6.9/10 (melody and production: 6.0, lyrics: 7.5, vocals: 7.3)
At 47 minutes and 36 seconds in length, Halsey’s ‘Manic’ is the American singer’s longest album. It’s also supposed to be her most authentic as well, with first track ‘Ashley’ (Ashley is Halsey’s real name) alluding to her desire to create her most raw and personal album to date. In this track she suggests that her two previous albums didn’t get to the heart of who she really is (“Took my heart and sold it out to a vision that I wrote myself”).
At times, Halsey’s attempts to appear authentic don’t stick the landing – the inclusion of various audio clips in tracks, from a voicemail by John Mayer to a snippet from the critically acclaimed film ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’, can be grating at times, and come across mostly as an attempt to seem bold and edgy without actually taking any major risks.
However, this is more than made up for with tracks like ‘Finally // beautiful stranger’ and ‘More’. The latter track – a standout in this album – is particularly raw and affecting and, is directed towards the child she lost in a miscarriage (“How hard I tried to see your face”, “I sit and I stare at your clothes in the drawer / I cry and my knuckles get sore”). It is in tracks like these were ‘Manic’ truly lives up to it’s reputation as Halsey’s most authentic album to date.
In ‘Manic’, Halsey is also more comfortable in crossing genres than she has been before. While tracks like ‘Ashley’ and ‘clementine’ offer a more stripped down version of Halsey’s usual sound, there is also a clear country influence in tracks like ‘Finally // beautiful stranger’ – which offers a refreshing change of pace as the album enters it’s second half. Meanwhile, ‘3AM’ breathes life into this album at it’s half-way point with a pop-rock sound that is reminiscent of popular music from the early 2000s.
‘Manic’ also includes three interludes, each of which heavily feature another artist. The interludes of Dominic Fike and Suga (of popular K-Pop band BTS) feel somewhat unremarkable – neither taking away, or adding, anything of much significance to the album. However, the interlude of Alanis Morissette (‘Alanis’ Interlude’) is a standout on this track – with the voices of Morissette and Halsey perfectly coming together in a track about sexual empowerment and liberation.
As a whole, this album gets better as it goes on. Parts of the first half of the album can feel slightly anodyne and lyrically unspectacular. However, in the second half of this album, Halsey changes up the sound more often and moves her focus from her failed relationship with rapper G-Eazy (who cheated on her multiple times) to a focus on self-love, empowerment and confronting multiple sources of pain and agony from her life. It is in this second half – where Halsey sings of her 3 miscarriages, her struggles with fame and a relationship doomed by a partner’s drug use – where she really comes into her own; proving that she has significantly matured as an artist since she burst onto the scene in the mid-2010s. In this respect, ‘Manic’ is by far Halsey’s most personal and interesting album that she has released to date.