Label: Capitol Records
Released: 27th August 2021
Many of the major pop albums released in the last year have been relatively understated and muted. They’ve employed soft focus, light touch sounds and a retrenchment from any sort of maximalist dancefloor elation. Now is very much not the time. Halsey has always stood out from the crowd, though.
Unquestionably a top tier star, just like the other modern pop icons, they have made a significant statement on their fourth album, ‘If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power’, but Halsey is not stepping back in any way in low key fashion. Instead, delivering a bracing and ferocious blast of intense rock and dynamic pop which pushes the boundaries and takes you on a thrilling journey.
The album is the sound of Halsey relentlessly exploring the innermost depths of the psyche as they experience the swirling emotions of motherhood and childbirth combined with having a career as a major star. The result is righteous and abrasive but always striking. Produced in conjunction with Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross and including a turn from Dave Grohl on drums, it’s both their hardest rocking album and their most fluid as it veers from frenetic pop-punk on the super exciting ‘Easier Than Lying’ to lithe electro hip-hop grooves on ‘Lilith’ to the gorgeous folky fingerpicking balladry of ‘Darling’ which effortlessly out ‘Folklore”s Taylor.
The guitar drenched stormers on this album like the turbo charged enormo shoegazey blast of ‘Honey’ are massive and perfectly chime with this year’s buzziest trend but what makes the album even more compelling is the deep and dark emotional excavations that give the album its resonant heart. There is hope and beauty here shrouded in darkness and doubt which culminates in the yearning ode to their child of closing track Ya’aburnee.
‘If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power’ is Halsey’s definitive artistic breakthrough. They have always made great music but this feels bigger. More powerful, more moving, more confident and breathlessly exciting. Halsey doesn’t play by pop rules rather bends them to their will through sheer force of nature. The power is all theirs.