As Halsey recites the famous prologue of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, she brings new, modern life to a story recounted throughout history. What all of the previous versions of this play have missed, Halsey’s “toil shall [surely] strive to mend,” as she tells the tales of what it means to be 21st-century star-crossed lovers. This album will be the Romeo and Juliet of our teenage world, discussing same-sex love, female sexual liberation, modern romance, and breakups in the digital age, all on the backdrop of our “money hungry, prideful country,” where it is hard to “leave” and break societal expectations.
Trapped in this world of destroyed romance and hectic breakups, this is the purging.
“Cause I have spent too many nights on dirty bathroom floors”
By far my favorite song off the album with Halsey’s voice eerily dripping at the end of the line “I’m not something to butter up and taste when you get bored,” and a few seconds later, rising out-of-the-blue with “and now I can’t stop thinking that I can’t stop thinking.” The motif of having her significant other be Midas (the Greek god known for turning everything he touches into gold) is incredibly trippy because after they have had sex (which possibly could have rape or abuse—it’s unclear), Halsey feels like anything but gold. The significant other tries to cling onto her, futilely writing these 100 letters that invade her privacy as constant reminders of this dark relationship. It is refreshing for Halsey’s reaction to be so genuine and raw, as we can relate to the guilt she feels at first, to the anxious overthinking, and to the regret she is trapped with. For those of us who are victims of verbal and physical harassment, the recovery process can be arduous, because no matter how much we realize that absolutely none of it was our fault, we still often hold self-resentment that we are somehow to blame for all those nights on “dirty bathroom floors.” Remember though that you can and will persevere and if you need help, reach out to The National Domestic Violence Hotline.
Definitely one of the most synth-pop songs on the album, it makes sense “Eyes Closed” was released early as a single. Mainstream pop is often criticized for its lack of emotional depth and the same set of superficial lyrics and lackluster beats used over and over again, but Halsey flips that idea on its head. At first, “Eyes Closed” feels like just another catchy and shallow pop song, but the lack of true, unique emotional connection we hear in the song directly mimics the dearth of emotional connection Halsey had in this slew of copycat relationships. In the blink of an eye each man has “been replaced,” and Halsey is “face to face with someone new.” Furthermore, with closed eyes, all of these men would be indistinguishable; they all feel “the same,” they are “nothing new,” and she is so used to their sameness, Halsey has habituated “where to lay” and “what to say.” When she sings she “cared for” them, I do not think she means to say she cares for all of these men, but rather just the first Romeo that she is still hung up on. She begs for an answer on “how to move on,” because she is self-aware that replacing her ex with rebounds has not personally been working for her. She is willing to “trade” all of these insignificant lookalikes for her true ex-lover, because after all, even when she has sex with another guy, all she is “thinking about “ is her first love. “Eyes Closed” seems vain on the surface, but the more I listened, the more I heard the true heartbreak and loss of the song.
Heaven In Hiding
From the onset of the song to its final line, this is the story of quite passionate and rough sex. This song is beautiful, never once actually mentioning sex directly by name, but instead luring us in with imagination. “Heaven In Hiding” is this pornography for our ears with its upbeat rhythm and intense love-making that we can picture pretty vividly with the lyrics. Personally, I am entranced by the ways orgasms are described as “surrendering to the touch,” “heaving in hiding” and a “crimson headache, aching blush.” Halsey uses the extended metaphor of her sex being a movie that she has “flipped the script” on by being an empowered woman owning her sex and putting on this erotic “show.” Contrasted to a lot of mainstream heterosexual pornography, the woman is the one calling the shots here and it is deeply refreshing. With such powerful confidence, she sings, “And you thought that you were the boss tonight but I can put up one good fight,” to counter the claim that she is an objectified “sweet thing.” Halsey truly does have “something up her sleeve” here and I would love if this song became a single played on the radio for more people to hear about this empowered sexual journey. For more about feminist pornography, check out the amazing Netflix documentary Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On.
