An Album a Day: Badlands

May 8, Badlands by Halsey

Genre: Um… Alternative Pop? Maybe?
Year: 2015
Runtime: 40:03
Total Number of Tracks: 11
Songs you might know:
– “Castle”
– “New Americana”
– “Colors”
– “Ghost”

My prior relationship with the album: I was first introduced to Halsey when one of my friends got rather obsessed with her back in 2015, but I didn’t bother listening to Badlands myself until a year later when I crowdsourced some music recommendations on social media. It’s always been one of those albums that I respect, without it ever being a true personal favorite. I revisit it occasionally, but not that often.

 My impression this time around: It’s weird how I think of Halsey as a pop artist, but after listening to this again amid the other 100+ albums I’ve listened to this year, I’m hesitant to call this album “pop.” It lacks many of the qualities that make pop “pop.” Not too many catchy hooks; darker lyrics that aren’t really trying to be relatable; and perhaps the most not-pop thing: this album is challenging. It’s not easily digestible. Very few of Halsey’s songs are the kind where I experienced love-at-first-listen. Instead, I often don’t know exactly what the song is about. I’m not 100% sure if I “like it.” But as I listen more, I tend to appreciate it more. There’s a complex artistry to Badlands that simply doesn’t exist on most mainstream pop albums, and I enjoy that artistry.

The tone of Halsey’s voice is also one of the best in music right now, and she leans into that. She doesn’t necessarily sing with a ton of power or a huge range, but she lets that clear tone just shine through, never putting weird effects on it. That voice is often the thing I find most satisfying about listening to Halsey’s music, putting her in a league of her own even when many other artists are using similar synthpop sounds.

Who would enjoy it? This is a great one for people who prefer music that’s interesting and original to music that’s quote-unquote “likable.” If you’re the type who just wants something fun to help you relax and unwind, I don’t know that this is the right pick for you. But if you’re the type who want to be stimulated and challenged and aren’t overly concerned with whether or not you “get it” right away, Badlands might be right up your alley.

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