Reviewing Halsey’s “Hopeless Fountain Kingdom”

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Skyler Simpson reviews Halsey's album: Hopeless Fountain Kingdom.

Halsey – a legendary singer/songwriter of this generation. She’s iconic, having a new song on the radio almost monthly. Her amazing ability lies not in her poetic words, not in her emotional expression, but in her ability to connect with her fan base.

Her sophomore album, Hopeless Fountain Kingdom, came out on June 2, 2017. Although it’s been out to the public for a little while, my passion for these 16 songs still lives on.

The Prologue

Halsey starts off the album with a reading of Romeo and Juliet’s iconic prologue. She sets the stage for the album, making it clear that these songs aren’t just fillers, they tell a story. After the poem, she layers her voice, singing in harmony for a little while before the song comes to a close. Despite the fact that it’s not really a song but an introduction, it’s one of my favorite pieces on the album. The stacking of her voice is so rich, it shows her ability to sing in a fresh, new way that makes her stand out from other pop moguls.

Rating: 9/10

100 Letters

The second song on HFK talks about Halsey’s transition from an abusive relationship to being single. She describes how her partner frequently put her down, insulted her, and how she actually started to believe him. “He can make me golden if I just show him some respect” represents how he dictated the relationship, but if she followed his unhealthy guidelines, they could have the best of times together. Eventually, Halsey found some respect for herself and left him, and the rest of the song described how he started to appreciate her after they had split, but she recognized he hadn’t changed for the better. Despite not being one of my favorite songs, I love how raw the lyrics are and her bold ability to write about important issues that need to be fixed.

Rating 8/10

Eyes Closed

Now that Halsey’s out of her relationship, she’s having rebound after rebound to try and numb the pain of being alone. She states that by pretending her rebounds are past lovers, she can get a moment of happiness when she closes her eyes, blind to the person right in front of her. It’s one of the more pop-ish songs on the album, but her vocal emotion separates it from the everyday filler song on the radio.

Rating: 8/10

Heaven in Hiding

Halsey has finally discovered some self-worth, as this song describes how lucky someone would be to have her. However, it’s also about her ability to manipulate others when one of her rebounds catches feelings for her. She might not feel the same, but she’ll lead them on until dropping them without a second thought. This song represents when Halsey is coming out of her rebound period, and discovering that being alone isn’t so bad. Featuring a catchy chorus, “Heaven in Hiding” has poetic lyrics and an enjoyable tune.

Rating: 8/10

Alone

Speaking of being alone, Halsey has finally embraced the single life. Whenever anyone wants to hang out with her, she’s always alone in her mind. Besides her newfound freedom, “Alone” hints at some of her isolation that comes out of her loneliness, when she’s not jumping from person to person. This is one of my favorite songs on the album, because the style differs from the rest of her songs. It’s more “jazzy” than other songs, and she conveys her ability to use her vocals in a cooler, more mature way.

Rating: 10/10

Now or Never

This was her first single released onto the radio, and it’s very easy to tell. Although it’s still good, it’s performed in a more “pop” way than her other songs, which really isn’t her style. Manufactured for the radio, it was still a hit, but I was slightly disappointed that it didn’t really have the signature Halsey sound. Now, onto the HFK storybook – this represents the next phase of her journey to love. After taking some time alone to reflect, Halsey sings about how any future relationship would have to have a strong sense of commitment. The chorus is extremely catchy!

Rating: 8/10

Sorry

The most emotional song on the album by far, Halsey pours out her emotion over nothing but a piano. After her period of isolation, she takes some time to externalize her sadness and sort through it. She sings about her insecurities in love and how she feels that nobody really likes her for who she is. Not only that, Halsey uses this song to apologize everyone she’s ever blown off with her behavior in songs like “Heaven in Hiding”. Another reason why I love this song is how it connects to the previous songs, and also since it reveals a personal layer of Halsey’s persona that she hadn’t yet uncovered to her fans.

Rating: 10/10

Good Mourning

In all honesty, I don’t think this belongs on the album. It’s the voice of a kid talking about how “hopelessness is a state of mind”. It’s not even a song, actually. I get how it relates to the album, since it’s about feeling hopeless, but it’s basically a filler piece that, quite frankly, I don’t have much to say about.

