On ‘hopeless fountain kingdom,’ Halsey Grimly Rejects Pop Precedents

The album follows the artist as she comes to grips with the emotional toll of remaining so publicly vulnerable.

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The album follows the artist as she comes to grips with the emotional toll of remaining so publicly vulnerable.

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Halsey–originally known as Ashley Nicolette Frangipane, who uses Halsey as an anagram for her real name–recently released her album “hopeless fountain kingdom,” which contains sixteen vulnerable songs. With hypnotic tones and lyrics, the album contains a dreamy, compelling quality that allows listeners to enter Halsey’s world. At first, Halsey posted covers on YouTube, eventually leading her to share her original songs on SoundCloud. Her career skyrocketed, as she now has three albums and over 4.5 million followers on Instagram. Having battled with a difficult past of bipolar disorder, drug use and homelessness, Halsey’s music embodies her journey and life.

When discussing her album, Halsey says that it’s about “two people who want to be in love so badly that they’re willing to change themselves, and in doing so they let the real versions of themselves die.” Each song describes different stages of falling in love, yet Halsey simultaneously seeks to find herself amidst the chaos of such emotions.

“hopeless fountain kingdom” leads with “The Prologue,” which starts out with Halsey speaking and gently glides into electronic, haunting singing. She recreates the story of “Romeo and Juliet” by alluding to two conflicting houses and illustrating a world of division. Toward the middle of the two-minute song, Halsey eerily sings, “I am a child of a money hungry, prideful country.” Instead of focusing on the romantic side of the classical story, Halsey highlights the deeper issues behind the narrative of hatred and hostilities.

The album’s second song, “100 Letters,” addresses her own experiences with love. Halsey sings about a former lover who treated her poorly, yet the song expresses her quest for strength and freedom from his control. Her voice is powerful and strong in the chorus when she says, “And now the whole thing’s finished and I can’t stop wishing/That I never gave you anything.”

Similar to many of Halsey’s reflective pieces, “100 Letters” looks back on a past relationship with both regret and dignity. She also sings about not letting her former lover touch her anymore, therefore redeeming her worth and self. However, she can’t help but wish that she never even fell in love in the first place.  Listeners experience Halsey’s humanity, since even with such empowering strength, she anguishes over her past. Just like how anyone can’t feel completely satisfied with their decisions, the nationally recognized artist can’t find rest because of her sorrow. Yet, in acknowledging that she shouldn’t have given herself to her ex, she finds her worth and strength through music.

Shortly after, Halsey’s most popular song, “Now or Never,” appears in the middle of “hopeless fountain kingdom.” The catchy pop song can perhaps serve as the album’s theme, since it describes the desire to want someone. The urgency in both the title and the lyrics illustrates a consuming longing for another person, a desire so complete that one is willing to lose his or her sense of self in order to attain true love and happiness.

“Now or Never” serves as the foundation of the album, and its popularity in America makes it one to not be forgotten. The first line, “I don’t wanna fight right now,” disregards any problems in a relationship and instead only focuses on an emotional and physical attachment to another person. However, the song’s story is relatable, since infatuation and love tend to triumph over reason and practicality. Halsey acknowledges her own flaws along with her listeners, and the catchiness of the song only highlights the significance of its message.

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“hopeless fountain kingdom” continues with “Lie,” which Halsey sings alongside rap artist Quavo. The song opens with a cold breakfast scene, as the singer states that she feels as if her lover wants her dead. The chorus includes, “If you don’t love me no more/Then lie.” Shortly after describing a consuming desire for another being no matter the costs, Halsey depicts the harmful effects of such an unhealthy love. Her partner is described as hateful and resentful, yet Halsey still desires them to profess love for her, even if it’s fake. The song contains a tragic psychology, as the artist places love above all rationality.

The song “Bad At Love” seems to be Halsey’s main proclamation of her self-awareness with love. Lyrics refer to past relationships with both men and women (since she is openly bisexual and is a strong supporter and role model for the LGBT community; “Strangers” is specifically an anthem for its members) that didn’t work out. She belts out, “I’m bad at love/But you can’t blame me for tryin’.” The singer verbally acknowledges a tragedy in the romance genre, but this time the story is her own, rather than that of Romeo and Juliet.

As the song continues, Halsey is left with herself and no one else. Although she experienced a lot of  pain leading up to this point, she finds that being alone is essential to discovering and embracing oneself. “Bad at Love” describes the journey to solidarity, as each relationship in the verses ends in hopelessness.

The last song, “Hopeless,” includes the words, “I hope hopeless/Changes over time.” Although Halsey demonstrates a lack of success with love, she maintains an optimistic perspective for the future. In hoping for a brighter future, Halsey places her happiness in herself rather than another lover or person. When you decide to cherish yourself, it is then that you more deeply discover your true value and identity. Halsey understands this, and openly shares her journey to such self-love with listeners.

“hopeless fountain kingdom” has a more psychedelic, electronic sound than her previous albums, yet the lyrics embody an incredible quality of empowerment. With each song, Halsey boldly declares her experiences, thoughts and real feelings. Contrary to many pop artists who avoid writing about emotions, Halsey rebels against the genre and defines her own career with vulnerability and strength.

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