Although “Alone” precedes “Now or Never” in track order, I think it actually makes more sense to read the analysis of “Now or Never” first, because “Alone” is a direct response to that song and the negative repercussions. Part of what Halsey faces after creating such entrenched dividing lines and cutting off friends and lovers is that she becomes even more “distant,” and is aimlessly “running away.” She “never has time” for anyone anymore and in a self-destructive manner, is losing her relationships because she does “not even try”: She says fuck them all and moves on. As part of one of her defense mechanisms, she has purposefully made herself go “missing,” even though she knows everyone is “lying awake” thinking about and looking for her. To protect herself from ever getting hurt again, she has set up a suit of “armor” that she lets very few, if any, people “slip under.” Part of her realizes the self-inflicting damage she does to herself by cutting everyone off and never “taking the blame.” She has trouble ever saying sorry, but two tracks later reconciles that problem with the fittingly-titled song “Sorry.” Overall “Alone” is very reminiscent of Paramore’s new song “Idle Worship,” because both discuss how people are often dying to meet these glorified artists, but how they won’t actually be satisfied because these women do not want to be our saviors. In rooms of a “million different people,” they can sometimes feel just as cripplingly alone as we do.
Now Or Never
This was the first single released almost two months ago and at first many fans (including myself) were taken aback because it was surprisingly mainstream and poppy. But the more I listened to it, the more it became a classic Halsey-esque song, reminiscent of the badass girl singing on Room 93 and “Hold Me Down” from Badlands. Halsey still wants to be in this relationship, desperately asking to be “held down forever,” and willing to sacrifice her own goals for her significant other. But contrastingly, she also demands to be loved right now or for her significant other to just fuck off because her time is too valuable. “Now or Never” starts off with the catalog of failures in the relationship and slowly matures into an unapologetic response that Halsey will waste no effort on pettiness…“You know we’re runnin’ out of time / Now I gotta draw a line.” And that theme carries over very aptly to us as teenagers, because these high-school and college years are so short, why cry over apathetic lovers and waste even an ounce of time on friends who just don’t care anymore?
One of Halsey’s definite ballads of the album, the initial lyrics cut deep and the rest of the song stings like salt. More than any other song, I think we can relate to Halsey in her cold desperation and incredibly taxing attempt to apologize. We as listeners can feel just how painful it is for Halsey to apologize for her slash and burn personality. She “runs away when things are good,” “treats the people that [she] loves like jewelry,” and is so “blinded” that she “didn’t mean to leave,” but still did. This song touches on just how damaging it is to isolate yourself, both for your own mental health and for the mental health of those who you cut off. A way of life where all we do is burn bridges is toxic, yet we often (especially me) continue to do it, letting our “ignorance strike again” and get the best of us. Halsey believes that she is unlovable, and apologizes for it because she realizes how the “armor” she wears from “Alone” is so tough and un-pierceable, it “tears [others] open til the end.” Halsey is sporadic, “changing her mind each day,” and leaving a slew of burned relationships that she never really wanted to destroy anyway. She genuinely feels sorry to every “unknown lover” who she has made feel like shit and whose heart she has ripped. She knows what is like to feel worthless and tries (albeit sometimes unsuccessfully) to never inflict the same type of abuse she has received (in “100 Letters”) onto others. Her relationships are unmendable at this point, and all she can do now is offer the advice that eventually “someone will love” them so much so that they will forget about her and her haphazardness. Halsey is ultimately sorry for not being the person who can love others right now because she first must soul search deep within herself.
Months after leaving the hopeless, this is the return of our kickass femme fatale.
“Sun is coming up oh, why, oh, why, oh, why”
“Bring back the title”
I’ll be the honest that the kid’s voice on this track is quite creepy because of the juxtaposition of the innocent youth with these dark truths of reality. I think it’s interesting one of the lyrics is “perhaps hopeless isn’t a place / nothing but a state of mind,” because Halsey has been painting a picture for us in this concept album that her songs, like the ones of Badlands, actually live somewhere. But I think what she might be getting at is that no matter how much physical spaces define these haunting memories, her hopelessness lives in her mind. And of course, our minds and cognition are constantly changing which she brings light to with the lyric “don’t trust the moon, she’s always changing” that comes directly from Romeo and Juliet. Just like “The Prologue” set the stage for the album, “Good Mourning” defines the rising of a Halsey reminiscent of Badlands, who is flourishing like a fountain.
Very similar to her single “Ghost,” this song starts with the Halsey equivalent of a rap, and I am living for it. Continuing on the theme of “Heaven In Hiding,” this is an empowered look on sex, with both partners engaging in these deceitful tricks with each other. “I gave you the messiest head / You give me the messiest head” epitomizes this back-and-forth relationship between the two, and they are both equal, each trying to cunningly outsmart the other with the lyric “Cause I’m tryna give the impression that I get the message you wish I was dead.” I think one of the most telling lyrics is “please don’t take this as a threat,” because women who take control of their bodies and over sex are often seen as bitchy and selfish, and Halsey wants to make clear there is nothing sinister or aggressive about a woman standing up for herself. Halsey has said that this was one of the hardest songs to write and record, and that makes sense because it is truly hard for us to admit that when we love someone so much we just want them to lie and tell us they love us back. When Quavo replies that he “got no one to lie to / there’s no need to lie no more,” it is because he has already given up on this relationship and to continue lying would just be a waste of everyone’s time. After all, if Halsey does not have honesty and truth, then what is she “gon’ die for?” The soul-searching Halsey goes through in this album is done “to figure stuff out about herself” and discern what she values before she sacrifices herself for it.
Walls Could Talk
As opposed to other songs that start with an electronic riff, this song wastes no time to begin. And furthermore, I think what Halsey is getting at is that she wants an unbiased spectator to tell her how her toxic relationship really is going. No one outside of the two of them knows about the issues in the relationship, because “it’s a closed discussion,” but what if these walls could listen in and reassure her that something here is unhealthy? Halsey tried to end the relationship “telling her new roommate to not let [this person] in,” but alas, they “were so damn good with a bobby pin,” they snuck into her apartment and back into her heart. She continues to ask for reassurance from the walls if she is doing the right thing by cutting off the relationship because this “shit is [so] crazy, right?” She ultimately reaches the healthy conclusion that she cannot continue to be in this relationship (a true sign she has left the hopeless) as she sings that she “ain’t your baby no more.”
Bad At Love
The song starts with Halsey sharing how she is criticized for being a “bitch” when she speaks up about something (which we saw earlier in “Lie”) and how another guy sexistly wants her “in the kitchen, [working] on a dinner plate.” In a similar self-resentment from “100 Letters,” Halsey blames herself for “always making the same mistakes,” but the fault truly lies in these awfully rude and demeaning guys and not on her. As she continues, she further describes her battered “history” by saying it is obvious these guys aren’t “the ones who can finally fix her,” because no guy before has ever been that and no guy ever will be that. To fix herself, Halsey must look within and not externally for the superficial love of someone else. Halsey then describes two failed situations with girls, one with a girl who was so obsessed with the “the thin little white lines” of cocaine that the relationship ended miserably, and the other with a London girl that she had to keep secret. Ultimately the girls civilly decided that they “both got way better things to do,” but the fact that Halsey “always thinks about [her] when riding through” goes to show that she has matured from the slash and burn personality of “Alone” and “Sorry,” and doesn’t just give up on and forget past lovers (which will bite her in the butt later in “Hopeless”). While Halsey “believes” she is “bad at love,” I really do not think she is, she has just been dealing with bad luck and toxic people and is attributing others’ flaws as her personal weakness.
