Album Review: Manic by Halsey

Halsey’s third LP, Manic.

By Carly Mihovich

Just over a week ago, Halsey released her third studio album in the form of Manic. The singer initially found fame on social media in the early 2010s when she published her music online to websites like Youtube. Now, it seems we’ve come full circle as Halsey’s most recent bout in the news was the result of a poorly-worded tweet directed towards Pitchfork in response to their moderately negative review of her latest release.

Awkward tweet aside, is Manic really representative of the “amorphous, chameleonic pop [the author] has come to associate with sitting miserably in the backseat of a Lyft” like Pitchfork’s review claimed? I don’t believe it’s so.

Manic begins with “Ashley,” a fairly slow but heavy introduction to Halsey’s embrace of a new self. The production of the track leaves the beats seemingly filling the empty air and drowning out Halsey’s vocals. That is, until the singer shouts “I told you I’d ride this out / It’s getting harder every day, somehow / I’m bursting out of myself.”

Halsey performing on Saturday Night Live this past weekend.

The track ends with audio taken from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. The clip features Kate Winslet’s infamous “cool girl” monologue asking men to recognize her as a human being, not just a concept in their minds. It’s a strong and unexpected finish to an otherwise subdued but introspective track.

Actually, that is fairly representative of the album as a whole. Manic will not be remembered as one of the best pop albums of the year. It won’t even be remembered as Halsey’s best album by most. But for those who can find some sort of solace in her words, this album will be enough.

Whether it’s in the form of Halsey crying out “I don’t need anyone / I just need everyone and then some,” in lullaby-esque “Clementine,” the angry twang of the line “I’m so glad I never ever had a baby with you” in “you should be sad,” or the combined melodies of Halsey and Alanis Morissette as they explore queer love in “Alanis’ Interlude,” Manic provides some of the most vulnerable expressions we’ve seen from the artist since her early fame.

The album ends with what I believe is arguably one of the strongest examples of Halsey’s ability to express her authenticity through her music. “929” follows Halsey through a largely improvised string of speech as she reflects on her growth over her twenty-five years of age. The instrumental is simple and the comments are random, but that doesn’t mean they lack meaning. It doesn’t tie the album up in a neat bow and it’s no perfect ending, but it doesn’t have to be. Sometimes, music doesn’t have to be anything more than it just is.

Manic is messy, yes, but so are breakups, and mental health, and growth. I don’t expect Halsey to put out a perfect album on these topics that are so intimate to her, and I don’t expect everyone to like it. But for those that do, I get it.