There’s a curious phenomenon in pop music, wherein someone denting the charts while maintaining even mild kookiness or slightly out-of-the-ordinary talents is rhapsodically hailed as a “revolutionary.” Take Alicia Keys, for example: Despite making pleasant but pretty standard-fare R&B, the fact that she could tap out some classical piano had fans practically branding her the next Rachmaninoff.
Halsey has a few stylistic eccentricities (brightly dyed hair, overalls, whatever), and paired with the slightest bit of sass, she’s seemingly now considered to be a pop seditionary. One influential music publication recently called her “a rebel at peace,” viewing her as the “anti–pop star” she bills herself to be—despite her following the pop star blueprint to a fairly absolute T.
The title track of Halsey’s new album Manic sounds a bit like she’s trying to hop on the Billie Eilish train. But another track, “I Hate Everybody,” might just take the worst title prize. The word “hate” is not one to be thrown around lightly—just ask Kelis—and the song turns out to be just another mushy ballad, one that is lyrically confusing to boot: “So I’ll just hate everybody / Well, then why can’t I go home without somebody? / And really, I could fall in love with anybody who don’t want me.” (Huh?) Even “Killing Boys,” which promises something of a feminist war cry, breaks down the battle hymn to a simplistic “have you ever keyed a Ferrari before?”
Musically, it’s all so calculatedly quirky that you almost wonder if Pee-wee Herman wasn’t called in as a consultant. Sure, young people need a rebel or two to guide them through the empty promises of capitalism and conformity. But might I recommend someone like Janelle Monáe instead?