Halsey made a profound statement when her debut album BADLANDS took over the pop and indie scene. Taking her from the suburbs of Newark right to the grand stage of Madison Square Garden, Halsey went on a journey in the era of BADLANDS and took some time to get the next one going. Now she's back, and Halsey builds a narrative in Hopeless Fountain Kingdom, and while the music doesn't always support the quality, the story brings a nice change.
Halsey introduces the story of the album with 'The Prologue,' the album's beginning track. It sets up the scene in a similar fashion to Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet, with a modern-day taste to it. If you move past the pretentious side to this, it's a solid way of introducing the album. The first full track of the record, '100 Letters,' brings an ethnic start to the album, its Indian drums providing a nice new sound for her to experiment with. The song follows the idea of a couple trying to repair a breaking relationship. It almost goes hand in hand with the prologue; though, instead of two forbidden lovers trying to make it work, it's two lovers trying to repair a forsaken love. It does, however, have the same idea of foreshadowing: the couple breaks up, just like how Romeo and Juliet both die.
The idea of two forbidden lovers was toyed with in the video for the lead single 'Now Or Never.' This plays more closely to the idea of Romeo & Juliet: two enemy factions faced with two of their members falling in love. The atmospheric sound gives the song a sense of intimacy, the choruses expanding as Halsey begs "I want you to hold me down." It's a nice song that certainly fits the narrative, but lacks a sense of sonic climax. It just doesn't feel like ti goes anywhere. The same is true of previous track 'Alone,' it's vintage vibe offering a cool vibe but doesn't amount to much.
There are plenty of great moments on the album that everything comes together. The drama of 'Lie' is assisted by Migos' Quavo, both sides of the couple both pondering over the toxicity of their relationship. Quavo comes in as a surprise over the dark instrumental after Halsey anthemically brings it in with the first verse. The pre-chorus damningly chants "All I'm sayin' is if you don't love me no more then why lie?" 'Walls Could Talk' comes in with a neo-baroque sound (that is, a playful, dinky vibe by strings accentuated by thick, dark synths) as Halsey creepily chants. 'Bad Love' follows with a dark, melodic synth with a charming melody to top it, Halsey's belting in the choruses really coming out strong.
At the core of the record is the piano ballad 'Sorry,' which in many ways is also the heart of the album. It's a revealing track, Halsey singing about her insecurities and all the details and memories she keeps with her. She somberly sings in the chorus, "So I'm sorry to my unknown lover / Sorry that I can't believe / That anybody ever really / Starts to fall in love with me," apologizing for her own insecurities that came with the past. In many ways, that's what this album is all about: how things can fall apart in the face of who you are. By its end, yes, the couple has broken up and their time has come, but that's okay. When love dies, so can your soul, but if you can keep it alive, than you can start fresh and continue on. Your story does not end, just as the story of Hopeless Fountain Kingdom doesn't. Love and life is a journey that does not end unless you let it.
Halsey's Hopeless Fountain Kingdom is a modern telling of Romeo & Juliet in many ways. What is most important about it is that is teaches us that there isn't an end. Tragedy may come, and tragedy may leave, but we will always continue. Halsey's dramatic approach to the story comes in a way to really makes us understand the nature of these things, and lets us leave with a more confident approach. You can strive for continuation - that is the real take away.
Favorite Tracks: Sorry, Lie, Eyes Closed, Walls Could Talk
Least Favorite Track: Good Mourning
Rating: 81 / 100
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