Halsey Radiates Rock ’n’ Roll Power in Their New Extended Album

Halsey Radiates Rock ’n’ Roll Power in Their New Extended Album

Melanie Barry, Copy Editor

I have never been a huge Halsey fan. Don’t get me wrong – her voice is certainly impressive (though I wish she would lay off the auto-tune a little), and there are a handful of her songs that I will occasionally listen to and enjoy. But for me, the independence and level of contribution an artist has when it comes to their music can really make or break my reception, and I have always had the sense that Halsey (who goes by she/they pronouns) is, like many pop stars these days, just the face and voice of their music, while their team of nameless songwriters are the ones actually doing the creating.

Nonetheless, I checked out their new album, “If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power” when it first came out in August 2021, and I was again drawn to revisit it when I saw the banner across the Spotify homepage notifying me that the extended version had just been released on Jan. 3. After shuffling through the songs a few times now, I have to say, I am impressed.

I have a soft spot for pretty much any kind of rock music, and while most of the tracks in the album lean more towards her classic sound of alt-pop and alternative hip hop, Halsey has clearly been exploring the alternative rock genre recently as well.

The track that showcases this best is “People Disappear Here,” one of the newly released tracks on the extended version. The song is introduced by a flat rock beat, distorted guitars, and a funky, winding bassline, setting the song up for a post-punk revival sound. Unsurprisingly, as the song progresses, the bar starts to tip a little more towards the alt-pop sound. Still, it manages to maintain its rock foundation. The vocal melody in the chorus is a bit basic, but I like the eerie atmosphere and use of plucking synths. The lyrics, detailing the “disappearance” of her old self, are just the right level of obscure and poetic, and I would imagine Halsey takes pride in them (assuming she had some say in what they were). If The Strokes and Billie Eilish got together and had to make a song in 24 hours, I imagine it would sound something like this.

Then, there is “Nightmare,” which I actually heard for the first time back in 2019 when it was released as a single. I have a feeling that some of those familiar with the album would question why I deem “People Disappear Here” as the most rock-oriented, rather than “Nightmare.” The chorus is certainly more characteristic of what I expect most imagine alternative rock to be: charged, angry, and a little bit scary. But alternative rock is a big, big genre, and, like I said before, while “People Disappear Here” takes a calmer sound, the alt-rock aspects are consistent throughout the song. Though there is an undeniable presence of pop punk, and even grunge, in the chorus of “Nightmare,” it completely dissipates during every other part of the song; the verses take on an alternative electronic and trap sound. Regardless, it is a defiant, thought-provoking song about the societal pressures and unfair treatment women face, with loud, fuzzy guitars to match Halsey’s strong vocals.

Though I was definitely impressed by Halsey’s rock experimentation, and I hope they will continue to explore the genre in the future, my favorite track of the album actually sounded more like their conventional music. “I Am Not a Woman, I’m a God” takes heavy influence from synthpop, another major genre in this album, as well as alt-pop. One of the most popular tracks on the album, it is immediately likeable with a centered melody in the hook, rapid, pulsing synths, and a metallic drum machine. The lyrics are also exceptional, namely the lines in the chorus: “I am not a woman, I’m a God. I am not a martyr, I’m a problem. I am not a legend, I’m a fraud.” The pattern would imply that women are actually superior to “Gods,” – yet Halsey identifies with the inferior. I think it is a really cool concept, and, when layered atop the song’s dark groove, it makes for a great song.

Again, I would not say I disliked Halsey before. But, overall, after listening to this album, I can confidently say that their music thus far shows promise, even if she is not solely responsible for every single musical and lyrical element in every single song. I would encourage anyone who enjoys any kind of alternative pop and alternative rock to give the album a listen.