‘Manic:’ a Radical Chase for Catharsis

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‘Manic:’ a Radical Chase for Catharsis

(Photo by Justin Prather | Daily Utah Chronicle)

(Photo by Justin Prather | Daily Utah Chronicle)

(Photo by Justin Prather | Daily Utah Chronicle)

(Photo by Justin Prather | Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Palak Jayswal, Arts Editor

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We’re almost a month into 2020 and some of the biggest names in the music industry are kicking off the decade with heart-wrenching, introspective albums. From Selena Gomez’s honest “Rare” to Eminem’s surprise “Music to Be Murdered By,” it seems the decade is starting with a wave of long-awaited returns from various artists. Halsey — or, as listeners will know her after her latest album, Ashley Frangipane — is among those artists, releasing her third studio album, “Manic,” on Jan. 17. 

The album comes after a three-year wait from her last release, “Hopeless Fountain Kingdom.” While Halsey has released various singles in the meantime, like her chart breaking “Without Me,” it’s obvious she’s put in a lot of work into this album. For those who haven’t followed her since the beginning, Halsey has always been a bit of enigma, even to her most dedicated fans. “Manic” introduces us to the real Halsey — the good, the bad and everything that makes her who she is. 

 

Redefining Halsey 

“My personal life is a disaster,” Halsey said in an interview with Zane Lowe. “Manic” as a whole is a commentary on said personal life — addressing her struggles with bipolar disorder, endometriosis, bad relationships and more. In the same vein as Taylor Swift and Selena Gomez before her, Halsey has done something remarkable with this mixed-genre album: redefine the image the media has assigned to her by taking her narrative into her own hands. 

Starting with the album opener, “Ashley,” she reintroduces herself to listeners, slowly but surely erasing any preconceived ideas they may have in their heads of her. The track ends with a famous Clementine (Kate Winslet) dialogue from “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”: “I’m just a f—ed up girl who’s looking for my own peace of mind. Don’t assign me yours.” As the album unfolds, Halsey explores the inner workings of her own mind, ultimately hoping to find her own peace. 

What often makes pop music remarkable is the combination of vague ideas and addicting lyrics that allows listeners to apply each song to their own experiences. However, Halsey’s album hits hard because it is so personal to her. Songs such as “You should be sad” — a smooth, angry tempo with strong guitar and fierce lyrics like, “no, you’re not half the man that you think you are” — and “Without Me” don’t leave much to the imagination when it comes to the muse behind the music, but somehow it makes the songs much more impactful. 

The album, though, is not for or about anyone except Halsey. Her experiences, her feelings and her thoughts are all drawn out very clearly for listeners. “3am” is reminiscent of Paramore and the most manic song on the album — a ferocious spitfire about figuring stuff out. “929,” my personal favorite on the album, can easily be characterized as a spoken word poem. While some may claim Halsey is going through too many genres in one album, I think it’s precisely what she meant to do. Each song, alone or in consideration with the entire album, represents a different facet of who she is. In fact, Halsey takes some definitive risks. With “Finally // beautiful stranger,” we get a taste of her soft, gentle music. There’s no bite, which is uncharacteristic for her love songs, and it’s absolutely beautiful. 

What I’ve always admired about Halsey’s music is her ability to be completely honest through her art. She doesn’t joke around and she always tells it like it is. This album is a beautiful testament to that notion. “More” is her most intimate song to date, dedicated to her struggles with endometriosis and fertility. In her interview with Zane Lowe, the artist opened up about how the fading of the track is set to sound like a sonogram. 

 

Witness to Halsey’s Catharsis 

 The 16-track album is an introspective view of the artist’s life. Halsey is completely transparent with listeners, which is exactly what makes it so addicting to listen to. This album is not meant to be an explanation, but rather a reflection. In “Still Learning,” the artist says, “I’m still learning to love myself,” and makes it clear that she’s not making excuses, but paving her way just like the rest of us. All of it is very deliberate. 

In a tweet, she said, “I’ve gone my whole life struggling to accept this part of me and I made art out of it. I feel happy.” Halsey is no longer Halsey alone — but her and Ashley Frangipane at once, and she’s damn proud of it. Halsey is inspiring and honest. Her approach to writing and sharing herself with fans is something that will always keep her on my list of favorite artists. “Manic” is everything she needed it to be, which is precisely why I love it.

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@palak_jayswal