20th May, 2022
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Critiquing Albums Like I Could Make Anything Better: – Manic by Halsey

Critiquing Albums Like I Could Make Anything Better: – Manic by Halsey

This entry is part 3 of 12 in the series:
Critiquing Albums Like I Could Make Anything Better

To offer some background information on my one-sided dramatic relationship with Miss Halsey, I will mention that I found Halsey’s music in 2015, presumably from the background sound used in a Vine edit of Teen Wolf (that’s generally how I got music recommendations at that point, R.I.P Vine). I loved, and continue to love her first album, Badlands. I bought it on vinyl last month despite my not owning a record player. A few years later, she put out her second album, Hopeless Fountain Kingdom. My tiny stubborn 16-year-old brain did NOT like that. I felt betrayed; I felt she’d sold herself out, and I didn’t feel quirky and special for knowing about her before other people. Very dramatic, but the feeling of resentment stuck so whoops.

…That is, until 2020, when she released her third studio album, ‘Manic’. I have no idea what possessed me to listen to it the day it came out, but I did—front to back and then over again thrice. I fell ass over head in love again. Manic is raw, emotional, explorative, vulnerable, lyrically stunning, conceptual and (personally) cathartic. I am indeed, very much ‘here for it’.

Here’s the Spotify link if you’re invested enough to listen while you read.

The track-by-track commentary no one asked for:

Ashley

Halsey’s real unjumbled name is Ashley – I like this song, I think it’s a good opener but not hooking or anything, so if you shuffled this album on the first listen, you’d likely like it better. Upon some research, i found that Kate Winslet’s voice is in the outro, an excerpt from ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ (which I have not seen but might watch now), so that’s cool too.

clementine

This song rips me to shreds – the tune that you hear come in at the beginning reminds me of those little xylophones we all seemed to have as kids. So, to me, this song reads like a conversation with her inner child. “I don’t need anyone, I just need everyone and then some” was stuck in my head for too long. “Wish I could see what it’s like to be the blood in my veins. Do the insides of all of my fingers still look the same?” was also a highlight lyrically.

Graveyard

The melody is SO catchy – it makes me feel motivated. Also, it was produced by Jon Bellion, which is cool. The music video is also really cool, especially if you’ve seen Euphoria.

Halsey – Graveyard
You should be sad

I love the guitar on this! Bold of me to publically state, but I like country music, so this was the crossover episode of the year. The violin that comes in later is so minimalist for how effective it is. Overall, this song makes me angry at my nonexistent ex-husband.

Forever … (is a long time)

I! LOVE! EVERY! LINE! Also, this feels like a Halloween song, am I right? Tell me I’m right. The random piano solo? Cool! Cinematic! Paints such a CLEAR picture of emotion. In general, the use of powerful outros on this album is incredible and really links each song to the next.

Dominic’s Interlude

I love Dominic Fike – he’s never made a bad song. So this was great. But when I heard it, I wasn’t expecting guest interludes, nor did I recognise this as Dominic Fike at first, I thought I’d somehow left some Frank Ocean in my queue.

I HATE EVERYBODY

Back with the inner child sound. “I can force a future like it’s nothing” is one of my favourite lines. Then by the chorus that sound drops out and it sounds like being the last person on the dancefloor but not in a nice way, in a lonely way. “Infatuation’s observation with a cause but none of it is love, so while I’m waiting’ for it I’ll hate everybody”. This song is another one with a very cinematic sounding ending.

3am

The chorus sounds country-song-ish, and I LOVE that for this song. It’s very rock-esque despite the country tinge. Also, the voicemail is a good touch at the end.

Without Me

Explosive ego banger! The guy in the video clip looks like G-Eazy, which was bold of her but fair. Fuck G-eazy! But bless those photos she posted (then deleted) of them in a servo!

Pin by gaby rodrí on gerald ☁️ | G eazy, Halsey, Relationship
Excuse me ma’am, are you going to buy a drink??
Finally // beautiful stranger

This is one of my favourite songs on the album; it’s one of those songs I could have sworn I’ve heard before. The guitar is beautiful, warm and romantic. It feels hopeful but real. I had “Oh, we’re dancin’ in my living room, and up come my fists” stuck in my brain for so long. It’s such a strong image. Standout lyric to the album, in my opinion. This track is apparently about YUNGBLUD which is nice because it’s the least angry or sad song on the album, and he seems nice.

Alanis’ Interlude

The beat? Great. The lyrics? Nice. A COLLAB with ALANIS MORRISETTE???? ICONIC!

killing boys

The Jennifers Body sample at the start is a massive highlight. I knew I’d love this straight away. But it’s not nearly as angry as I’d expected. It’s numb; it’s powerful. There’s also a Kill Bill reference – say what you will about Halsey’s taste in men, but her taste in cinema seems pretty good.

afri 🦇🕸️ on Twitter: "climb up to the window and I'm breaking the glass  then I stop, 'cause I don't wanna 🔪Uma Thurman your ass🔪 #manicthealbum…  https://t.co/a4zTWT46W5"
What a delectable waste of tomato sauce
SUGA’s Interlude

I don’t know who SUGA is, and I don’t listen to BTS. Still, I understand they are HUGE in k-pop and western society too…so this at the very least was cool because it adds a layer to the genre exploration this album so wonderfully pulls off while still having a clear and coherent overall tone.

More

I love the lyrics on this one too. It’s about her struggles with her reproductive health, her longing for a baby and her multiple miscarriages, referenced in little ways throughout the entire album.

Still Learning

There’s a reference in this song (“coming apart at the seams”) to one of the songs I loved in her early days – ‘Colours’, so I am appeased. It’s great – it’s just the most standard song on the album I think. It makes a great second-last song; it feels quite conclusion-y.

929

This is probably my most listened to song on this album. It has a great ending, and it reintroduces that insecurity and existentialism we hear so strongly at the start. The gag about her birth time is great, metaphorically, but simply. There’s also an Eastside reference which is cool. My current favourite lyrics (although it changes every time i listen to it) are:

  1. “She said Ashley you gotta promise us that you won’t die cause we need you and honestly I think that she lied, and i remember the names of every single kid I’ve met, but I forget half the people who I’ve gotten into bed” and
  2. “they said don’t meet your heroes, they’re al fuckin’ weirdos and God knows that they were right because nobody loves you, they just try to fuck you then put you on a feature on the b-side”.

Halsey also left her own b-side with this album, but I’m not going to go through all of those songs – I will, however, say that “I’m not mad” is a spiteful reluctant forgiveness bop.

Track ranking:

  1. 929
  2. Finally // beautiful stranger
  3. clementine
  4. 3am
  5. You should be sad
  6. I HATE EVERYBODY
  7. Alanis’ Interlude
  8. Without Me
  9. Graveyard
  10. Dominic’s Interlude
  11. Forever … (is a long time)
  12. Still Learning
  13. More
  14. Ashley
  15. killing boys
  16. SUGA’s Interlude

“Stay Tuned (if you want) folks”

Tyneesha Williams

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