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Halsey | Manic

The popster overrides the factory settings with an inspired and intriguing third disc.

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THE PRESS RELEASE

“Grammy-nominated, multi-platinum artist Halsey’s Manic is the follow-up to her chart-topping 2017 album hopeless fountain kingdom. Since 2015, Halsey has amassed over 23 billion streams worldwide and sold more than nine million adjusted albums globally. She has played sold out dates on five continents (including New York City’s Madison Square Garden), been nominated for a Grammy and appeared on a wide variety of magazine covers. Her 2015 debut album Badlands was certified platinum by the RIAA within one year of its release. Halsey continues to push creative boundaries, expanding her influence and impact beyond music. After making her film debut in the animated 2018 summer movie Teen Titans GO! as the voice of Wonder Woman, she was seen in A Star is Born, starring Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga. She continues to use her voice to speak up for causes she passionately believes in, including disenfranchised youth, women’s rights, mental health and the LGBTQ community. GLAAD honored her in 2018 as Outstanding Music Artist.”

MY TWO CENTS

Sugar. Spice. Everything nice — along with an apparently endless succession of boytoys, bellybuttons and beaucoup booty-shaking backup dancers. Like it or lump it (and no points for guessing how I feel about the whole sordid affair), that’s what female-fronted pop muzak has been made of for the past generation or so, ever since the Britneys and Xtinas and even Justins of the world started turning the charts into their own personal chapter of the Mickey Mouse Club. Thankfully, that syrupy tide has finally begun to turn, thanks to the likes of Lorde, Billie Eilish and other young artists who are ready, willing and artistically able to go deep, dark and down into the depths. Ashely Frangipane — you probably know her better by her first-name anagram Halsey — earns her spot on the short, bittersweet list with her third album Manic, one of the most uncompromising and unconventional major-label pop discs to be generated by the star-maker machinery in a minute. By all rights, it shouldn’t be: It boasts the usual bloated roster of superstar producers, songwriters and guest stars, from Greg Kurstin, Benny Blanco and Cashmere Cat to Alanis Morissette, Ed Sheeran and BTS’s Suga. But even at the tender age of 25, Halsey is apparently her own woman — and an artist whose vision cannot be clouded by all the high-wattage help. So she overrides the factory settings here, dialling down the usual whumpy-thumpy dance-floor claptrap and fluffy romanticism in favour of inspired, intriguing and intensely personal fare that is never less than moody, murky and mostly un-manic (at least in terms of BPMs and brightness, though you could make the case based on the sonic and stylistic variety on display on these 16 songs, which run the gamut from pop and rock to roots and electronica). Before you start planning the parade, you oughta know she isn’t all quite that and a bag of blue chips just yet: A few too many tunes about boys and breakups will probably prevent this from getting much play outside the teen and twentysomething set. Even so, her fare tends to be far more flavourful and filling than the empty calories of her contemporaries and competitors. You could do way worse.