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Badlands (2015), 5/10
Hopeless Fountain Kingdom (2017), 6/10
Manic (2020), 5/10
If I Can't Have Love I Want Power (2021), 6/10

(Clicka qua per la versione Italiana)

New Jersey's bi-racial, bi-sexual and bipolar singer-songwriter Ashley "Halsey" Frangipane, who had tried to kill herself at age 17, debuted with the five-song EP Room 93 (2014), containing Ghost (the lively ditty that propelled her to Internet celebrity, now electronically arranged by Dylan Scott) and the brooding ballad Hurricane (scupted by Tim Anderson, the producer behind the Twenty One Pilots' hit Message Man) , and became a star with the dystopia-themed concept album Badlands (2015), executively produced by Peder "Lido" Losnegard with thundering electronic sounds and rhythms. It contains the pseudo-anthemic New Americana, the bombastic Colors, the pensive Control and the vibrant Chinese-infected singalong Gasoline (on the deluxe version). But it is telling that the best is the cover of Johnny Cash's I Walk the Line, sung in a style reminiscent of Sinead O'Connor's interpretation of Prince's Nothing Compares.

She also sang on the Chainsmokers' hit single Closer.

Hopeless Fountain Kingdom (2017), a concept album based on the theme of Romeo and Juliet with a bisexual twist, is a monotonous parade of identical and "hopeless" pop creations sung by (what is now) a sophisticated night-club chanteuse. There is certainly a lot of variety: Greg Kurstin's Sorry is a poignant piano ballad, Roget Chahayed's Bad at Love is a feverish quasi-rap, Greg Kurstin's Heaven in Hiding is perhaps modeled after Adele's Rolling in the Deep, Strangers (another Kurstin creation) is propulsive techno, and so forth. Production tricks abound in the Lido-produced numbers: the Shakira-esque Walls Could Talk and the aggressive and polyrhythmic Don't Play.

She moved to Los Angeles and released her best-selling album, Manic (2020). A vast roster of producers (including Lido) helped diversify the style of the songs. For example, the lively single Graveyard was written by Amy Allen, Jonathan Bellion, Louis Bell, Jordan Johnson, Stefan Johnson and Mark "Oji" Williams, and produced by Jon Bellion, Louis Bell, Ojivolta (the duo of Oji and Raul Cubina) and the collective Monsters & Strangerz. The six-minute cinematic Now or Never was written by Ben Levin, Magnus "Cashmere Cat" Hoiberg, Nathan "Happy" Perez, Brittany Hazzard and produced by Benny Blanco Hoiberg and Perez. The (tedious) number-one hit ballad Without Me was produced by Louis Bell and Dylan Baul, and written with Brittany Amaradio and Amy Allen. The anguished, confessional opener Ashley was written by Ben Levin, Cashmere Cat, Brenton Duvall and Alex Young, and produced by Benny Blanco, Cashmere Cat, Young and Duvall. Lido presides over the most subdued song, the piano threnody Forever, and over the anti-romantic rant I Hate Everybody, but this time his skills do not make much of a difference, and both songs fall flat. The least moronic song is Kurstin's hard-rocking 3am, and Kurstin also pens the exact opposite, the spartan and folkish Finally// Beautiful Stranger. And Kurstin also helps craft the David Guetta-esque rigmarole You Should be Sad, which is self-produced, and, while derivative, it is one of the best.

She turned to rock music on If I Can't Have Love I Want Power (Capitol, 2021), produced by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross of Nine Inch Nails. The unlikely partnership yields the veehement and punkish Easier Than Lying (possibly the standout), the heavily distorted The Lighthouse, and the pummeling techno proclamation I Am Not a Woman I'm a God, as well as the theatrical performances of The Tradition and Nightmare. Guests include: Jack Dangers of Meat Beat Manifesto in the frantically syncopated Girl Is A Gun (another highlight), Kevin Martin (of God, Techno Animal and The Bug) in Bells In Santa Fe, Nirvana's drummer Dave Grohl in the hard-rocking Honey, bassist Pino Palladino and drummer Karriem Riggins in Lilith, guitarist Dave Sitek of TV On The Radio in the roaring power-ballad You Asked for This (another highlight), and Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac in the folkish acoustic lullaby Darling. The album is overlong but certainly redeems the trivial pop sellout of the previous album.

(Copyright © 2021 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )