Halsey returns with a conceptual sophomore LP, ‘Hopeless Fountain Kingdom,’ an enjoyable effort that’s all over the place.
In 2015, Halsey seemed to arrive out of thin air. Even so, her debut album Badlands debuted at no. 2 on the Billboard 200. It would go on to spawn a memorable hit single with “New Americana,” featuring one of the catchiest choruses of the year. Now that she’s properly ‘come up,’ Halsey returns with her highly-anticipated sophomore album, Hopeless Fountain Kingdom. Hopeless Fountain Kingdom is conceptual, incorporating the artist’s own love issues as well as referencing Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, among numerous other influences.
On “The Prologue,” Halsey recites portion of Romeo & Juliet, setting the conceptual tone of the album. She eventually sings, drenched in effects. “100 Letters” follows in incredibly rhythmic fashion. Thematically, it has pop sensibilities, but manages to incorporate the concept. The best characteristic of “100 Letters” is her feistiness.
“Eyes Closed” opens mysteriously, possessing a darker quality. Halsey delivers vocals drenched in reverb on the first verse. The vibe of the vocals, like the production, is similarly enigmatic. Essentially, she sounds hazy, with the lyrics matching the haze with a lack in depth. The vocals are clearer on the second verse. The chorus serves as the best moment of the record.
Standout “Alone” samples popular soul gem “Nothing Can Stop Me” (Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, Jr.). Vocally, Halsey’s tone sounds particularly beautiful here. She opts for a more soulful sound. Interestingly, she references how she’s changed over the years. She asserts the lover that wants her will be surprised and perhaps disappointed by how she’s changed:
“Now or Never” is firmly planted in pop. The modus operandi is love versus non-love. She keeps it real, yet simple. From her perspective, her lover is “hot n cold.” “Now or Never” isn’t particularly innovative in its subject matter, production, vocal performance or otherwise, but is ultimately sound.
“Sorry” gives Halsey an absolutely stunning, sincere ballad. She offers an apology for her unbelief in herself as well as her inadequacies in the course of a relationship. She later urges her unknown lover, “Someone will love you.”
Conceptual Interlude “Good Mourning” incorporates a couple of great lines, while “Lie” showcases the ambitious nature of the album. Featuring Quavo, “Lie” embraces a hip-hop sensibility, which Halsey adapts to suit her unique personality and style. The brief “Walls Could Talk” sounds like a throwback to 90s teen-pop.
On the powerful, yet self-explanatory “Bad at Love,” Halsey is open about being bad at love. Her lover switches between a guy and a girl, which leads perfectly into “Strangers,” featuring Lauren Jauregui, a groovy record. Early on, it establishes itself as an LGBTQ love song. Conceptually, it keeps things fresh, and socially, it delivers a more progressive statement.
“Devil in Me” and “Hopeless,” featuring Cashmere Cat, conclude Hopeless Fountain Kingdom. The adverse effects of love continue to affect Halsey on “Devil in Me,” where she comes to the realization she’s “gotta wake up.” As for “Hopeless,” she captures hopelessness on the dramatic chorus, in which her vocals are drenched in effects.
Ultimately, Hopeless Fountain Kingdom is an interesting album. It is imperfect, yet has plenty of compelling moments. Perhaps the listener doesn’t leave this effort characterizing Halsey as an elite vocalist per se, but at the same time, she’s an intriguing personality with a respectable artistic restlessness. All in all, Hopeless Fountain Kingdom is captivating, if all over the place.
Note: Interested in the the full, detailed analysis of Hopeless Fountain Kingdom? Check out the article Halsey, Hopeless Fountain Kingdom | Album Review on The Musical Hype.
Gems: “100 Letters,” “Alone,” “Now or Never,” “Sorry” & “Strangers”