Halsey - Hopeless Fountain Kingdom
4.5Overall Score

Halsey describes the development of her sophomore album as going through a “prolonged breakup” and becoming “obsessed with Romeo and Juliet.” Consequently that world she was living in became the album, Hopeless Fountain Kingdom. But not only is this just Halsey’s world, but the fans’ too. Just in the same way that her debut album Badlands encased fans in a booming metropolis surrounded by a dystopian wasteland, every detail was thought out thoroughly in Halsey’s head during the writing process. The entire structure of Badlands was a metaphor for Halsey’s state of mind, it doesn’t get more personal than that. Badlands was about her relationship with herself, “Hopeless Fountain Kingdom is about fighting to get back to that relationship.”

‘The Prologue’, if you haven’t followed the story of the album up until now, makes obvious touches on the Romeo and Juliet storyline, talking about “two households” and “a pair of star-crossed lovers”. However the story starts inside the track ‘100 Letters’, a regretful Halsey making wishes that she “never gave you anything” over the top of a metallic beat. Abel Tesfaye, or as the world knows him, The Weeknd lent his rather potent writing skills on track ‘Eyes Closed’, following on from ‘100 Letters’ and is the story of a love no longer wanted. It follows the same tempo but leans into a more impactful chorus with the theme Halsey moving on, “If I keep my eyes closed, he looks just like you. He’ll never stay, they never do.”

Swapping the electronic beats for more mordern jazz beats, ‘Alone’ gives a picturesque image of Halsey standing in the middle of a cabaret club draped in fancy jewels, singing about how many people want to meet her but “would wish that you never did.” The track, whilst still blending into the core of the album, takes a turn of musical direction that is wonderfully welcomed. The first single ‘Now Or Never’ drew enough attention due to its more ‘pop’ edge that stands in comparison to her previous album. It may be the one track that everyone knows but marvellously jumps out amongst tracks that feel just as powerful.

‘Sorry’ is the first piano ballad Halsey has released on an album since her EP track ‘Trouble’, however ‘Sorry’ sparks a more solemn lyrical burst of feelings about an “unknown lover”. Quite the compelling statement of self-doubt, “sorry that I can’t believe, that anybody ever really starts to fall in love with me.” This very track sitting inside the halfway point of Hopeless Fountain continues to instil Halsey’s personal concept bounded to Romeo and Juliet, that the feelings and story thrown into this specific track aren’t fiction but do have a severity of personal truth inside them.

The short but sweet, ‘Walls Could Talk’ wields some aggressive electronic beating, intertwining different sounds inside the small frame of one minute forty one seconds. An image of messy nights fuel the visuals of this intense track that is finished before you know it and leading into ‘Bad At Love’. A track that feels like it sits directly in between Badlands and HFK. Talking about relationships with both a male and female is something fans have wanted to hear from the bisexual singer for a while. With all that aside, the song builds upon the rest of the albums struggle with relationships coming together in a wonderfully interesting storyline.

Before you think you’ve heard all the musical twists and turns, swearing and interesting lines the album has to offer, the most unusual track ‘Don’t Play’ comes out of nowhere. Shaking the album up, it bases itself around the sole chorus lines of “Motherfucker don’t play with me” against a distorted electronic mash up, that could almost sound like laughter. Ending on the repetitive words “women don’t play no games,” which is entirely fitting to lead into ‘Strangers’ featuring Fifth Harmony’s own Lauren Jauregui. From the release of the track listing of HFK, this was one of the most talked about tracks without hearing any version of the song whatsoever. Jauregui came out last year as bisexual in an open letter to Donald Trump, so considering that Halsey is also bisexual, excitement for the specific track grew inside the LGBT+ community. The entire song uses ‘she’ pronouns speaking of two women growing apart. “We’re not lovers, we’re just strangers, with the same damn hunger to be touched, to be loved, to feel anything at all.” Not the love song some were thinking it would be or some may have hoped but still means more to girls who like girls than those who don’t would know.

The truthful and open chorus of ‘Angel On Fire’ not only provides the lyrical truthfulness of Halsey but proves to hold the most aggressive and saddening vocals so far. In the way that ‘Alone’ dealt with feeling outside everything even though people she is surrounded by people, ‘Angel On Fire’ takes a darker turn with a more dreamlike description of how she is fading away. “I’m standing in the ashes of who I used to be,” tracing back to the beginning of Halsey trying to get back to the relationship she had with herself on Badlands. The distorted sounds of ‘Hopeless’ featuring Cashmere Cat rounds off the album on an auto tuned note that kind of leaves you wishing for that one extra track, but instead you’re left with the ability and want to replay what you’re given all over again.

The only similarities between her debut and HFK is that it still includes those deep cut tracks that fans will fall in love with, and that’s something to be proud of. Halsey’s fan base likes to encase themselves inside her work, they aren’t the type to listen to the album once, pay attention to the singles or only the songs with the music videos. Yet again she’s managed to create an entire world that feels entirely real, real enough to see themselves inside it and this is the reason the fans resonate so much with her and will too with this album. What Halsey has managed to do is continue the success of Badlands whilst still evolving into something new and fresh and Hopeless Fountain Kingdom is anything but a rework of her debut.