Sound — 8
Before I start this review it should be noted: I consider myself a Halsey fan. I loved "Room 93" and generally liked "Badlands" despite it's flaws. So it's safe to say I was excited for this album to come out. It did take me a bit by surprise. "Badlands" and "Room 93" both shared a similar style. Halsey, in her trademark high scratchy voice, setting the stage for these huge soundscapes and atmospheric alt-pop synths and beats.
"Hopeless Fountain Kingdom" is very much a mainstream pop album, and while lead single, "Now Or Never" is reminiscent of "Is There Somewhere" off "Room 93" the rest of the album goes in far more experimental directions. These different sounds are often a pleasure to listen to. But a few songs seem a bit undercooked.
Lyrics — 10
This record has a concept album element to it. The millennial sci-fi Romeo and Julet-esque story Halsey narrates throughout the album is a strong element that shows Halsey's writing and story telling ability in a great way. Her use of metaphor in songs like heaven in hiding is phenomenal even when the music itself is a bit underwhelming. She touches on issues like domestic abuse, drug addiction and mental illness all in a tasteful manner.
Tracks like "Hopeless" show strong lines that stick without having to be overly deep or prophetic. ("You and all your friends all hate me, oh / Thinkin' that you're better when I'm not around / Hear me on the radio and turn it down").
Overall Impression — 9
The Prologue: The album starts with Halsey melodramatically reciting the prologue to Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" with building synths and strings setting up the tone of the album immediately followed by heavily synthesized voices slowly singing about the "Money hungry, prideful country" the story takes place in as well as making a political statement on the state of America. Clocking in at 1:47 this song is only a prelude to the rest of the album but sets the tone in an impressive manner. (4/5)
100 Letters: My favorite song on the album, '100 Letters' tackles the main character's (Luna) troubled but loving relationship with her primary significant other (White Knight). Despite the heavy subject matter, this is one of the few summery, bright atmospheric songs. Immediately I noticed the more modern pop R& B elements in this song, however they're done in a really subtle manner, showcasing Halsey's incredible songwriting ability and flow. I could definitely see this song getting some radio airplay. (5/5)
Eyes Closed: Being one of the first songs released from the album, it is a fairly typical Halsey song. It continues the story and lyrical themes of the last song. Powerful bass and delicate use of acoustic guitar make this song massive. Halsey definitely shows her badass punk rock personality on this song, while also showing the on-and-off relationship which is a recurring theme throughout the album. With it's huge chorus and dark songwriting it's definitely a highlight of the album. (5/5)
Heaven In Hiding: This is the first song where we see Halsey deviating from her typical Alt-Pop structure. There is a firey beat and an angry tone in her voice falling into a massive full-on pop diva chorus. Despite this, this shows the main flaw of this album. A lot of personality seems to be processed out of her voice and the immense quality of the chorus feels undercut by the clichè and frankly boring melody. Despite this, the strong metaphorical lyrics and character in the vocals keeps this at a 3/5
Alone: This is probably the weirdest song in Halsey's discography. There is a jazzy vibe to the instrumentation, that sounds amazing. The rhythm is incredible and the lyrics detail Halsey's struggle with maintaining friendships and relationships. This is definitely a slow jam, but it grows on you. The bridge has a slow creeping quality to it that backs up the song. (3.5/5)
Now Or Never: This was the big comeback single for Halsey. Her steadfast delivery and bright melodic integrity makes this a beautiful alt-pop track that bridges all of the different sides of her discography. This song embodies the feeling of not knowing whether or not to stay in a relationship and it hits hard. It's definitely slow but grows into such a jam. (5/5)
Sorry: I don't really think anyone expected a piano ballad on a Halsey record but damn does it work. Part of Halsey's character is her little experience with long term relationships. She deals with Bipolar Disorder in real life which she seems to be referencing throughout this song. The heartbreaking nature of this song doesn't miss a beat as she sings "Someone will love you, but someone isn't me". The only problem I really have with this song is the line "Sorry to my unknown lover" along 1 or 2 other lines in the song that only seem to partially make sense. (4.5/5)
