Sound — 5
Just a warning: I'm sorry, Halsey stans.
I'm sorry, because I'm afraid hopeless fountain kingdom doesn't live up to the standards Halsey has held it to. I was initially excited for this sprawling, Romeo+Juliet-inspired concept album. I will credit Halsey as a very ambitious, imaginative and intelligent woman. Hearing her speak in interviews inspires me because she speaks with eloquence and her trademark sense of humour balancing it out. But hopeless fountain kingdom really is not representative of the intelligence that Halsey possesses.
I only add this lengthy introduction because I do like Halsey, I really do. Badlands was a highlight for me and I'll always love that album. She is impressively aware of her language and her art is awesome (that woman can pull off anything. Just saying). But God. I was really let down by this album. Overall, sound was much more pop than her last album, but it sacrifices her individuality for generic sounds.
Lyrics — 6
1. The Prologue: Halsey reading the opening scene of Romeo and Juliet, which introduces the parallels of this album to the famed play. The beginning is OK - it is just Halsey reading words, with barely any emotion (but with a lovely voice) and some ghostly hums in the back with a church organ. What I have a problem with is at 0:50. The minute that kicks in, the sound is just way too much for me to handle. It's a cheap Imogen Heap mess, and it doesn't work with her vocals. If she got rid of it, it would have been a lot more bearable to listen to.
2. 100 Letters: I read about this in an interview, where it included the wrenching line "He said one day I'd realize why I don't have any friends/I find myself alone at night unless I'm having sex." At first, I was like "Jesus, Halsey. Really laying it bare for us. So honest. So powerful. I love it." Reading it is gut-wrenching. Hearing it, on the other hand, is a different experience. It's in the first verse, so you can't miss it, and I thought, God, here it is, here it is......... needless to say, the moment was ruined. I get Halsey's voice is part of her appeal, but it's also a very large criticism, and well justified, in my opinion. To be more precise, the pronunciation. If she didn't sound like that unfortunate Vine, I wouldn't have had a problem with the track.
It's something I'm going to be echoing a lot in this review: I appreciate the sentiment, but it's not executed well. Melodically, it's very poppy, moreso than the Badlands-era, and this song has some good melodies. I like the feeling behind this song; it's desperate, it's gritty, it's raw. But her pronunciation makes it fall flat, along with the strained vocals in the chorus.
3. Eyes Closed: Probably one of the better tracks off the album. It's typical Halsey production: spacey, but this time with a little RnB/trap injected into it. I like the sound, actually, along with that haunting guitar at the beginning. And the song really communicates the emotion in Halsey's voice, which is one of her strengths. The Weeknd collaborated with Halsey on this song apparently, and it definitely shows. Nothing much to say about this song other than good job.
4. Heaven in Hiding: The good pop melodies are sustained in this track, and I actually quite like it. I would love to hear some more rock-oriented tracks from Halsey given her emo background and the quality of her voice here. It's proud, it's regal, her voice cracks, and she sounds absolutely powerful. Yes, Halsey, yes, I like this side of you. Also, thumbs up for the first explicitly LGBT+ song in the album. This is Halsey at her peak: great vocals, great emotion, great lyrics.
5. Alone: I'm not quite sure what the sample in this song is (or for that matter, any of the samples in this album. Blame it on me being 18), so I can't comment on how it was used, really. But I will say: I did like that small rhythmic moment in the lyrics where Halsey is half-rapping. Again, given her background in rap music (her father was quite the enthusiast) and her performance of 'I'm The One' on the Elvis Duran show featuring her own lyrics, I would like to see more of this. Melody declines here; I don't really think it gels here. There is a disconnect with the melody and the sample, I will say, and it doesn't work. Very 80's vibe. Again: this is a touching account of her struggles with her being alone, but I'm not quite sure she pulled it off.
6. Now Or Never: The first single from the album. More of the quasi-rapping here. I've got used to the melody here, but it seemed a bit off when I first listened to it. The chorus is very minimalistic, and I kind of like it. It's not the best cut, but certainly not the worst. It just smacks a little too much of 'Needed Me' by Rihanna. (Side note: the video for this was a masterpiece). But other than that, this is very uninspired, generic pop. Emphasis on generic.
