatever the case, “Eyes Closed” is the first track that shows off Halsey’s range, which resembles that of Brendon Urie (Panic! At The Disco.) She hits high notes with ease and it’s amazing how well they blend with the beat. “Eyes Closed” is definitely one of the catchiest tunes on the record because of the chorus. “Heaven in Hiding” is one of my personal favorite tracks on the record. It packs emotion into a three minute story that unfolds precisely. I really enjoy the parts of Halsey’s music where the vocals almost fade back and you can hear light ambient noise before she picks back up for the chorus, as it provides room for her imagery to settle. “Alone” is a pretty well put together track, however I could see myself skipping over it when listening to the record. The beat is surprisingly off-putting, which is weird for a Halsey track. The album redeems itself with the next single, “Now or Never, ” which I fell in love with upon my first listen. It paints the picture of a sunset on a warm summer night, a sense of love and happiness that flows from her voice like an ocean wave.
“Sorry” is one of the softest tracks on the record, where she is basically saying how she treats people like shit and apologizes for it. The soft tone of a piano in the background almost makes it seem like an Adele track. That being said, it’s a good thing as it shows that she can pull of different sounds as well, expanding her audience. “Good Mourning” is another skit, but it sets the stage for the second half of Hopeless Fountain Kingdom. “Lie” is another one of my personal favorite tracks on the record as it features rapper Quavo. Quavo has never had a bad feature but him and Halsey together on a track show chemistry. Auto tune is present in “Lie” but it works wonders. Halsey sets a softer scene for the emotionally packed verse Quavo drops. “Walls Could Talk” has almost the same weird beat featuring an orchestra at first like “Alone” except it works much better, pulling more weight. It really seems to fit inside Hopeless Fountain Kingdom. I have one problem with “Walls Could Talk” though and it’s that the track tops in at a mere minute and forty two second which is really short for such a banger, especially after “Lie.”
“Bad At Love” gives off serious Badlands vibes, which is awesome, because most of Hopeless Fountain Kingdom takes a different direction. Talking about relationships and issues and playing with feelings is what Halsey does best and it’s never a bad time when she sings about it. “Don’t Play” is another weaker track, but it’s not bad either, just not necessarily “great” by any means. Highlighted by the “white like parmesan” line, you can tell that the song just seems lackluster in comparison to its predecessors on the record. Picking back up, “Strangers,” which features Lauren Jauregui (Fifth Harmony), is another throwback track to Badlands. The amount of melody that is present in Lauren’s voice really elevates the track, and the fact that it’s about LGBT relationships and that both Lauren and Halsey are bisexual makes the track that much more interesting. Both “Angel of Fire” and “Devil In Me” work wonderfully back to back, as the whole “angel/devil” things plays out really well. “Devil In Me” really opens up the last track “Hopeless” that features Cashmere Cat really well, and if Halsey is really good at anything, it's closing out her records. “Hopeless” is definitely another example of that.
Truth be told, it’ll probably be another two years or so until we see another record from Halsey and I’m 100% okay with that. Hopeless Fountain Kingdom will more than hold me over as it’s a perfect addition to Halsey’s discography. I can definitely see this record popping up in my shuffle for quite some time until the vinyl winds up on my doorstep.
- Dakota G