Good Mourning: This song kicks off a 3 song run of interlude songs starting Side B of the record. The Wizard Of Oz-esque sounding monologue delivered by Halsey's younger brother sets an eerie tone for the song sliding into a nursery rhyme-ish refrain "Sun is coming up oh, why oh, why oh..." Definitely showing off the experimental storytelling nature to Halsey's writing. (4/5)
Lie: While nearly reaching a full song's length, this two and a half minute track follows a simple A/B/A/B songwriting structure. If "Alone" is the weirdest song on the album, this is a close second. Halsey shares a straight rap track with 'Migos' member Quago. Showing a seemingly one-sided romantic attraction in an unhealthy relationship that is seemingly purely fueled by sexual chemistry. The chorus chiming "If you don't love me no more then lie" illustrates the concept of this entire section of the album. (4.5/5)
Walls Could Talk: Violins drive this song driving the theatrics of this album to a whole new level. This song lyrically shows Halsey's realization of the abusive nature of her relationship, with a weird bass-blasting synth under distorted compressed vocals narrating Halsey's real thoughts on the relationship. It's a shame this song is so short, but that drives its effectiveness. (5/5)
Bad At Love: Judging by Youtube views, this will definitely be the fan favorite of the album, for obvious reasons. Halsey drives her whole "Hopeless Romantic" persona at full force. The incredible flow on these verses is immediately noticeable. Halsey's failed relationships are the focal point of this album, seemingly bouncing right off 'Sorry'. She fully embraces her newfound inner pop star in a way that doesn't sound awkward. This song seems to embrace all of the good elements of this album in the same way "Colors" or "Ghost" did for her last album. Comparing this to those songs is a good way of showing her progression as an artist. The lyricism is clever, beautiful, and heartbreaking all at once, going from tackling sexism in one verse and drug addiction in the next. (5/5)
Don't Play: While only being available on the deluxe edition album, this is definitely a highlight. We can see Halsey using fast Rap-like energy in the verses, an atmospheric pre chorus, and a unique chorus, that seemed a little too modern-pop/rap at first, but grew on me incredibly fast. We see Halsey finally moving on from her ex lover on this song, as we see her feeling self confidence in full force in this. May be a grower, but the energy is infectious. (5/5)
Strangers: As we enter the last quarter of the album we're hit head-first with an electronic break up anthem. We see lesbian relationships casually talked about without making a big deal about being so "progressive" by simply acknowledging same sex relationships. Halsey shares this track with Lauren from Fifth Harmony and boy, is it powerful. While a bit subdued and electronic for a Halsey song it is still a total jam. (4.5/5)
Angel On Fire: Another Deluxe Edition bonus track, this is nowhere near as good as Don't Play or even Heaven In Hiding. With a solid verse and pre chorus this should've been another great jam, but the chorus is way too slow and drawn out and feels a bit awkward. The lyrics are those of a typical "Cry for help" falling out of fame song but aren't particularly deep. (2.5/5)
Devil In Me: I have probably listened to this song less than 10 times at the time of writing this, and I'm hoping it grows on me, but I'm not sure if I like the song yet. The verse melody is probably the best on the entire album, and then the pre chorus feels like it's building up to an intense chorus, but then the chorus is just the same parts repeated over and over in an incredibly repetitive manner. I feel many fans will like this song, although how it will hold up live is yet to be seen. The lyricism is strong, although it is very much up to interpretation. (3.5/5)
Hopeless: This is such a killer closer for the album. The opening strings and synths go into a beautiful reverb-laced vocal melody. As Halsey heartbreakingly sings "you know the good die young, but so did this, so it must be better than I think it is" before a "Woah"-laced chorus, this relaxed slow burn of a track is the best way I could imagine to have ended the album. As she sings "I hope hopeless changes over time" the album pulls to an amazing close. (5/5)
All in all I really liked this album. I can't really compare it to "Badlands" as it's very different sound-wise, but I can say it is a much more coherent album and a fun time to listen to.