Halsey: Ghost of an Emerging Cultural Icon (Review and Cover) / by Sam Abelow

Halsey in a photoshoot for Elle magazine, where she first announced her Bipolar disorder.

Halsey in a photoshoot for Elle magazine, where she first announced her Bipolar disorder.

Whether it's Katy Perry (Prism), Taylor Swift (1989) Rihanna (been meaning to review her new album, Anti), or Lana Del Rey (Ultraviolence): I admit to being a fan of certain female pop acts.

Halsey and her famous blue hair

The latest of these guilty pleasures is Halsey. Yes, her fashion and beauty is flawless: the unidentifiable ethnicity, aqua hair and innocent eyes. But, it was her music that caught my attention.

Katy, has this stilted and bubble gum persona that fulfills some childish fantasy I have; Taylor has acutely crafted and stealthily catchy songs, that are undeniable to any music lover. Lana is a queen of aesthetic; a modern master of making historical sounding ballads relevant and beautiful.

So what's Halsey's superpower?

The young artist, coming from New Jersey, offers a superficial picture of millennial apathetic self-awareness. Throughout her debut album Badlands, Halsey seems to perpetuate the false-idols and values we have come to worship (lyrics from the song "Colors":

 "I hope you make it past the day you're 28 years old. I don't like them innocent. Want them wearing leather…"

Her lyrics are proportionally crucial to her art and of course the young people listening to her are paying attention. Thing is, her tongue and cheek observations are of course taken literally by her developing audience.

"Cigarettes and tiny liquor bottles. Just what you'd expect inside her new Balenciaga. Viral mess turned dreams into an empire." (Lyrics from "New Americana")

So, she was able to encapsulate some aspect of the Instagram culture, but there is no alternative moral or value. Whatever her intention with all of that lofty analysis, she certainly considers herself a poet.

I just wonder if her pursuit of what she must think of as artistic integrity is degrading herself, as well as influencing a generation of youth, who have seen pornography before they even hit puberty.

This generation is a Freudian dream unleashed. Repression? That's history.

"Everybody wants to know
If we fucked on the bathroom sink
How your hands felt in my hair
If we were high on amphetamines"

Halsey seems to personify the newly forming ideals of a internet generation: ambiguous in ethnicity, raw and open sexually, to either gender, and most of all "alternative." But alternative to what? When leather jackets and died hair represent individuality and bisexuality is the norm, than I guess a collard shirt and heterosexuality becomes radical. Who knows?

Halsey with gender-bending crew cut

Despite her cultural homogenization, I do think she is a decent songwriter. Halsey's has a clear vision and curates the production to a ultra-dense electronic blast. In fifty years, her album will be stamped with the "2015 In Music."

I often find the modern pop albums which abuse machine drums and collage-ing of sound, to where it seems more like sonic design than music, a bit agitating. But, her record was cohesive and featured interesting ear candy. That is, even if it was derivative and borrowed from the Soundcloud producers and EDM artist's that awash the scene today.

Awash: the modern sound is washed in reverb, heavy on bass, distorted drums and chirpy synths. I wanted to deconstruct her melody and harmony and see what a song would sound like stripped down.

So my cover of "Gasoline," demonstrates the reality of the song. The verses are like a rap. By stripping off the flashy beats and use of cut-up vocal recording, the song lingers until the chorus.

It seems that the modern recording techniques, so popular today, allow artists to get away with minimal diversity in chords and musicality, while relying heavily on the power of computerized sound.

I'm interested in learning more of these modern manifestations, sorting them through my own preferences and seeing how the fundamental content stands.

What's next? A song of Rihanna's Anti album? Or maybe I should cover a band more like myself. Cage the Elepahant's recent album is pretty decent!

In the meantime download my debut album free: http://www.mediafire.com/download/tkxo0s2qbiid324/Birth_Certificate_Album.zip 

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