Halsey became one of the few female synth-pop artists able to corner the market on angsty, sexually-charged millennials through tales of teenage rebellion and her own personal sufferings with her 2014 debut “Badlands.”
Fast-forward two years and one internationally chart-topping collaboration with the Chainsmokers later, and now the alternative pop princess has returned with her sophomore album “Hopeless Fountain Kingdom.”
The platinum-selling concept album “Badlands” served as Halsey’s formal introduction to the pop music scene by channeling the dissent from her own life and delivering anthems of anarchy for an entire generation.
But this time, she has a different story to tell.
The New Jersey native starts this record by reciting the prologue of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.” She immediately immerses the listener into a world where her own dark portrayal of the pair of star-crossed lovers exists, one of them being Halsey herself.
Right from the beginning, she is telling us that this story is not about a revolution, but rather a romance – a doomed one at that.
“Alone” tells the story of a party similar to the one hosted by the Capulets where Halsey’s Romeo attends. The tempo of the album changes with this track but the upbeat, jazz-vibe does not trickle down into her lyrics. Halsey is trapped inside her own mind where no one wants to be with her, even though she is aware that Romeo admires her. She tells him that, “As soon as you meet me / You’ll wish that you never did.”
Halsey released “Now or Never” as the leading single from this album and it is clear why. This tune embodies everything this concept album tries to say wrapped up with a big, red bow. Halsey appears to be fighting for the doomed romance to survive but her Romeo does not seem to be as interested in saving it as she is. With a chorus eerily similar to Rihanna’s “Needed Me,” Halsey gives him an ultimatum: Step up and love her — now or never.
Just when listeners had gotten used to the new tempo on the album, Halsey descends back down to darkness with the piano ballad “Sorry.” She starts to take some of the blame for their failed relationship and realizes her own insecurities played a role in their demise. This song is an apology to any future lover she takes because she doesn’t know if she’ll ever be able to get over these emotions.
“Good Mourning” is the one minute interlude where a change in direction can be heard in the resonating chorus that follows the few lines of spoken word provided by Halsey’s own younger brother, Dante. It serves the record a stewing pot of delayed realization with a side of regret as the sun comes up over the horizon.
“Lie” shows Halsey keeping with the piano from earlier to ask Romeo to pretend he loves her even though he doesn’t anymore by exploiting their still present sexual tension. The somber element carries throughout the tune even though she brings in her first feature with Migos member Quavo coming in on the second verse.
The brevity of “Walls Could Talk” should not imply there is any lack of meaning. In just under two minutes, Halsey uses a symphony of violins and pointed lyrics to describe the intensity of the fights between her and her former lover. It transports listeners to the days of Shakespeare until the bass drops in the chorus – that’s when everything changes.
Halsey is known for her brutally honest lyrics and this track puts that on full display with mentions of illicit drug use and indications of her bisexuality. She had hopes that these people could fix her but alas, it was not meant to be.
Halsey teams up with Fifth Harmony’s Lauren Jauregui on the next track. “Strangers” is the story of Romeo and Juliet drifting apart with Jauregui taking on the role of Romeo. Each tell their side of the story on why their love ceased even though the memories they share bond them forever.
This tale of tragedy comes to its conclusion with “Hopeless.” In the final installment of their love story, Halsey sings about how she hopes this hopeless feeling won’t last as she goes on a journey to find the girl she was in the “Badlands.”
“Hopeless Fountain Kingdom” takes a trek through Halsey’s mind set as she experienced a painful end to the affair with her former Romeo. She had to go out and find who she was without him.
“The strong girl who fought her way out of the Badlands was gone,” Halsey told iHeartRadio. “I had to go back and save her and I’m lucky that I did.”