When Halsey announced their fourth album If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power the details were scarce. All we knew was that it was produced by Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor, enough to allow people’s imaginations to run wild.
Halsey had always given rock-tinged moments but they've been a popstar for the most part. Here, however, they shed the burden of expectation to make the album they've always wanted to make.
Let’s journey through it from beginning to end.
Immediately, we’re thrown into this haunting world of meandering instrumentals and medieval melodies. “It’s in the blood and this is tradition,” Halsey sings with defiant darkness. It’s not the most immediate song on the album but it’s a tantalising intro - one that leads us gently into the kingdom.
Bells In Santa Fe
The flickering synths here are reminiscent of Reznor and Ross’ cinematic work. A beat seems to linger above but never properly drops creating an expansive and tense atmosphere. “It’s not a happy ending,” Halsey sings, foreshadowing an album that we already suspected would be dark. “All of this is temporary,” they repeat before the song thunders into the next.
Easier Than Lying
Finally, the beat drops and we’re thrown into a world of scuzzy guitars and alarming screams. Halsey is a triumphant rock vocalist and they absolutely shine in the chorus here. “I’ll hang myself if they give me rope,” they sing in one of the most explicitly dark moments on the record. They have already clarified the use of the phrase, explaining it means, “empowering someone with an ability or power that will later become a self detriment to them.”
Pop fans will rejoice at this one if you’ve been hanging out for a melody that you can clutch onto. Lilith is still dark and meandering but its hip-hop-influenced beat allows Halsey to demonstrate how succulent their pop melodies can be. “I just fuck things up have you noticed, tell me have you noticed,” they sing, reminding us this is still twisted even if it is a bop.
A Girl Is A Gun
The record is really firing now with Ross and Reznor delivering a skittering, electric beat here. They are wrestling with the fact that they keep chasing love but ultimately feel better when they’re alone. “I feel better when the boys stop calling,” they sing but ultimately conclude, “let me show you how to touch my trigger.” It’s the album highlight so far.
you asked for this
Those who were expecting a Nine Inch Nails flavour on this album will see it shine through here. It’s the love child of 3AM and Nightmare and it’s a triumphant moment. Self-destruction, recklessness, and reliance seem to be at the heart of the matter here. “You better show ‘em why you talk so loud,” Halsey sings as if they're wrestling with the position they’ve made for themselves as an outspoken public figure.
The album’s first true ballad is a tear-jerker. Over an acoustic guitar that ebbs and flows beautifully they sing, "couldn’t really tell you where they’d leave a stone to visit me when I’m dead and gone.” It’s a devastating moment about the displacement that comes with being on the road all the time. Halsey sounds pristine with some of their gentlest vocal work on the record.
Here we pick back up from the haunting atmosphere that lingered over the record’s opening moments. “I know the parts of myself I hated,” they sing, wrestling with this feeling that love is fleeting. The title is in reference to the day they found out they were pregnant - 21st November.
Dave Grohl jumps on the drums in honey with Halsey recounting a relationship. It’s not the song that’s going to shine above the others but it’s sweet (‘scuse the pun) and richly melodic.
“Scroll through the phone, gettin’ high of the light,” is the line that’s going to relate to many here. On Whispers, Halsey depicts a late night spot of anxiety. They literally whisper here as if they're the voice inside their head keeping them up with juxtaposing thoughts like, “you do not want him” and “bet I could fuck him.” Very cinematic and narrative-driven.
I am not a woman I’m a god
This is the first single off the record and it really does feel like the heart of it. It’s pulsating and anxious, working slowly into a heavy chorus that has Halsey declaring, “I am not a woman I’m a god.” They told Zane Lowe explicitly that this is not a “girl power” album and this seems to be a defiant statement of that. They’re negating all expectations of people have of themselves and concluding, “I’m better all alone.”
This is one of the crunchiest, steely rock songs on the album with the whole thing soaked in reverb. Halsey has ventured into rock plenty of times before but there’s something icier about this. They’ve gone in deep and they may not return.
A love song! At the tail end of the album, Halsey’s guard drops down and they declare their love for the father of their child. As always with Halsey, it’s delivered with a tinge of darkness. “You will bury me, before I bury you,” they sing. It feels like a resolution of sorts at the end of an emotionally dense record.