”My personal life is a disaster,” Halsey tells Apple Music’s Zane Lowe, reflecting on the consequence of her meteoric rise from indie outsider to pop superstar. Many of the songs on the 25-year-old’s emotional third album Manic were written from the eye of the storm. “I’m impulsive, uncensored, leading with emotion rather than logic, zipping all over the place like, ‘What if this song sounded like The Beach Boys? What if six of them don't have any drums?’” The result is a poetic and courageous work that traces heartbreak, health, and personal growth. “This whole album isn’t about Gerald,” she says, anticipating that the public’s attention will inevitably zero in on her breakup with rapper G-Eazy. "A lot of it is a reconnaissance of things I never got to work through because I was 19 and I was Halsey. I didn't have time for self-care because I had to be composed. And I got too composed —that was part of the problem.” Below, she shares the inside story behind some of the album’s most personal songs.
Ashley “Starting the album with my real name is a comfortable entry point for people, like saying, 'Hey, I'm still here, but I'm going to take you down on a different journey right now.' A lot of this album was written as I became more aware of my mortality. Sometimes I'm on top of the world and I've never felt better in my life. Other days I'm like, 'If I keep doing this, I'm going to die.’ This song is an introduction and a warning: It’s saying, ‘Here's this album that I had to cut myself open to make, and will continue to cut myself open to tour, promote, and explain, but I don't know how many more of these you're going to get.'”
Forever ... (is a long time) "Every album of mine has what we call a trio: three songs smack in the middle that serve as a transition and are meant to be listened to in succession. On Manic, it’s 'Forever ... (is a long time),' 'Dominic's Interlude,' and 'I HATE EVERYBODY.’ On this song, I'm falling in love. The instrumental is major, all these beautiful twinkling tones, and birds are singing, everything’s sweet, it's Cinderella. And then I start getting in my own head. The piano comes in and it's this stream-of-consciousness train of thought that modulates from major to minor to show my mood shifting from optimistic to anxious. And now I'm sabotaging this relationship and feeling paranoid, this is going to be bad. And then [singer-songwriter] Dominic [Fike, on "Dominic's Interlude"] tells me I’d better go tell my man he’s got bad news coming.”
I HATE EVERYBODY “At some point I kind of put my foot down and was like, ‘Here's what we're not going to do is make all my music about whoever I'm dating. This album is about me. I should matter enough on my own. I shouldn't be desirable because some rock star you think is cool thinks I’m desirable. That's not what this is anymore, and it never should have been.' But when you're young, your insecurities get the best of you sometimes, and 'I HATE EVERYBODY’ is about that. It’s thinking, ‘Well, they respect his opinion, so if he likes me, they will too.' Whoa. Wrong. No-no-no. This should be about me.”
Finally “I was like, ‘I need a wedding song. I need a first dance song.’ I wrote it at home in my living room at two in the morning when I was dating Dom [YUNGBLUD]. I’d been thinking about the night we met—I had told the story so many times and every time it got more romantic—and realized I’d never written a love song before, not one without a punchline. And it’s just a very nice, sweet song. At first, I was kind of like, eh… It wasn’t crazy enough. But I sent it to a couple friends, who said it was the best song I’d ever written. I was like, ‘What? It’s just me and a guitar.’ And they were like, ‘Yeah, that’s the point.’”
Alanis’ Interlude “A big flex. The biggest flex. I wrote her a letter and she was nine months pregnant, maybe a little less, and I tried to tell her what an irrevocable impact she’d had on my life. I told her I would never have been brave enough to say the things I’ve said if she hadn’t said them first, and that I was making a record about all the important parts of me and I couldn’t imagine making it without her. And she said yes. The interludes represent different relationships in my life: Dom represents brotherly love and Alanis represents sexual and professional empowerment.”
killing boys “It’s about being so enraged that you’re like, I'm going to break into his house, go in his room, sit him down, and be like, 'Listen, motherfucker, you're going to talk to me right now.' Like, I'm going to wear a black hoodie. My friend's going to drive. It's pseudo based on a real story of when I actually did bust into somebody's house looking for answers about something. It was back in a time when I was really manic and would be like, 'No, my only option is to go over there and cause a scene.' It goes: 'I climb up to the window and I break in the glass/But I stop 'cause I don't want to Uma Thurman your ass.' It’s satirical, but I’m mad.”
More "I've been really open about my struggles with reproductive health, about wanting to freeze my eggs and having endometriosis and things like that. For a long time, I didn't think that having a family was something I was going to be able to do, and it’s very, very important to me. Then one day my OB-GYN tells me it's looking like I maybe can, and I was so moved. It felt like this ascension into a different kind of womanhood. All of a sudden, everything is different. I'm not going to go tour myself to death because I have nothing else to do and I'm overcompensating for not being able to have this other thing that I really want. Now, I have a choice. I've never had a choice before. Lido [the producer Peder Losnegård] and I built the fading instrumental at the end of the song to sound like a sonogram, like you were hearing the sounds from inside a womb. It's one of the most special songs I've ever made.”