This is true bop of the album as we hear about her newfound independence and fierce self-protection. After multiple tracks of Halsey being lost on who she is, she has finally begun to rediscover herself and strongly demands that “no motherfucker” gets in her way and “plays with her” and her emotions anymore. Halsey is her own biggest fan here, complimenting herself on how badass she looks tonight “like a damn Monet,” and how she values herself so much she “ain’t got time for no games.” And that confidence is infectious because she wants to support others by specifically encouraging other women that they don’t have to take shit from people they don’t want to. They have every right to “move on,” care about themselves, and not let anyone kill “their vibe.” Contrasted to “Lie,” this is Halsey’s truth as she shares that she has “sipped [alcohol] so strong,” there’s no way that she could be lying. The truth comes out when she is drunk because she takes off the “armor” from “Alone.”
After so long being a pawn in her own life, Halsey is now the Queen calling the shots and telling her truth, but for how long will she keep control?
“And I’m faded away, you know, I used to be on fire”
The duo with Lauren Jauregui makes this song memorable for its brazen and badass portrayal of a same-sex relationship. “Strangers” truly epitomizes the Shakespearean style of unrequited love, but with a Halsey twist. The song clashes savage concupiscence with vulnerable catharsis, and Halsey’s and Lauren’s voices sometimes become indistinguishable, building on that tension. Halsey definitely had some control in the relationship, but we also begin to see her limits and her humanity as she is still susceptible to miscommunication and a painful breakup.
Angel On Fire
We again begin to see Halsey’s limits as her drunk truth-saying causes her to “wake up to another mess in the living room [with] broken bottles all around her feet.” Some of her anxiety is creeping back in with “conversations that are getting hard” as she begins to doubt herself and feel forgotten. She screams from the inside that she wants “everybody to look at me,” and shows her humanity that she actually does care what people think to some degree. When she tragically sings “I’m standing in the ashes of who I used to be,” it’s clear that the high of “Don’t Play” has worn off and she has crashed down to earth from heaven. By the end of the song, she transitions from having the blame and the subject of the pre-chorus being on others to being directly on herself and that realization is raw and gut-wrenching.
Devil In Me
Almost immediately, we continue with the theme that somehow Halsey’s demons always knew she “going to hit the ceiling.” Halsey does show her maturity though as she vows to not “take anyone down” with her, but she is ultimately trapped in this similar situation where when she “speaks her mind,” she is dismissed as “screaming too loud.” In trying to please her lover and “reach their high,” she has lost herself and is “tumbling down.” Previously, in order to become Queen, Halsey had to unleash her fountain of courage and become a warrior to fight off everyone else. Playing off her old Instagram bio “the devil and God are raging inside me,” Halsey sings that she does not want to “wake up” her inner devil because she has no idea what would happen. But she ultimately decides that after “flying too high” and after having her inner fire “burnt like a candle,” she must “wake it up to come back to life.” She cannot just sit here and let her significant other silence and destroy her; she must reclaim her identity and kingdom.
Well, we finally made it to the end and Halsey is back on track to finding herself and finding “the strong girl from Badlands.” After all, she has “known that girl (herself) for like her whole life,” ever since “back in the hotel” of Room 93. But after her public and private breakups, this whole album was a way for Halsey to uncover the deathly secrets she held within herself and find her truth. She talks about how her ex’s friends “all hate her,” turning her down on the radio, but how she ultimately just wants to get better and move on. Halsey wants all of this hopelessness to fade away and “change over time…” more than anything she wants to leave this era of her life and find herself in a brand new one. But she leaves us with an interesting claim on how bad could this whole journey have been if it ended so quickly? “Cause you know the good die young / But so did this / And so it must be better than I think it is / Gimme those eyes, it’s easy to forgive.” But is that a complete mistake for her to go back to this ex-Romeo? Would that make her hopeless all over again? Or is there actually “something real” for her to uncover? We can only wait to find out on her next album.