Rating: 6.5/10

                This album requires an important preface: it is not a Halsey album. Rather, this is the first album Halsey has written as Ashley Frangipane, her true self minus the stage name. Halsey, who is open about her struggles with bipolar disorder, wrote these tracks during a manic episode, giving name to the album. In “Manic”, the alter-ego has been dropped, leaving us with a shockingly raw and self-aware selection of songs.

                The album begins with “Ashley,” setting a tone of raw honest emotion that carries fairly well throughout the album. She shares a heart-wrenching message about her struggles with endometriosis and miscarriages in “More.” The album ends with “929,” which is an open and personal track filled with confessions about her life. Halsey calls the song “A stream of consciousness and ranting confessional,” as the emotion and stories just poured right out of her. She stated it was “almost a freestyle in the booth,” that ends on a hopeful note about growth and change.

                The album features appearances from Morissette, Dominic Fike, and BTS’s Suga. Produced by big name pop artists like Jon Bellion, FINNEAS, and Benny Blanco, the album covers a variety of pop genres.  Tastefully petty “You should be sad,” is a country-pop heartbreak ballad. This is a fantastic example of blending genres as country pop and county rap gain traction in the music industry. “Clementine” is more akin to an alternative rock or indie pop. It features a frenzied vocal echo on the chorus that I found very unique and original. It certainly adds a strong statement to the mania of the song. Other songs on the album feature electronic, synth, and hip-hop aspects tied to her signature pop sound.

                The album definitely follows a strong modern pop layout, especially given the niches of its producers. If you don’t enjoy mainstream pop, this might not be the album for you. However, the album is refreshingly self-aware of this, making poignant statements about today’s mainstream culture. With this in mind, several tracks on the album, “Clementine,” for instance, take on a more ironic tone. Some songs do fall flat in my opinion. Notably, “Alanis Interlude” has a message on sexuality and labels that comes across as more irritating and repetitive than impactful and clever. “Without Me” also makes a reappearance on “Manic.” This emotional 2018 electro-R&B hit reached number one on the Billboard’s Top 100. However, I think “I’m Killing Boys,” is a more modern and fury-driven breakup track that better fits the overall vibe of the album.

                I don’t personally think the album is particularly earth-shattering or groundbreaking. However, I believe “Manic” is a refreshing turn for Halsey. She’s less the edgy rebel of 2015’s “New Americana.” Today we see a more mature, cognizant, and raw Ashley Frangipane. This new side to the Halsey persona promises to deliver more meaningful and driven messages in the future.

Top Tracks: Ashley, Clementine, I’m Killing Boys, 929

Halsey’s “Manic” is now streaming everywhere now.

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