Pop star Halsey released her fourth studio album, “If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power,” which was recorded during her pregnancy with her first child.
The album cover and title allude to themes of power in maternity and womanhood, a bold step for an artist who has never been known for executing a conceptual album. The results were, unfortunately, underwhelming to the point of catastrophe.
Halsey has been known to dabble in the pop-punk aesthetic that has made a resurgence in the past couple of years, with offerings like her 2020 collaboration with rapper Machine Gun Kelly. That lane of punk should have been shut down after its heyday in the 2000s, as the derivative afterthoughts that make up the instrumentation in a handful of her new album’s songs prove.
“Easier than Lying” has overblown bass drum kicks that made me want to remove my headphones immediately. “You asked for this” has electric guitars that make noise for the sake of making noise, yet still fail to have a lasting impact on the listener.
On the flip side, Halsey also shows that she can make boiler-plate piano ballads with songs like “Whispers,” not to mention grossly oversimplified electronic pop like “I am not a woman, I’m a god.” Every single song on this album has production that ranges from forgettable to irritating.
Halsey’s vocal performances throughout the tracklist are also underwhelming. A catchy chorus or a verse containing substantial lyrical depth are few and far between, and most songs breeze by without leaving much for the listener to remember them by.
The star’s singing is almost always either buried in the mix, where the instrumentals overtake her voice, or it is pitched up and autotuned to the point of being grating, like on the back half of “1121.” None of her vocal refrains were memorable or stuck with me, and every lyrical endeavor merely scratched the surface of the topic at hand.
Every aspect of Halsey’s performance throughout the album came across as a watered-down or less interesting version of one of her pop star contemporaries like Lana Del Rey or Olivia Rodrigo.
This album will likely stand as one of my least redeeming listens this year. It is a shame that someone with so much at her disposal squandered what could have been a refreshing triumph for a musician at Halsey’s level of popularity.