Album Review: Halsey - hopeless fountain kingdom | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Album Review: Halsey – hopeless fountain kingdom

Sorcha Hornett is left slightly disappointed by an ambitious sophomore record from Halsey

There’s no doubt that Halsey succeeded with her first album Badlands, but it was her appearance on The Chainsmokers' ‘Closer’ that made her a household name. Despite ‘Closer’ being a smash hit, it was surprisingly bland with its meaningless lyrics. It captivated audiences, but it left me knowing Halsey was better than that, and I expected more from her. The release of hopeless fountain kingdom has, unfortunately, left me slightly disappointed. There are a few gems in this album that really do show Halsey’s talent, but an equal few that are lack-lustre. It is undeniable that she does bear her soul for this break-up album, inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, with her quoting the play in opening track ‘The Prologue’, yet while she makes an attempt at a conceptual album, her own story-telling falls short.

There are two 'filler' tracks on this album, ‘The Prologue’ and ‘Good Mourning’, that aren’t necessary but are there due to the conceptual album idea Halsey is trying to endorse. The opening track ‘100 Letters’ begins fairly upbeat, which is unusual as the singles released in the run up to the release of this album seemed to be portraying a darker vibe. However, the lyrics make up for this with the fact they are extremely sinister, and the mention of a past lover sets the scene for this album. It’s one of the stronger singles on the album, with lyrics like ‘I’m not something to butter up and taste when you get bored’ perhaps a bit self-righteous, but it is catchy and suits her vocal range as she sings about regretting being with someone.

Halsey attempts to spin a story through this conceptual album and while she starts strong, the story gets confused near the middle and I’m lost by the end.

This then moves into one of her pre-released singles ‘Eyes Closed’. This track was co-written with The Weeknd and you can tell, with the sinister, dark, sensual beat behind the honest lyrics. It keeps on with the theme of getting over a lover, but unlike the last track it is clear she isn’t over her previous lover while being with her new one. This single boasts her darker side that can be seen with other singles, however this is mostly probably due to The Weeknd’s influence. This swiftly goes into ‘Heaven in Hiding’ which is another return of the upbeat tone, with a heart-thudding pace and breathless lyrics, which are strong, powerful and demand attention. This is followed by ‘Alone’, which is again upbeat. The lyrics are self-righteous but also self-aware as she sings ‘as soon as you meet me, you’ll wish you never did’ and ‘I’m still alone in my mind’. She is moving on from having a lover to get over her previous one to now feeling alone, and is taking us through the stages of her breakup. The conceptual idea is still working here as she is weaving us a story.

‘Now or Never’ is probably the catchiest single on the album, but the lyrics are extremely poor compared to some of her other more soul-bearing singles. She’s trying visibly hard to maintain this darker vibe, but it’s so shallow there is no real depth to it. The lyrics are so repetitive and I’m sick of this song within a few listens to it - there are some much better singles on the album. Which leads me onto one of the best of the album – ‘Sorry’. This is the only ballad on the album and it is beautifully done. Its lyrics are heart-wrenching and proves Halsey can go deeper than the shallowness that is ‘Now or Never’. With lyrics like ‘I can sometimes treat the people I love like jewelry’ and ‘didn’t mean to leave you and all the things we had behind’ it is truly soul-bearing. She addresses her sadness about the breakup and the struggles she is facing, it is deeply relatable and one of my personal favourite songs on the album. But, then she produces the track ‘Lie’, and frankly, her attempt at rapping is poor and doesn’t suit her overall style. Quavo simply does not work on this single and is not necessary. While it does present both sides of a relationship gone wrong, it doesn’t necessarily fit with the personal story Halsey is trying to weave for us.

Halsey sets herself apart with her subject matter and delivery - hopeless fountain kingdom isn’t your typical break-up album as she doesn’t hold anything back.

The album is a complete mix as the following song ‘Walls Could Talk’, is one of the best songs on the album. It’s catchy, simple and entirely satisfying, it echoes the idea that less is definitely more. The song, however, is just under two minutes and I was desperate for it to be longer. The next track, ‘Bad at Love’ references her bisexuality and her failed relationships with men and women. It’s an uncommon subject matter, so kudos to her for pushing boundaries with her writing, but the lyrics do echo a lot of what we have already heard before, so the true meaning is pushed under the previous tracks.

Halsey again attempts rapping in the track ‘Don’t Play’, completely echoing previous track ‘Lies’. While, it is catchier than her previous effort, the lyrics are shallow and some of her worst as she tries to detail her nights of drinks, parties and debauchery as she attempts to get over her lover. This is followed by another hit, ‘Strangers’, which is another one of my favourites on this album. This also details Halsey’s bisexuality and her failed relationships with women. Her duet with Lauren Jauregui is the perfect blend of vocal ranges and the techno backing track makes this single an absolute BOP. ‘Angel on Fire’ is completely forgettable, the lyrics are shallow and overlooked with the attention-grabbing backing track, probably why it was delegated to the deluxe edition of the album. I fail to see how it relates to the story she is trying to tell with this album.

It seems after every 'meh' song there seems to be an absolute gem, and ‘Devil In Me’, is exactly that. The lyrics for this song are completely soul-bearing and again, heart-wrenching as Halsey talks about not wanting to wake up ‘the devil in me’. It’s a powerful song that is truly captivating. It encompasses the less-is-more idea that she should have maintained with some of the other singles on this track and shows Halsey at her best. Lastly, ‘Hopeless’ is made in collaboration with Cashmere Cat and again it’s quite simple but the vocals are haunting with lyrics like ‘the truth hurts but secrets kill’. Yet, again the track is too short with it being just over two minutes long, it left me wanting more.

Halsey sets herself apart with her subject matter and delivery - hopeless fountain kingdom isn’t your typical break-up album as she doesn’t hold anything back. Her lyrics are sinister and dark, and she tries to maintain this new image with darker tracks and attempted rapping. Not all the songs are masterpieces, but ‘Sorry’, ‘Walls Could Talk’ and ‘Strangers’ are the standouts on this album for me. Halsey attempts to spin a story through this conceptual album and while she starts strong, the story gets confused near the middle and I’m lost by the end. However, it’s a decent attempt for a sophomore album, but I was expecting more after the success ‘Badlands’ was.

hopeless fountain kingdom is out now on Astralwerks. Halsey plays Glastonbury Festival on June 23rd.

second year english lit student that drinks a lot of coffee and thinks she can write. (@sorchahornettxo)


17th June 2017 at 9:03 am

Images from

Just Jared