Music Features

Why Do Pop's Most Successful Women Still Live in the Shadows of Their Exes?

Halsey clapped back at a concert-goer who kept yelling the name of her famous ex-boyfriend, but it shouldn't have happened in the first place.

Whether its her evocative lyricism or unfiltered tweets, Halsey is widely known for her openness on her mental health issues and her personal life.

The singer's vulnerability has also resulted in a close public eye on all of her romantic relationships, particularly her on-again, off-again love affair with rapper G-Eazy. Though the details of their rocky relationship remain mostly unconfirmed, Halsey has alluded to the fact that he cheated on her, and some have suspected G-Eazy was abusive towards her based on his troubles with the law. Either way—judging by Halsey's reaction to a concert-goer who kept shouting G-Eazy's name—the split was apparently ugly.

Videos surfaced over the weekend of a recent Halsey performance at which someone in the crowd yelled her ex's name multiple times. "If you say G-Eazy one more f--king time, I will kick your ass out of this party," she yelled. It's unclear if the name-caller ended up being escorted out of the show, but the incident points to an irritating trend in which female pop stars struggle to escape from the shadows of their famed relationships.

When Mac Miller was charged for a DUI following a May 2018 car crash, fans were quick to blame the incident—as well as his fatal overdose that followed a few months later—on Ariana Grande, with whom he'd recently split. Grande stood up for herself in a Twitter statement, and Miller's friend Shane Powers sang praise for her stabilizing presence as Miller tried to get his substance abuse under control. And then, perhaps most prominently, there's Taylor Swift, who even amid attempts to keep her love life under wraps has spent the majority of her career in an unfair narrative centered around whoever she's dating. Halsey, Grande, and Swift are currently among pop's most successful women; why are they still living as extensions of their ex-boyfriends? Is it because the music industry, generally speaking, is still hesitant to acknowledge a woman's success can exist without the support of men?

Halsey was right to call out the person in the crowd who kept yelling G-Eazy's name, and doing so shouldn't be considered unprofessional. It's a knee-jerk reaction to pent-up anger that results from your career being too often associated with exes, in a way those previous male partners will likely never understand.

Music Lists

Slept On: New Releases from UnoTheActivist, SahBabii, and More

SahBabii, UnoTheActivist and more make up this weeks under appreciated releases

Juice WRLD's posthumous release, Legends Never Die, has already sold over 400,000 copies, putting it in the running for the biggest release of 2020.

Meanwhile, Summer Walker confidently returns with a sleek new E.P., Kid Cudi and Marshall Mathers unite for the first time, James Blake quietly dropped a shadowy new track, and H.E.R. added a splash of reggae flavor to her new track "Do To Me." While it was a big week for the mainstream, it was equally as massive for the underground. Upcoming mumble emcee SahBabii's released an infectious collection of wavy, levitative hip-hop, and the iconic Fresh Veggies duo of Casey Veggies and Rockie Fresh return for their second outing. Check out the latest underground releases below.

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Music Reviews

Halsey Fails to Find Herself On "Manic"

"Manic" features BTS' Suga, Alanis Morissette, Dominic Fike, and many different versions of Halsey.

Halsey's new album might be called Manic, but though its lyrics often reference the symptoms of mania in bipolar disorder—impulsivity, hyper-social behavior, and intense euphoria—it sounds calculated and weary, like someone taking stock in the midst of a comedown, looking over the scars and broken glass from last night's party.

But instead of hiding her wounds and fears away in plastic bags, Halsey sculpts her broken pieces into a work of art.

The themes on Manic aren't exactly unique. Halsey sings about lostness—a constant of the human experience—and her observations about self-loathing, betrayal, and hyper-visibility will feel particularly familiar to a generation raised on social media in an era when the self is perpetually monetized and fractured.

Halsey is uniquely talented at crystallizing her lack of a solid self into hit pop songs, which could soundtrack bars and nightclubs just as easily as your next sob session.

