When I first heard that Halsey had the new song “So Good” recorded and ready to release, I was thrilled, as were many others. Interest in the song was high, but there was one problem. In a TikTok, Halsey said Capitol Records Inc. refused to release her new song until several TikToks went viral and accumulated a certain number of likes and comments. Ironically, this TikTok garnered enough views, articles and backlash that the label agreed to release the song on June 9, with the music video following the next day.
Labels requesting that artists try to go viral on TikTok is nothing new, and the discourse surrounding the topic is familiar territory. Other artists, including Florence Welch of Florence + The Machine, experienced similar pressure from their managers and, like Halsey, used TikToks to complain about it. In my mind, it’s fine for labels to ask artists to promote their music in certain ways; artists like GAYLE and songs like “Heat Waves” and “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” owe their fame in part to TikTok. But tying the release of a song to specific engagement metrics is something different altogether.
Given Halsey’s successful career, there is little evidence that any of their songs would have been less popular without a viral TikTok. Starting with their first album, “BADLANDS” (2015), Halsey has had several celebrated albums — “hopeful fountain kingdom” (2017), “Manic” (2020), and Grammy-nominated “If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power” (2021). That last album dropped alongside an accompanying film shown in IMAX but with little promotion. Halsey has also had successful collaborations, most notably “Closer” with The Chainsmokers (which was also nominated for a Grammy) and “Boy With Luv (feat. Halsey)” with BTS.
On top of their popularity allowing them to release successful new music, Halsey has also been able to use her platform to speak out on numerous topics. Most notably, Halsey is openly bisexual and uses she/they pronouns. Their music reflects this, using she/her pronouns for their lover in “Strangers” from the album “hopeless fountain kingdom” and including a song called “I am not a woman, I’m a god” on their album “If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power.” They have also been vocal about their health struggles, including endometriosis, an issue that is often under-discussed and underdiagnosed.
Following the birth of her son, Ender Ridley Aydin, with partner Alev Aydin, Halsey faced new and worsened health conditions. She received diagnoses for Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, Sjogren’s syndrome, mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS), and postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS). This group of autoimmune conditions can make daily life more difficult, but Halsey still does their best to keep up with demanding tours and performances. Being open about her struggles with these conditions also brings important awareness to others who may be battling with them but haven’t been diagnosed.
By contrast, Halsey has mostly kept private about her relationship with Alev Aydin. Still, she opens up in her upbeat song “So Good” and its accompanying music video. After “If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power,” which features mostly darker alternative pop, Halsey’s newest song is relatively bright, like the love story it represents, and almost mainstream. Like previous their music, the song is still filled with beautiful, evocative lyrics like “All the stars are fated,” along with longing in lines like “But I regret just one thing / I never got to change your mind.” Between verses, the tempo alternates between slow and fast and back again while their voice goes from smooth and dream-like to rich and raw, a familiar power from songs like “The Tradition.”
Over the course of less than three minutes, “So Good” traverses the timeline of Halsey’s relationship. It starts with when they first meet, with “I remember the night / I was so frustrated / I touch your hand for the first time.” By the middle of the song, years pass, years when Halsey and Alev worked together and got closer. Halsey sings of this time period with lines like “Couple years flashin’ by / And I’m doin’ okay” and “I bеt you’re happy and that’s fine,” a kind of reluctant acceptance followed in the next verse by “I wish things were different.”
The song becomes most triumphant at the end when the lyrics change from the chorus of “And I was hopin’ you would tell her it was over” to “I never knew that you would tell her it was over” and from “You’re all I think about and everywhere I look” to “‘Cause I’m all you think about and everywhere you look.” As time passes, the roles reverse and love blooms between friends — one who had been pining and one who leaves another relationship — brought together by the idea that “we could be so good.”
Directed by the subject of the song, Alev Aydin, the accompanying music video features Halsey directing a video about themself and Aydin, watching him and an actress playing a younger version of the singer from afar. The video depicts sparse yet aesthetic scenes set against a looming dark background, often featuring lights like a mirror and a chandelier. Sitting on a sofa, Alev trains his camera on the younger Halsey, who sits in front of a mirror and wears a white dress. Throughout the video, we follow this Halsey, who has a throwback shoulder-length dark blue bob, a hairstyle most visible on their “BADLANDS” album cover.
While the “horror elements” Halsey teased for the video are initially few and far between, they appear more frequently in the second part. We cut from the studio set to the blue-haired Halsey sitting in the dark, then walking up to the next scene: a man lying on a sofa with another woman draped on top of him. Halsey holds a small white projector with a visible Samsung logo on it, and as they set it down, an invisible force lifts the woman up from the couch. Sitting relatively still, the man watches alongside the almost (dare I say?) manic blue-haired Halsey, an unsettling smile on their face. As she lip-syncs to lines like “She asked me if there’s any extra weight I carry,” she twitches and grins, her eyes abnormally wide.
My favorite part of the film comes in this same scene, serving as a heartwarming counter to the light horror. The videos projected on the screen for the pair (and us) to watch are private moments, home videos of the real Halsey. In the blurry footage, they walk with Alev. She cradles young Ender. In a moment just as touching as the home videos, Halsey gets up and strides away from this man, walking instead toward Alev, her love.
At the end, the video transitions from the blue-haired Halsey to the real Halsey embracing her partner and kissing. We saw this passionate kiss amid the blue and red tones in the middle of the video, a scene showing the love the couple shares. It matches perfectly with the triumphant, adoring end of “So Good” that plays over it. We come full circle when we see Halsey staring off into space — presumably having imagined the whole scene — then calling out “Action” to signal the scene is ready to start filming, ending the video.
With its emotional, years-long love story, Halsey’s new single “So Good” more than deserves the buildup leading to its release. I can understand why Halsey wanted so desperately to release it as soon as possible. From the heartfelt lyrics of love and longing to the music video directed by Alev Aydin himself, Halsey’s song is thoughtful and well-crafted in a way befitting of its personal nature. I also can’t help but listen again and again to its extremely catchy pop music, thinking about how Halsey’s relationship and music are “so good.”