Halsey takes musical risks with newest album If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power

Tania Ortiz, Editor-in-Chief

Following the success of their autobiographical album Manic, Halsey crosses over to alternative rock with their fourth studio album, If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power.

The singer teams up with Nine Inch Nails members and Academy Award-winning composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross to tell a story inspired by the harsh realities of pregnancy and transitioning into motherhood. The album is accompanied by a film of the same name, written by Halsey and directed by Colin Tilley. And quite frankly, the album itself feels like a movie from track one to 13.

Halsey teams up with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross of Nine Inch Nails for their newest album. (Photo from Wikipedia, property of Justin Higuchi)

Opening the album, “The Tradition” is a piano-heavy track with haunting vocals, setting the tone for the rest of the album. The opening track lays down the story being told, having to choose between love and power and the trepidations that accompany pregnancy and the transition into motherhood.

Following “The Tradition,” “Bells in the Santa Fe” finds Halsey commenting on the “Madonna-Whore” complex—a theme interwoven throughout the album—with lyrics “I could keep your bed warm, otherwise, I’m useless.” Moving the story along is “Easier than Lying,” which picks up the tempo with heavy drums and guitar chords that translate into Halsey’s lyrics that express anger and frustration.

“Lilith” and “Girl is a gun” hold similar storylines about being an “untraditional” image of femininity, borrowing inspiration from Halsey’s perspective on identity and their experience from coming-of-age in the public eye.

The latter half of If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power contains statement tracks, although Halsey’s entire album is a statement. These last few tracks round out the album beautifully.

Halsey explores promiscuity and sexuality with the punk-rock-inspired track “Honey.” Lyrics like “she was sweet like honey / But all I can taste is the blood in my mouth / and the bitterness in goodbye” describes feelings of desire in a relationship.

“Whispers” brings Halsey back to a prevalent theme in their music: their “self-destructive” tendencies and the intrusive thoughts that follow. The hushed vocals throughout the 3-minute song emphasize the concept of the singer  having internal conversations with themselves.

“I am not a woman, I’m a god” is a synth-pop track in which Halsey declares that they are not a woman but a god. The lyrics serve to reference the singer’s identity and gender fluidity, along with the concept of power in being “god-like.

“The Lighthouse” depicts the story of a siren, Halsey, luring sailors. The track has a very sinister feel with intense industrial-synth guitars and drums—a signature sound from collaborators Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.

The album closes out with “Ya’aburnee”—Arabic for “you bury me”—a love song told from the perspective of a mother to her child. The track lets listeners know that Halsey chooses love over power, singing, “I love the way my eyes make yours look green too / I think we could live forever / In each other’s face ‘cause I’ll always see my youth in you.”

If I Can’t Love, I Want Power is Halsey’s best work to date, bringing to light the harsh realities of going through pregnancy and becoming a mother. The alt-rock tone of the album felt natural, accompanied by Halsey’s vocals, and thanks to Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross collaborating with the singer for pushing them to take risks in their music.

“If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power” is available on all streaming platforms and the film of the same name is in select theaters now.