Halsey breaks out of her comfort zone to create a raw, untouchable pop project
Singer and songwriter Ashley Frangipane, known by her stage name Halsey, released her fourth studio album with Capitol Records titled If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power. Not only does the name speak volumes on behalf of its content, but the album cover conveys boldness and womanhood. Halsey displays exactly that throughout the 13-track project.
Fitting Halsey’s record of grand metaphors and content in her past projects, the singer keeps a specific focus on If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power. She keeps a tight hold on its theme about the thin line between self-destruction and self-preservation and both the thrill and terror that comes with getting what you want. The project is also partnered with an IMAX film under the same name. Over-the-top trailers and, as previously mentioned, theatrical and bold album art and photos surround this album. All of these elements combined to create an alluring and ethereal feel, resulting in what can be described as Halsey’s best, most creative work yet.
Creating a mixture of a gothic fairytale and an opera house with its instrumental, “The Tradition” introduces female empowerment and might even allude to the feeling of being a woman in fame and flashing lights. The song tells a heart-wrenching story of a girl being bought and sold like property while the chorus encourages her to push through it. “Take what you want/ Take what you can/ Take what you please/ Don’t give a damn.” The lead single, “I am not a woman, I’m a god,” has the same message about the duality of being a woman. The track bounces back and forth between saintly and ruthless, which could be a metaphor for Halsey’s experience with bipolar disorder in which she shared in 2020.
Stated by the singer in a YouTube interview, the first song written for the project is its fourth track, “Lilith.” Although it has an eccentric pop sound, the name alone is a metaphor that ties to something deeper than a quirky song title. The word Lilith in the Bible translates to a certain type of owl, which connects to the owl shown in the visual album. It is evident how much thought and creativity was put into If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power by Halsey and her producers (Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross from Nine Inch Nails).
The tracks previously illustrated sound as though the singer is constantly between drowning and coming up for air. “Girl is a Gun” and “You asked for this” are a major contrast to the heart-rending tones of the songs described above. These two tracks instill a visual of the singer floating in mid-air. “Girl is a Gun” is inspired by electronic music, while “You asked for this” is heavily doused in a head-banging, rock guitar instrumental.
“The Lighthouse” and “’honey” are two more songs riddled with heavy-hitting electric guitar combined with lyrics straight from Halsey’s gut. Opening up with words like, “From a tender age, I was cursed with rage/ I went swimming with the Devil at the bottom of a lake/ And he left me there by my lonesome,” the singer-songwriter makes sure her listeners know she’s fighting internal battles with a lot to say. “honey” is a lot less serious and much more fun and full of sexual innuendos. It speaks of a woman she once loved who had to leave her, as she screams lyrics such as “She was sweet like honey/ But all I can taste is the blood in my mouth and the bitterness in goodbye/ Dripping like honey.”
The amount of effort, thought and creativity placed into If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power deserves recognition and commendation to Halsey as an artist, as well as the Reznor and Ross, the producers, who guided her along. Her fans are able to see a brand new version of their favorite singer while taking a peek into her mind, heart and soul.