You know an album is good when you don’t completely get it on the first listen but you feel there is something you are missing in the tracklist. Halsey’s Manic, marking the first record putting the artistic persona on the background and focusing on the authentic Ashley Frangipane, is exactly an album like that.
It took me some time to fully understand and appreciate it but I can confidently say this is the best the artist has produced so far. It unveils a deep look into Ashley’s personal life, struggles, and self-understanding in the company of well-executed instrumentals, lyrical arrangement, and overall music environment.
I consider Halsey an artist in the full meaning and power of the word. It is not only about her songwriting that unites real-life experience molded into fictional storytelling to convey an idea. Her execution is impressive and her passionate performance is praiseworthy.
What fascinates me most, however, is Halsey’s ability to convey emotions and use her experience as a foundation for self-realization, awareness, and development. And her determination to progress and develop with each new track.
Manic proves her excelling ability to do this and brings something completely new and unexplored to the table. As good as Badlands and Hopeless Fountain Kingdom are with their incredible conceptual storytelling and unveiling of metaphorical fictional worlds Manic stands strong as the artist’s best record yet featuring complete transparency and realness.
Writing this album has been a lesson in forgiving myself. In being proud of myself and kind to myself despite how much this world is designed to make you hate yourself. I hope when it’s finally in your hands it brings you that same peace. It’s not a quiet peace. It’s a loud one
There is a lot of innovation in Manic. It is the first album Halsey wrote in a manic (hence the title) instead of in a depressive episode, the first one to drastically differ from the previous records and expose the artist in her strengths and weaknesses fully.
Manic started as an angry album. This becomes evident if we go back to one of the first singles presented as part of the new era – Nightmare. The song never made it to the album but it showcases the desire to become completely open and honest in this new stage of her musical development.
Another thing that becomes clear when you listen to the finished album is that Halsey found calmness and forgiveness (towards herself and others). This certainly does not come easy and the sixteen tracks depict the road of finding this remission and comfort very well. They take us through breakdowns, anger, remorse, regret, overthinking, and self-doubt – emotions clearly transmitted and easy to relate to thanks to Halsey’s methods.
The opener Ashely is a great start of the album displaying the goal Halsey has this time – to present her true self and her process of discovery and healing as open and honest as possible.
The song contains some of the strongest self-reflection and realization from the artist so far and pays attention to the theme of mortality. Hints that she will be showing a different side of herself with the following tracks and going deeper into her mind this time are consistent and the mood for Manic is set accordingly.
Too many guys think I’m a concept, or
I complete them, or I’m gonna make them alive
I’m just a fucked up girl who’s lookin’ for my own peace of mind
Don’t assign me yours
The second track – Clementine follows the road Ashley outlined well with a continuation of thoughts and mind exploration in more depth and substance. Vulnerabilities and contradictions are exposed in a beautiful way complemented with fitting gentle instrumentals and stunning video (inspired by Halsey’s favorite movie and a definite must-see Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind).
After a well-set introduction, Manic continues with detailed analysis of different aspects of events and feelings that have shaped Halsey to who she has become today.
The following two songs delve on love-related topics with drastically different variations of the feelings. The instrumentals and mood also contrast strongly to showcase the emotional impact of the feelings talked about.
Graveyard takes us through the painful and hurting situation of being deeply in love with someone who is taking you down a self-destructive path. The worst part about this, as Halsey accurately displays, is that being so invested and dedicated to this person and relationship blurs self-preservation and clear thinking leading to unhealthy consequences for everyone involved.
Emotional and acoustic-oriented instrumentals emphasize the delicacy of the situation and enhance the impact of the song. The clear recognition of the danger of this phenomenon is also present concluding with an important takeaway. Learning to care of yourself, your mental headspace and future happiness shines strong and ends this chapter of Halsey’s odyssey.
What follows makes complete sense after the events in Graveyard (almost like a real-life sequel). You Should Be Sad has an upbeat vibe incorporating country influences to create one of my personal favorite tracks on Manic.
The song is a direct message towards an ex-partner of the artist (we all know who this refers to) and has a similar tone to the standalone single Nightmare. It is completely honest discarding all holdbacks and exposing a real-life situation exactly as it happened.
You Should Be Sad points out the issues of Halsey’s ex-partner radiating regret and disappointment more than it focuses on the anger. The goal of the song is not to offend or hurt the person in question but instead offers a completely honest evaluation of his behavior and advice on how to work on some serious issues dragging the person down.
Halsey’s saga continues with a series of songs displaying her process of falling in love, riding the high of the feeling and gradually turning the excitement into paranoia and anxiety. A very strong mini-concept concluding with the unfortunate self-sabotage of an otherwise promising relationship.