Rating: 6/10

Lie (feat. Quavo)

Breaking the pattern of sadness in her previous songs, Halsey appears to be in the angry state of her single life. She tells a tale about a relationship gone seriously wrong, with the other person acting hateful towards her. Besides her obvious resentment towards her ex-partner, this song represents a lot more than a sour relationship – it describes the importance of escaping a bad situation. Halsey sings in a monotone voice for the majority of the song, the only break being when Quavo raps in the same monotone as Halsey. If you’re looking for a fresh, exciting song, “Lie” is the opposite.

Rating: 6/10

Walls Could Talk

Another song from a slightly angry state of mind, Halsey belts out a tune about dating someone who she doesn’t actually love. There’s a lot of secrets in the relationship, making it unhealthy. The term “walls could talk” conveys how if each person knew what the other was saying about them behind their back, the relationship would be up in flames. The chorus has synth tones, making it one of the most unique songs on the album. Her fresh perspective on music makes “Walls Could Talk” a hit.

Rating: 8/10

Bad at Love

Her second single from HFK, “Bad at Love” is about her missteps in relationships. Halsey describes 4 relationships and why they didn’t work out. It’s not just a typical pop song, the second half describes two same-sex relationships. Halsey is openly bisexual, and she uses her platform to advocate for LGBTQ+ rights through her music. The chorus has a great melody, and she stretches her vocal abilities to the max while belting the title. “Bad at Love” fits in the general HFK storyline because she’s acknowledging her faults after her anger subsided.

Rating: 10/10

Don’t Play

Out of all of the songs on HFK, this one probably has the least substance and the best beat. The lyrics aren’t about love, they’re just about her life and how quickly it moves. She repeats, over and over and over again, that “women don’t play games.” I don’t understand why she would say that, since half the album is about the games she plays revolving around love. Also, she kind of alludes to the fact that, in a relationship, it’s mostly guys who disrespect the other person, which isn’t true at all. This song doesn’t seem to fit in with the album.

Rating: 7/10

Strangers (feat. Lauren Jauregui)

“Strangers” is probably one of the only same-sex songs written by a popular, on-the-radio artist. The great thing about it isn’t the content, but how there’s no attention given to the pronouns. It’s not a huge deal, it’s just something that should be normalized. That’s exactly what Halsey is doing, while being an advocate and idol for LGBTQ+ youth. It has a great message as well, and fits into the album story because she’s getting into a new relationship. Additionally, it features Lauren Jauregui, a member from the band Fifth Harmony, to complete the duet. They harmonize in the chorus, and their voices seem to fit together well.

Rating: 10/10

Angel on Fire

Out of the 16 songs on HFK, “Angel on Fire” is the only song not about love, but about Halsey’s life. She talks about her childhood, and how difficult it was growing up. Her parents didn’t seem to recognize her passion for music, and she described how they pushed her aside. I’m not sure how this fits into the story, but nevertheless, it’s a rich song with one of the better beats on the album.

Rating: 8/10

Devil in Me

The song before the finale, “Devil in Me” does not disappoint. Fitting into the album’s flow, Halsey’s mix of lyrics have to do with her love life and her personal life. She pours emotion into the piece, describing how her jealousy ruins a ton of her relationships. The “devil” in her consists of all of her attributes that create an obstacle between her and the ones she loves. In terms of emotion, Halsey sings about herself like she’s experiencing what she’s describing in the moment.

Rating: 8/10

Hopeless (feat. Cashmere Cat)

A strong conclusion to the album, which also happens to be my favorite song on the album, Halsey collaborates with Cashmere Cat to produce some more harmony, making the song mostly melodic and less lyrical. Going back to the title of her album, Halsey’s in a new relationship again, and she’s not too happy with it. The use of harmony in this song makes it relaxing, but being the conclusion of the album, it gives enough space for the listener to ponder what they just heard. Her harmony isn’t just typical voice stacking, it fades in and out to create tone and seems to tell a story without uttering a single word.

Rating: 10/10

Hopeless Fountain Kingdom – The Complete Album

If the album is played on repeat, it can almost seem like a cycle, “Hopeless” to “100 Letters” is her transition from an okay relationship to a toxic one. Although there are a few duds, as to be expected from any album, a strong majority of the songs are excellent and meaningful.

Rating: 9/10