7. Sorry: Stripped back piano ballad that reminds me of 'Trouble - Stripped) from the Room 93 EP. I don't mind this song; it's touching, and her voice represents that the best. The sentiment is there, and she's pulled it off. The melodies are gorgeous. The piano, whilst simple, is effective at highlighting her voice. It's deeply personal, and I commend Halsey for including it on the album. If I did have one criticism, it's this: how does this connect to the story in anyway? The album seems disjointed, not at all as 'futuristic' as Halsey had pitched it. This is the deluxe version, too, which she reordered specifically to fit the story.
8. Good Mourning: I can't quite figure out the function of this song. Whoever recorded the vocals for this, this was way too rushed. You can't take anything in properly, and if it had a few minutes to simmer and stew, I feel like an audience would be able to digest the words properly and weigh them out. One song I hold up to be of a great standard is M83's 'Raconte Moi Une Histoire' - because the delivery of the story here is fantastic. It's slow, it takes it's time, it's dramatic. In comparison, the spoken word is almost fast-forwarded, and the delivery isn't as expressive as it could be. Then that line, 'sun is coming up oh why?'. Yeah. That gets repetitive. Again, how is this futuristic, or 'sci-fi'? (Just some of the choice words used in this Rolling Stone article)
9. Lie: The opening verse, I think, Halsey killed it. Perfect amount of vitriol. Again, it's that semi-rapping style which I think she should have used a little more of. But that piano in the background, I'm really not digging. This is pop, but it's not very radio-friendly. The Quavo feature..... meh. This track, overall, is very meh. The chorus showcases some of her great vocals, but it's ruined by the production. It's got wayyyy too much reverb for us to appreciate the power in her voice.
10. Walls Could Talk: Is it just me, or is this like, weirdly reminiscent of that Robin Thicke song 'When I Get You Alone'? Those violins in the background, I think, work with the melody Halsey puts forward. It's a cool melody. I especially like the delivery of 'Damn, if these walls could talk', and that creeping clavichord in the second verse. I think the instrumental here is a little scattered, and it changes sound with very weird transitions. But overall, disappointingly short.
11. Bad At Love: Once again - the feelings behind this song, I really do understand where Halsey is coming from. I'm sure lots of people will. It's a relatable emotion. But its execution leaves something to be desired. The pointless sample at the beginning. That pre-chorus is especially bad. The melody is just all over the place, and the chorus, whilst powerful, falls flat. She's wheeling between roaring 'I'm Bad At Love!!!' and then really weak inbetween lines. She doesn't pull of the contrast, in my opinion. And that bridge has some really weird celesta in the background.
12. Don't Play: Huh??????? What????? (neat production but what????????//)
13. Strangers: Look. I really wanted to like this song. It's another explicitly LGBT+ song. It's got Lauren Jauregui from Fifth Harmony. It's perfectly set up to be a radio smash. But I have to say - the delivery is so uninspired (the way she pronounces 'skin' and 'touched' in the chorus was especially painful to listen to). The music production is OK, but again, it's just generic. Lauren was good to come in and record, though - she was the perfect feature on a song like this with its important message. But they just didn't pull it off. Still, I wish them luck with this song, it's gotten pretty successful.
14. Angel On Fire: Again, great sentiment, crap execution. The chorus is too strained for me to bear, even though the lyrics are great. This is not very radio-friendly stuff.
15. Devil In Me: See Angel On Fire.
16. Hopeless: One of the most underwhelming choruses in this album. Kinda yawn.
Overall Impression — 6
Once again, I'm sorry, but it wasn't the grand sci-fi concept album Halsey was shooting for. She wanted radio-friendly pop, and she delivered some decent melodies with a lot of half-baked ideas. Half the time, I appreciated the feeling the behind the song, but it just wasn't set up quite right. It didn't live up to the standard at which it was set. I hope it gave her some sort of personal fulfillment, though. For the casual listener who isn't a fan of Halsey, it's a decent record with some OK tracks, but for Halsey fans - you might be a little let down.
Top Tracks: "Walls Could Talk," "Sorry," "Eyes Closed."