About two years ago, we published an article that broke down the importance of Halsey to our generation–this was just after the release of her debut album Badlands, and we were loving her blue hair, her unique sound, and her unequivocal dedication to herself and her fans.
Nearly two years and several mega-hits later, Halsey has again made mark on the music industry, and on us. Having a bisexual, biracial young woman who is open about her personal struggles with mental illness and wears her scars as tattoos on her skin, is filling a void that we didn’t even know we were missing. So, naturally, hopeless fountain kingdom, breaks barriers as only Halsey can.
hopeless fountain kingdom (hfk) is a concept album, inspired in aesthetic by Baz Luhrmann’s 1992 film Romeo and Juliet, and in lyric by Shakespeare and her own experiences in life and love. The album is self produced, self written, and quite frankly, brilliant.
It opens with the “Romeo and Juliet” prologue delivered as a spoken word poem and segues into songs that are littered with lyrical symbolism, connections between songs, and builds a narrative. This is a narrative Halsey herself is super vocal about. Her music videos and all her interviews detail exactly how each song feeds into the general narrative–so I’m going to leave that to her, because what her songs are doing individually is also incredibly important.
The sound of hfk is signature Halsey, but departs from Badlands in its R&B vibes. Notably, “Don’t Play” and “Lie” (which features Quavo)
Halsey is also super transparent that this album was written in response to a breakup in which she lost herself. Anyone who has been in an unhealthy relationship–or even a good relationship that ended badly, can feel the power of lyrics found in songs like “100 Letters:”
I don’t let him touch me anymore
I said I’m not something to butter up and taste when you get bored
‘Cause I have spent too many nights on dirty bathroom doors
To find some peace and quiet right behind the wooden door
Most groundbreaking about this album is the representation of bisexuality throughout the album. Most notably, her current release, “Strangers,” features featuring Lauren Jareugi of Fifth Harmony, opens with:
“She doesn’t kiss me on the mouth anymore
cause she thinks it’s more intimate
than she thinks we should get
she doesn’t look me in the eye anymore, too scared of what she’ll see
They performed this song together on the Today Show’s Citi Concert Series. To reiterate: two young, openly bisexual women sung a love song together on the Today’s show. The week before pride.
In, “Bad at Love,” Hasley sings solo about different romantic relationships going badly–in the first verse she sings of
“a boy back home in Michigan
And it tastes like Jack when I’m kissing him
So I told him I never really liked his friends
Now he’s gone and he’s gone and he’s calling me a bitch again
In the second verse, she sings
“got a girl with California eyes
And I thought she could really be the one this time
But I never got the chance to make her mine
Because she fell in love with little thin white lines”
“Strangers” and “Bad at Love” deal with different themes–love, lust, longing, guilt, secrecy, and are built on romances that aren’t exclusively heterosexual without the hyper sexualization that often comes with songs in popular music that express homosexual or bisexual relationships (like Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl” or Demi Lovato’s “Cool for the Summer”). Instead, Halsey is joining the ranks of artists like Tegan and Sara and Hayley Kiyoko, who openly sing about their non-heteronormative sexuality, showing both the unique turmoil that comes with being LGBT, but also reiterating that love is love–and heartbreak is heartbreak, no matter the sexual identity of the lovers involved.
So we’ll definitely stand by the fact that Halsey is a role model–but more importantly, she has become the voice of a generation. Halsey uses her platform to share her personal experience, refuses to back down, and is upfront about who she is. In doing so, she gives empowerment and visibility to a generation of millennials living in the midst of political and social constructs hell bent on making us as small as possible. Halsey shows us the magic that happens when women (and people) who fall outside of the “status quo” take the lead–and it’s pretty inspiring.
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