Ashley Frangipane, better known by her stage name, Halsey, released her highly anticipated, third solo album on Jan. 17, 2020. “Manic” is a 16-song tour through the psyche of one of America’s biggest pop stars. This album takes its listener on a wildly intoxicating trip as Frangipane navigates her own mind while dealing with bi-polar depression.
“Ashley,” the self-titled opening track, is a self-reflective introduction to the image Halsey has built for herself. The track contains an electric stream of sounds that struggle to stay positive.
The listener is then transported into the world of “clementine,” a dreamy piano ballad that manages to make you feel like you are floating through the clouds of an orange sherbet-colored sky while delivering a series of sentimental thoughts filled with raw emotion. She utters the reoccurring line, “I don’t need anyone. I just need everyone and then some.” Overall it takes styles popularized by Billie Eilish and uses them to craft a song that defines “Manic.”
“Graveyard,” the second single on “Manic” that has spent more than 15 weeks on the Billboard Top 100 chart, peaking recently at number 19, is my personal favorite song on the record and was my most streamed song of 2019.
The song describes the perils of being in a toxic relationship from the perspective of someone who wants to remain dedicated to their lover, despite the fact that the relationship is destroying them from the inside out. Her emotions are displayed perfectly through lines like “You can think again when the hand you wanna hold is a weapon, and you’re nothing but skin,” “You lock the door. You’re drunk at the steering wheel, and I can’t conceal” and “It’s funny how the warning signs can feel like they’re butterflies.”
The chorus of the song describes the phenomenon of not being able to trust yourself to get out in time before things go bad, yet she miraculously manages to in the end. At the 2:38 time stamp, Ashley gasps for air in a way that eerily mimics someone being resuscitated. The song is an anthem of freedom for those who have made it a little too close to the graveyard in past relationships and offers a message of hope to those who have the self-deprecating tendency to hold on to the wrong things.
Despite receiving mixed reviews, the country tinged “You should be sad” is another powerful moment on the album. In the style of a “Dear John” letter, Halsey expresses her final thoughts and feelings before leaving her past relationship in her rear view. The lyrics are an explosion of emotions that have clearly been bottled up for a long time.
It is a refreshing moment for her to be able to say the things she has been afraid to from the safety of the other side. She confidently states, “You’re not half the man you think that you are, and you can’t fill the void inside of you with money, drugs and cars,” which she later interchanges with “money, girls and cars.” The dramatic progression of the music and the assurance in the vocals leave you in agreement that he really should be sad.
“Manic” contains three interludes, which feature various artists whom the tracks are named after. The first is performed by rapper and singer Dominic Fike. The interludes also feature singer Alanis Morissette and Korean pop group, BTS. “Dominic’s Interlude” is by far my favorite of the three, but each one serves a purpose to the overall theme of the album.
Produced by Billie Eilish’s brother and up and coming pop artist, Finneas, “I HATE EVERYBODY,” is a self-aware, self-deprecating joyride of Frangipane criticizing her own character flaws. She opens with the line, “I’m my own biggest enemy” and continues to criticize the part of her that falls in love too quickly. She grows frustrated with the fact that she is not good at hating everybody either, feeling like she cannot find a place where she feels safe in her own emotions. She summarizes the song in the bridge, stating: “If I could make you love me, maybe you could make me love me, and if I can’t make you love me, then I’ll just hate everybody.”
Tracks such as “3am” and “killing boys” explore the dark side of fun times, while “Finally // Beautiful Stranger” examines the anxiety associated with falling for someone. It details the reformation of her trust after being hurt.
“Manic” cannot be discussed in its entirety without remembering the single that started it all, “Without Me.” As stated in the voicemail from John Mayer that precedes the song, “Your best song is a song that’s currently on the radio.” “Without Me” is without a doubt a standout moment in Halsey’s career. It continues to break records and dominate charts worldwide over a year after its initial release. This emotion-charged banger is aimed at G-Eazy following their tumultuous relationship and breakup. “Without Me” is perhaps the one moment of pure clarity on “Manic” and is a modern classic.
On “More” Ashley discusses her battle with endometriosis, a struggle that has had a major impact in her life over the last few years. She sings, “And when you decide it’s your time to arrive, I’ve loved you for all of my life,” in a heartfelt ode to her unborn children that she has miscarried due to her disease.
“Well who am I?” Frangipane asks as she opens the closing song on the album. “929” cannot go without being addressed. It is the concept of “Manic” as an art form in one song. It is raw in the best way. In just under three minutes, it rapidly tackles her childhood, rise to fame, relationship with the press, addictions, mental health, romantic and family relationships and more. She ends her whirlwind of thoughts with the statement, “I’m still looking for my salvation,” concluding the album perfectly.
“Manic” is truly an album about Ashley Frangipane. Although the album is not void of romantic expressions, it focuses heavily on her own reactions to the things she’s feeling. She reveals her true self more than ever on this record, and it is a testament that she only improves with time.
One of the biggest compliments I can give “Manic” is that it avoids the tragic mistake made by most pop albums: the mistake of every song sounding the same. Every track on “Manic” is distinct. “Manic” is a genre bender, and it is far from cohesive. Although in this case, the lack of cohesion works to its benefit. A state of mania could not be better portrayed than by the chaos that lies within the human mind.