If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power – Halsey

Halsey and Nine Inch Nails working together is a dream come true, and the electronic rock they’ve put together, full of the unique grittiness that each have to bring to the table, is constantly masterful and a joy to listen to. Sure, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross may not have put their names on the cover, but their signature is there in the first three notes of the album; that’s right, it’s the tritone pattern that begins “Hurt”. This album’s sound may be cleaner than anything Halsey or NIN have put out, but that just makes it easier to hear the fast drum beats, unconventional mode mixture, and wildly catchy vocal melodies. I confess, I do not understand the themes of this album; yes, I understand the emotions of the words, and it is profoundly impactful, but I just don’t have the experience to discuss their exploration of pregnancy and childbirth. Still, I know that every part of it is important, from the cover’s defiantly non-sexual nudity to the deliberately horrifying proposition of “You asked for this”. The harmony is always interesting, from the major scales of “Girl is a Gun” and “I am not a woman, I’m a god” to the grunge progressions of “Easier than Lying” (i-III-IIIb-VIIb) and “Whispers” (i-IV/vi-VIIb-VIb-IV/vi-VIIb) to the v pedal over “honey”, the contrapuntal trills on “Bells in Santa Fe”, the parallel tritone movement and vocal harmonies of “The Tradition”, and, you know, so on. The percussion is a perpetual highlight; I never thought I’d hear an uptempo Halsey song, but they work damn well. Thanks in part to the hard, fast grooves she’s never had before, Halsey’s melodies are more catchy and compelling than ever; from the snaking, wild motion of “Lilith” to the calming, constant pulsing of “You asked for this” to the methodical slow burn of “Ya’aburnee”, every word she speaks hits with spectacular effectiveness. It’s more than I could have ever wanted; when I heard they were working with NIN, I was hoping for Halsey to go back to the dark, grounded industrial tone of her debut album, Badlands, but If I Can’t Have Love isn’t industrial, and it’s not Badlands. It’s darker, more serious, more lyrical, more complex, and more melodic than Halsey’s ever been, and it’s completely brilliant. There are zero low points; go listen to it immediately.

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