I had to take a minute to wrap my head around the fact that our first ever AsiaLive Introduces artist is the same lady who, back in 2012, uploaded a parody of “I Knew You Were Trouble” about Taylor Swift and Harry Styles’s relationship – called “The Haylor Song”, naturally – on YouTube. I had one of those little viral-video-related “I was there” moments, and I was surprised, of course, but in the best possible way, that a fellow One Direction fan (we’ve all got our phases, alright?) rose from filming videos in her bedroom to a rightful stardom. We’re in the post-Justin Bieber age in which this kind of transition seems to be the arc of most success stories.
(Speaking of JB, our artist recently released a Skrillex-produced duet called “The Feeling” on the Canadian singer’s new album).
Then going by her real name Ashley Nicolette Frangipane, “Halsey” (an anagram of her name) gradually gained an online following uploading stuff on social media – acoustic covers, artworks, poems. Her real breakthrough, however, came when she put an original song “Ghost” on SoundCloud. Weeks following the upload, the song went from online alternative charts onto radios. She and her friend-turn-manager Anthony then returned to the record companies in New York that once turned them down. “Hi, I’m here again,” she recalled her tongue-in-cheek salutation during the revisit. “What can you guys do for me?”
Another “Me-Generation” pop star Frangipane may seem to be, but she’s far from what the Industry Machine usually spits out for global tween and teenage population. She’s earned initial recognition by creating her own art, and with a unique voice, inviting peers and younger followers into her life. And, fortunately for us, she’ll continue to do so. Authenticity, the stripping of self, and giving it a voice – that’s what Halsey’s music all about.
Debuted in August, her conceptualised heavy synth-pop album Badlands is a told from a perspective of a person living in a corrupted dystopian wasteland of a metropolis (check out her new Divergent-esque music video and plunge into that world. It doesn’t get more millennially badass than this). Playing the record, you’ll arrive at “Castle”, a track that makes quite an opening statement: “I’m headed straight for the castle / They wanna make me their queen.” But if you think she’s usurping the “old man sitting on the throne that’s saying I should probably keep my pretty mouth shut” just to repeat the same anarchic, misogynistic cycle, you’re wrong. The whole album as a narrative concludes as Halsey’s persona flees the badlands, flees the metaphoric dark and barren place inside her head, flees for a better tomorrow. “Young God”, albeit dedicated to a lover, sees its heroine sing out, “We’ll be flying through the streets with the people underneath / And they’re running, running, running again”. The cry for revolt and freedom is reenforced in “New Americana”, a call-to-arms for the budding “High on legal marijuana / Raised on Biggie and Nirvana” generation.
It’s not hard to see why Halsey is so relatable for the legion of fans thronging and chanting their new anthems at the singer’s sold-out shows. Halsey writes for her demographic. She is her demographic. But she’s also more than the reblogged, captioned image of every electric colour-haired, boysenberry-lips grunge girl on Tumblr rolled into one.
After supporting The Kooks in 2014 and Imagine Dragons this past June through August, Halsey is now headlining her own tour in North America. The “Badlands” tour will be continued throughout 2016 across the globe, including Osaka, Tokyo and various European and Australian cities, before hitting Madison Square Garden for an epic conclusion on August 13, 2016, which sold out in less than three weeks.
Stream or get Badlands on iTunes today, especially if you’re a fan of Lana Del Rey’s melancholy, Lorde’s dark vibes, Ellie Goulding’s voice, or the teenage debauchery and the scorn of it in The 1975’s lyrics.
Do it still if you’re not.