By Miriam Bluth
On August 27, 2021, Halsey dropped her fourth album entitled “If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power,” co-produced by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. This piece of work takes us into a different dimension than the one Halsey’s recent pop hits lived in; it brings us back to her alternative roots. This dark, edgy, and almost unsettling album makes it clear that Halsey wanted to do something different, as she successfully lures us into her mysterious dystopian musical universe.
The album kicks off with “The Tradition,” an ominous piano heavy piece that feels like a villain’s anthem. It sets a dark mood that flows into the next song, titled “Bells in Santa Fe.” With a focus on the feathery sound of the synth, Halsey imbues a maniacally playful rhythm, picturesque of a suspenseful chase in the night. An abrupt ending transports us straight into “Easier Than Lying,” an obnoxious punk rock tune that deserves a crazy crowd and flashing strobe lights. It almost feels like a break-up song on steroids – angry yet satisfying – and is sure to get listeners moving. Next, Halsey takes it down a notch with “Lilith,” using a chill, alternative, lazy drumbeat. The song has a certain rawness that creates the feeling of a live studio jam session rather than a song made for radio. This is also the first time in the album that Halsey uses a dab of stylistic autotune, and here it adds a dimension of dark yet controlled rage, fitting with the theme of the album.
In the next tune, entitled “Girl is a Gun,” Halsey maintains her ominous sound but brightens it up a bit. The piece is busy, heavily textured, and playful in an uncontrolled way. We reach a peak in the next song,“You asked for this.” Crashing drums are flying everywhere, the rhythmic guitar is loud and crunchy, and it feels messy yet relieving, as if all her angry energy is spilling out to form this one piece of emo teenage like rage. Halsey then eases us back down with a slow ending, which transitions beautifully into the seemingly unfitting yet glowing “Darling,” a sweet, comforting acoustic piece that permeates a sense of serenity after the emotional storm Halsey just threw us into. But, staying true to the trend of the album, while clearly also being influenced by the nine inch nails frontman, Trent Reznor, we jump right back into Halsey’s dystopia with “1121.” This song feels like it jumped straight out of a horror movie. With hints of desperation and cunning, it’s easy to imagine a villain creeping up on their victims’ with this track as the background. Next, we get a little more playful in the punky tune entitled “honey.” It feels aggressively happy in an uncontrollable way, and with crashing drums and busy sound filling your ears, it’s hard not to tap your foot along or shake your head to the racing tempo.
As the album begins to wind down, we have arguably the most downright creepy track of the album entitled “Whispers.” Of course, being the dramatic queen she is, Halsey literally whispers numerous times on this track, giving listeners goosebumps as the unsettling suspense of the song sets in. The tone of the song, as well as the lyrics, allow listeners to get a glimpse of the dark, self sabotaging side of Halsey’s mind.
Finally, we get to the wannabe single of the album, “I am not a woman, I’m a god.” This song has Halsey’s alternative pop stamp all over it. It’s edgy and original, emitting an empowering aura that embodies the “Mean Girls” strut down the school hall. It’s crude and blunt but not to an unsettling degree, dancing perfectly on the line between boorish and bold. Coming close to the end of the album, the next track is entitled “The Lighthouse.” It’s once again dark and alternative, but unlike the previous fast paced punky pieces, this tune feels heavy and big in a cinematic and dramatic sense, as if it’s the audio of a lucid nightmare. Its crashing chorus paints the perfect picture of a lighthouse view of a stormy sea in chaos. And finally, the 13th and final song that closes the masterpiece that is “If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power”:“Ya’asburnee”..” It’s mysterious yet simple, sad yet hopeful. This mix of emotions is the perfect end to a perfect album, as Halsey slowly slips away, leaving us with a measure of satisfaction, alongside the urge to experience this musical whirlwind all over again.