Mental Health, Sexuality, Self-Love – and Music
‘‘Manic’’: The Three Faces of Halsey
Picture: leda
A mixture of collaborations and brutal honesty: Halsey reflects on herself and her life in ‘‘Manic’’. Picture: leda
A mixture of collaborations and brutal honesty: Halsey reflects on herself and her life in ‘‘Manic’’.

Review. The US-American singer and songwriter Halsey opens up in her third album ‘‘Manic’’ – and shows honest lyrics and great musical collaborations.

‘‘There’s an ancient saying that you have three faces: the first one you broadcast to the world, the second you show to those closest to you, and the last one you never show to anyone’’, explains Halsey in the introduction to her new album, Manic. In a special feature on Spotify she briefly presents her album, reflecting on the deeply personal impressions she is about to share. She goes on to say: ‘‘The first one is Halsey, the second is Ashley, but there’s a third that exists in the cracks between the two’’. In the following songs Halsey presents ‘‘a glimpse of that third face’’ – as well as her other two sides. Throughout the whole album, this triad of her selves remains a theme: Halsey, the artist, Ashley, her birth name and therefore herself in private, and the third,
hidden part.
But even more so, the number three appears again and again, the motif of triads remaining. For example, out of the sixteen songs, there are three interludes and three collaborations with other artists. And those songs seem to be more theirs than Halsey’s, showing more of them than her, showing three new selves. The songs are named after the three artists: ‘‘Dominic’s Interlude’’, ‘‘Alanis’ Interlude’’, and ‘‘SUGA’s Interlude’’. In the second one, Halsey as well as singer Alanis Morisette openly discuss bisexuality and pansexuality: ‘‘’Cause he is she is her / And her and he are love / And I have never felt the difference’’. Meanwhile in ‘‘SUGA’s Interlude’’, the BTS-Rapper and Halsey ask questions about chasing one’s dreams in an interesting mixture of Korean rap and English singing.

‘‘But it seems I’m only clingin’ to an idea now / Took my heart and sold it out to a vision that I wrote myself’’. While the interludes express more universally relatable topics, Halsey is even more personally revealing in her other songs. These lyrics are taken from the first song: ‘‘Ashley’’ – an obvious reference to her real name, her ‘second face’.
During the remaining songs, Halsey talks about her sexual orientation as well as mental illness and relationships – to romantic partners, family members, the broad public, and especially oneself. Particularly, the discussions of mental health are interesting – and also included in the title ‘‘Manic’’, the first impression. Halsey has already opened up to the public about having bipolar disorder. This experience is often linked to her past and the generally confusing feeling of being in your twenties. This is also shown in the beginning of the last song, ‘‘929’’ – a reference to her birthday: ‘‘Well, who am I? I‘m almost 25 / Can’t remember half the time that I’ve been alive’’.

‘‘But I am still learning to love myself’’, she sings in ‘‘Still Learning’’, giving a good summary of the overall message of the album. For while Halsey deals with serious and often rather tragic topics, the album as a whole does not feel like a tragedy. Instead her songs are hopeful, looking at the bit of sunshine between dark clouds. Throughout a musical experience between pop, electro, alternative and a little bit of country, the audience is invited to reflect on their own ups and downs but without leaving the album with a bitter aftertaste.

:Charleena Schweda