Don’t Play With Her Kingdom
Halsey is back in the spotlight for her highly anticipated sophomore effort, hopeless fountain kingdom. The alt-pop hitmaker first made waves in 2014 with her single “Ghost” and has since been deemed a pop starlet after her collaboration with The Chainsmokers for the Grammy-nominated hit “Closer.” Ashley Frangipane, the artist behind the Bed–Stuy train station that became her stage name, breathes new life into Romeo and Juliet for the voice of her second album.
“The Prologue” quotes the Shakespeare play outright to open the album. The vibe is dramatic, and, after a dialogue, Halsey’s voice smears through a vocoder for her signature industrial sound. The star-crossed lovers theme is ironically, or purposely, produced by her ex, Lido. Ricky Reed (Twenty One Pilots/Fifth Harmony) produced the catchy “100 Letters.” Halsey falls in love with the vain Greek mythological character, King Midas, on the song, but the love falters as she rejects his advances. The next track is about being in a new relationship while still having feelings for an ex. Co-written by The Weeknd, “Eyes Closed” hits on Halsey’s self-doubt in finding love, but generally feels like a more appropriate addition to a Weeknd album. “Heaven In Hiding” follows on the deluxe version. The song has an alternative skew that begs connection to Panic! At the Disco, one of Halsey’s biggest influences.
“Alone” is fresh and surprising as Halsey dabbles in old school R&B. The upbeat anthem, produced by Ricky Reed and Josh Carter, touches on her rising fame. “I know you’re dying to meet me / but I can just tell you this / baby as soon as you meet me / you’ll wish that you never did,” she sings. Benny Blanco, Cashmere Cat and Happy Perez team up for the lead single “Now Or Never.” The companion video is Halsey’s directorial debut; it shows a fictitious world where two lovers try to overcome their issues in order to be happy, but are met with a fateful end.
“Sorry” is a welcome ballad, apologizing to lovers for her indecisiveness and her unwillingness to believe that anyone could truly love her. Lido produces the next three songs, “Good Mourning,” “Lie” and “Walls Could Talk.” “Good Mourning” serves as the album’s interlude. Halsey then duets with Quavo on “Lie,” but her identity is blurred by a sound too similar to that of Rihanna. “Walls Could Talk” dabbles in ’90s R&B and mirrors girl groups like Destiny’s Child or TLC. Halsey’s back in her zone for “Bad at Love” and “Strangers.” Sandwiched between the two on the deluxe album is “Don’t Play,” in which Halsey goes into boss mode, cautioning people not to mess with her. Lauren Jauregui of Fifth Harmony is featured on “Strangers,” a breakup song set to an ’80s pop beat. Being bipolar, the singer pairs “Angel On Fire” and “Devil In Me” back-to-back for the tail end of the album. Halsey sings her feelings of “fading away, though I used to be on fire” on “Angel On Fire” and then pleads, “I don’t want to wake it up, the devil in me,” over the struggle to remain herself amidst her fame. “Hopeless” closes out the album with Imogen Heap-sounding vocals, while featuring Cashmere Cat.
Halsey’s second album is anything but mainstream. She’s managed to pull away from her ties to Top 40 with a rhythmic and alternative blend put through a Shakespearean lens. hopeless fountain kingdom proves that the only thing standing in Frangipane’s way is herself.