Three years ago, Halsey dropped their third studio album, “Manic,” signaling a change in sonic direction from the singer’s previous pop album, “hopeless fountain kingdom.” After its promotion was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many fans, and even Halsey, still have a deep appreciation for this album. The album serves as an inside look into the singer’s past struggles with bipolar disorder.
In honor of its third birthday on Jan. 17, here’s a ranking of each song from “Manic:”
Arguably, this is one of the most reflective songs on “Manic,” with Halsey creating an open dialogue between them and their fans. The lyrics of this track are simply heartbreaking at times, the singer addressing the conflicts that come with being famous, singing, “And who do you call when it's late at night? / When the headlines just don't paint the picture right / When you look at yourself on a screen and say / ‘Oh my God, there's no way that's me.’”
Overall, “929” is the best song on this album because of its emotional depth and honestly, something Halsey isn’t afraid to do within their music.
Inspired by Kate Winslet’s character of the same name in “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” this song is another that almost challenges “929’s” vulnerability. Halsey simply embraces their inner child on “clementine,” letting their past immaturity come to the surface. In particular, the lines, “I don’t need anyone / I don’t need anyone / I just need everyone and then some” symbolize the delusion Halsey once lived in, not recognizing the good in the people closest to them, a negative feeling stemming from past heartbreak and betrayal.
“Finally // beautiful stranger”
While “Manic” highlights the many setbacks Halsey’s had within their love life, it also allows for moments of hope and resolution, especially with “Finally // beautiful stranger.” This track is a love song, and one that isn’t cheesy or overly redundant, but instead full of warmth and appreciation. The imagery in this song is also incredible, with the singer painting the picture of a couple dancing in a living room, taking up the whole room and spending endless hours talking and swimming in each other’s beauty.
In the past, Halsey has been very open about their health struggles as someone who was diagnosed with endometriosis in their late teens. Because of their condition, the singer has dealt with trauma, especially after experiencing a miscarriage during a concert in 2015. “More” symbolizes the pain of this moment, emphasizing the feelings of loss, guilt and regret of what could’ve been for the singer’s future. This song marks a poignant moment towards the end of the album, and Halsey truly puts their heart on their sleeve by detailing their reproductive battles.
“I HATE EVERYBODY”
“I HATE EVERYBODY” is a key example of Halsey’s rapid change in mood, feeling like they have no more love to give to anyone after multiple failed relationships. A song full of self-loathing, the track is relatable, especially as everyone at some point in their life feels like they’re a burden to someone else. Lyrics such as “I’m my own biggest enemy / Yeah, all my empathy’s a disaster” show Halsey’s inner thoughts, angry with herself for not being able to display proper emotion in the moment.
“Oh, it’s funny how / The warning signs can feel like they’re butterflies” is the key theme of “Graveyard,” which served as the lead single for “Manic” back in 2020. While this song is notable, it also is other-wordly, taking listeners into a story between two lovers that are falling apart because of addiction. The visuals created by Halsey display the warning signs of a dangerous relationship, even if you are falling fast.
Embracing the grunge of the late 1990s and early 2000s, “3am” is a perfect song when you’re in the mood for it. It’s revealing and self-deprecating, and sees Halsey admit to feeling lonely in every aspect of her life, trying to reach out to people who have simply ignored them or cut them out of their lives. “I'm reckless, treated like a necklace / Take a different version and I try it on for size / With everybody that I know / And will you please pick up the f***ing phone?” sees the singer trying to reconcile with themselves, but in the end, there’s no happy result.
“Without Me”may just be one of Halsey’s most famous songs, especially with the weight it held after they released it shortly after breaking up with rapper G-Eazy in 2018. This is the quintessential breakup anthem on “Manic,” and it represented the singer’s emotional growth, a tell-tale sign their storytelling abilities were only strengthening. The song is universal in the sense that anyone who’s gone through a nasty heartbreak can relate to it, especially if you were not the one at fault.
“You should be sad”
While “You should be sad” was a solid attempt by Halsey to produce a pop-country track, it loses some of its credibility because of its redundant nature. Other songs on the album such as “Without Me” and “Graveyard” are more poetic and ethereal descriptions of heartbreak, while this track is aiming to sting, and it gets lost amongst the other genres on “Manic.” Yet, it’s proof that you should not mess with Halsey, the singer admitting to never forgetting a former lover’s missteps.
Accompanied by Alanis Morrisette, “Alanis’ Interlude” is short and sweet, but once again, not extremely memorable. Its storyline is unique in the sense that Halsey and Morrisette sing of a same-sex relationship, emphasizing, “Cause he and she is her / And her and he are love / And I have never felt the difference.” The collaboration works nicely though, allowing for the two alternative singers to promote equality throughout the rest of “Manic.”
Another song about revenge, “killing boys,” sees Halsey turn into a villain, keying an ex’s car and trying to break into their home. The singer is clearly fuming from finding out their partner has been cheating, causing them to plot out the perfect punishment. The song sounds extremely cinematic, and was included in their setlist last summer during Halsey’s “Love & Power” tour, but once again doesn’t stick out as much as the songs before it.
“Ashley” opens the album, and makes listeners question if Halsey will someday quit music, as it seems to bring them more stress and loathing than actual happiness. “Someday, someday / When I burst into flames / I'll leave you the dust, my love / Hope a bit of it'll be enough to help remember the/ Days when we came to this place / I told you I'd spill my guts, I left you to clean it up” is a moment where we see Halsey contemplating their career choice, and imagining what will become of them once they leave the spotlight.
“Forever… (is a long time)”
Halsey is famous for including interludes within their albums, usually in sets of three that cause a break within the tracklist. “Forever… (is a long time)” is the first in this triplet, imitating a rainstorm as the singer begins to realize the person they love is not who they once were. Comparing their lover to watering a plastic flower, clearly, there’s been no signs of improvement within their relationship. The song becomes theatrical as a piano bangs in the background, foreshadowing the darkness that lingers on later in “Manic.”
Featuring actor and singer Dominic Fike, “Dominic’s Interlude” is honestly a disappointing collaboration found on “Manic,” as it sounds almost childish in a sense, which maybe Halsey intended. The second of the triplet interlude in the album, this track is bright and cheery, but also an illusion. The chaos found within “Manic” is muted as the two sing of being attracted to people who bring out the worst in them, with the tone in their voices somewhat worrying as it seems like they’re fine with this treatment.
“SUGA’s Interlude” is an important blend of American and Korean pop music. Definitely one of the most diverse tracks on the album, it’s significant but also has an awkward place in the tracklist, as it’s between “killing boys” and “More,” two songs that are cunning and deeply personal. Thus, this placement causes it to lose some of its traction, but is still notable when reflecting on the album’s collaborations.
Honestly, “Still Learning” just doesn’t match the overall vibe of the album, sounding too much like a wannabe pop song. Even though Halsey admits they have a long way to go in terms of loving who they are, its lyrics just aren’t as impressive as the rest of the tracks, nor do they hold much substance. All in all, it doesn’t feel like a typical Halsey song, but at least the singer tried to experiment.