The first act is Forever Is A Long Time which is one of the most beautiful and rich in terms of emotional instrumentals songs. Including a powerful piano interlude, the track introduces the strong emotions that will be discussed very effectively. It also features clever metaphors and great lyrical content well intertwined into the acoustic-based instrumental to take us on the journey of falling in love and eventually descending into the trap of paranoia and self-doubt.
Dominic’s Interlude seamlessly follows and features one of the three collaborators on the Manic project. The extraordinary artist plays his part flawlessly and serves as a representation of brotherly love (another thing in Manic is the many forms of love which are represented via the three different interludes).
Fragmented lyrical content and diverse instrumental structure in the 1.20-minute long song show a different part of Halsey’s journey and gradually lead us towards the next stage – a dark and dangerous one yet equally important.
Insecurities, unjustified (and ineffective) methods of verifying self-worth highlight the next step of the journey. Self-love, appreciation, and confidence are put to a test during the exploration of the conflicting throught in Halsey’s mind – she is struggling to find love for herself during the course of the song and takes us though the process of her internal battles.
The easy-going and controlled structure of singing and instrumentals is once again evident to contrast with the next song which serves as a sequel to the events in I Hate Everybody.
Once again a similar contrast like the one in Graveyard-You Should Be Sad is used to create the desired effect. 3 AM continues where I Hate Everybody left and narrates the artist’s search for confirmation, self-worth, love, and acceptance.
This one, however, is filled with energy and upbeat instrumentals – a truly powerful and dynamic track.
Manic features another track tightly related to a particular relationship Halsey had to go through. The previously released as a standalone single Without Me fits the album well and goes back to the vibes and feel of You Should Be Sad (and refers to the same person).
Without Me is another personal and intimate expose of Ashley’s life looking into her mental state after the terrible break-up and exploring the residual feelings of regret and angst. The song fits its position well as what follows is the tale of another relationship with a completely different effect.
Beautiful Stranger is a different type of love song compared to the majority in Manic. It is pure, filled with genuine emotion and appreciation.
The story is once again a true representation of an actual event in Halsey’s life – meeting her ex-partner YUNGBLUD. The artist elaborates on her feelings and thoughts during the night they met and radiates happiness and greatfulness during the entire song. Small details are included to make it even more personal and effective and another acoustic instrumental is supporting the atmosphere accordingly.
The remaining two interludes are placed close to each other near the end of the album and pay tribute to different types of love. Alanis’ Interlude has a similar effect to Dominic’s one of brotherly love. However, this time we are witnessing a powerful embrace of sexual and professional empowerment for women.
The song is an ode to bisexuality (which the artist has been very open about) and encourages listeners to remain true to themselves regardless of the circumstances and difficulties.
A small break in the face of Killing Boys – another well-executed piece dealing with uncontrollable frustration regarding love and relationships, is the only track before the final interlude.
This time the collaborator is Min Yoon-gi better known as BTS’ Suga – one of the artists Halsey has stated strongly desired to work with.
This interlude is extremely interesting to look into as it represents the love for art. Beauty and torment are fusing in a true and honest confession about the reality many artists live with.
Halsey and Suga question passion and determination getting deeper into the essence of art and the pressures they feel as musicians, the expectations, and duties they feel they need to meet.
The final three tracks on Manic are perhaps the strongest in terms of emotional power. More is a confessional monologue towards Halsey’s unborn future child overflowing with love and desire to meet him/her.
It is one of the most intimate songs of the artist and has an impact impossible to avoid.
Still Learning and 929 – the closing acts of Manic are dedicated to self-development, growth, and ambitions towards the future. Once again the problems Halsey has with self-love and self-worth are put on the front and this time she tackles them head-on.
The artist recognizes that in order to find the stable relationship she desires so passionately she first needs to learn how to love herself and during the course of 929 she talks about her faults accepting the reality of her past and present with a confessional and mature tone.
The song was recorded almost as a freestyle – Halsey mentions that she started talking out loud about her life and recorded most of the song in one go. Maybe this is why it has such a pure and genuine feel. The honest monologue takes different parts of life and puts it into perspective concluding with confident hopeful undertone about a better future build on top of learning from past mistakes.
Self-development is a constant process and Halsey makes it painfully clear.
Manic is an interesting ride to get immersed into. It offers the most personal and intimate encounter with the artist’s life containing a lot of lessons we can all learn something from.
It is impressive in terms of musical development as well – merging dozens of genres and including refined instrumental structured to fit the heartfelt lyrics accordingly. Definitely a strong step forward and a confirmation that we should be prepared for another big step of Halsey’s art in the future.
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