Sonically, the album is collage-like, studded with features, and overall a bit exhausting to listen to. It's at its best when it fades into silences or lets a few dreamy guitars wander through, but sometimes all the elements together become overbearing. That was probably Halsey's intent, though—to create a roller-coaster that emulates her roller-coaster life and mind.

Halsey borrows extensively from other artists and genres, and sonic references pop up like Instagram notifications. On "clementine," she sounds like she's imitating the sing-shouting style of Twenty One Pilots. "I don't need anyone," she screams. "I just need everyone and then some. I'm always having a breakthrough / or a breakdown." "Forever … (is a long time)" features whisper-singing reminiscent of Billie Eilish, and "Dominic's Interlude" sounds a bit like the Beach Boys. "3am" borrows an electric guitar tone and punk drum sound from emo songs of the early aughts, and the dark and claustrophobic "killing boys" evokes the tune of Matchbox Twenty's "Unwell." There are also excellent features from Alanis Morrissette and BTS's Suga. This abundance of tributes and guests isn't a flaw; if anything, it's a flex. Halsey is showing us that she can become anything or anyone.

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That makes her determination to strip back every element of persona even more admirable. In her introduction to the album, Halsey says, "There's an ancient saying that you have three faces. The first one, you broadcast to the world. The second, you show to those closest to you. And the last one, you never show to anyone."

For her, "The first one is Halsey. The second is Ashley. But there's a third that exists in the cracks between the two—the most carnal, uninhibited explicit flash of color and light hiding in the center of my chest. I'm Halsey. Ashley. And I'm offering you a glimpse of that third face."

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True to her word, these songs are windows into Halsey's secret self, the one that hides far below the skin, the one that's never palatable enough to show itself to others. The third-face we meet on Manic is full of self-doubt and self-loathing, constantly grappling with her desire to be loved and her lack of love for herself. She wants to be everything, but at the end of every wild night she feels like nothing, so she searches for fulfillment in everyone around her, dancing around the hole in her own chest. That's a sentiment that appears often; it's especially prominent on "I HATE EVERYBODY," which features zingers like, "If I can make you love me, maybe I can make me love me."

Even though she occasionally risks falling into the realm of triteness and cliche, Halsey often throws in a surprising metaphor or a fragment of weird poetry to knock the listener off-guard. "I'm feeling like a scaly thing / wrapped around my master," she says in "I HATE EVERYBODY," a vivid description of the visceral, physical shapes that suffering can take. A lot of Manic is about the internal world—blood under the skin, spiderwebs in the face—and these surreal details function like secret doors, letting you into abstract feelings, leading down strange passageways.

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Maybe that was always the point. The album is an excavation, and Halsey is figuratively tearing open her chest and offering her guts to the world.

In Warsan Shire's poem "The House," the narrator traces her traumas by visualizing her body as a home, full of trapdoors and basement rooms. "Mother says there are locked rooms inside all women," it begins. Later, Shire writes, "I point to my body and say Oh this old thing? No, I just slipped it on." Shire could be talking about the kind of slippery persona that Halsey is desperately trying to discard throughout Manic.

But as it turns out, the more readily you discard your defense mechanisms, the closer you are to those basement rooms. The closing song "929" marks the climax of this search, as it's almost painfully confessional.

But it's also honest about the limits of confession. At the beginning of "929," Halsey tells us that she was born at 9:29 AM on 9/29. At the very end, she mumbles, "I was really born at 9:26. I saw my birth certificate. I'm a liar. I'm a f*cking liar."

So much of Manic revolves around Halsey's desire to find herself in others and to pour herself completely into her art. But what if you can't dissolve yourself in someone else's arms or on the page, no matter how much you search for release?

By the end of the album, Halsey seems to be realizing that the person she really is might actually be a million different people at once. She's a million fragments of glass, as scattered as the stars. Fortunately, she knows how to paint constellations onto the darkness.