Halsey’s voice is one that almost anyone with a radio is familiar with, due to her seemingly non-stop radio play with The Chainsmokers, so the release of her second studio album, Hopeless Fountain Kingdom, has been highly anticipated. Her debut album Badlands was a global success, with singles like ‘New Americana’ hailed as an anthem of our millennial age. Halsey has so far set herself up for big things, building a global platform and an abundance of fans, but this album seems to fall short of the eagerness it has amassed.
After being so popularly defined by The Chainsmokers’ tracks, this album was a chance for Halsey to break free of any creative chains that have held her back in the past. In today’s pop scene, there seems to be a repeated successful formula for any rising pop star; feature on the back of an already charting artist, gather a following, and then release an album that allows the artist’s own unique sound to shine through. However, with Hopeless Fountain Kingdom, Halsey’s sound has been stifled with a plethora of features from artists that quite frankly outshine her.
‘Devil In Me’, co-written with Sia, is no doubt a near perfect pop ballad, but feels too much like Halsey covering a Sia song. The collaboration with Abel Tesfaye, ‘Eyes Closed’, is a beautifully haunting track, but one that sounds like it belongs on The Weeknd’s album. Quavo is an artist popping up on everyone’s radar at the moment, in collabs with everyone from Katy Perry to Calvin Harris, but in the track ‘Lie’ he sounds misplaced, almost forced into the track after it was already finished. This would have been a gorgeously ethereal song without his feature, but Quavo brings the heavenly choruses of Halsey back down to earth.
The problem is that these featuring artists have had their chance to release their own stand alone, trademark sounds, that are so instantly recognisable in the production of these tracks that they drown out Halsey until it seems like she is the featuring artist.
It is disappointing that this is a case of too many cooks spoiling the broth, because Halsey is such a promising, capable and talented young artist in her own right. In ‘Sorry’, the most raw and powerful ballad from the album, Halsey’s authentic sound manages to shine through, with vulnerable vocals and heartfelt, memorable lyrics. Sadly, this track serves as a marker of what the album could have been, if Halsey had allowed herself to stand on her own, rather than piggybacking on the success of other artists.