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A Song by Song Guide to Mental Health References in Halsey's New Album

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Halsey is a popular singer who just released their newest album, “If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power.” I have been a fan of Halsey for many years, but in recent years I have found that I connect more to their music and their experience with mental illness, as they have been open about their diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Halsey also goes by “she/they” pronouns, as do I, and I deeply appreciate being able to connect to their experience with mental illness and exploring their gender and sexuality.

Halsey’s newest album is more rock/pop-punk than their music usually is, and I am completely in love with it. Each song on “If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power” has such a deeper meaning than meets the eye, and mental health issues are largely wound throughout the album. I found myself in tears after listening to many of Halsey’s songs, which reminded me how powerful and transformative music can be — especially in the mental health community.

The following are my interpretations of the mental health references in Halsey’s newest album song by song, and I hope that they will help you to connect to their music on a deeper level. Listening to “If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power” from beginning to end is well worth your time, and I am almost positive it will leave you transformed and understood, as I have.

The album is now available on all streaming services. An IMAX hour long film has also been announced to accompany the album.

1. “The Tradition”

“The Tradition,” the first song on Halsey’s newest album, is one heck of a
powerhouse and had me in tears upon my first listen. Since then, I have listened to this song numerous times and my love for it has only increased. I connected to the lyrics as they mirrored some of my past traumatic experiences and helped me to come to grips with them and feel understood, even though this process has been incredibly painful. Sexual abuse and taking advantage of one’s vulnerabilities are the main themes of this song, as well as possible depression and PTSD. While the song tells a fictional story of a woman possibly in the renaissance period, it is relevant to our times and the “me too” movement.

2. “Bells in Santa Fe”

“Bells in Santa Fe,” on the other hand, is a melancholic song that seems to relay a
story about a fickle lover who is unable to stay with another for very long, and how they will be gone before the other person is even aware. To me, I felt that this song could be a nod to Halsey’s past relationships and their instability with commitment and struggle with commitment and impulsiveness.

3. “Easier Than Lying”

“Easier Than Lying” is an upbeat song, but don’t let that fool you. The song largely references losing a love interest or fans for her music, and how she would rather leave than lie and think that they love her. Depression and abandonment pain are some of the biggest themes in this song.

4. “Lilith”

“Lilith” is a song that appears to be about how destructive Halsey can be, and how this behavior often causes them to hurt other people and lose relationships. I found this song to be vulnerable and painful, especially with my experience with having borderline personality disorder and how my strong emotions and impulsive actions can be detrimental to my relationships.

5. “Girl Is a Gun”

“Girl Is a Gun” addresses a girl and how she cuts all ties to others because she enjoys being free from others, while also being a wild child. Halsey could be referencing how they felt before becoming a mother, and how they are managing these feelings post-pregnancy. Again, this song could be addressing impulsivity and destruction.

6. “You Asked for This”

“You Asked for This” appears to address Halsey’s feelings about becoming who they wanted to become, and doing what they wanted to do, but still feeling unhappy. I found this song to be about depression and exploring the concept of “happiness” and that what we think will make us happy doesn’t always.

7. “Darling”

“Darling” is my favorite song next to “The Tradition” as it is a lullaby-esque song for Halsey’s new baby, but it can be a soothing song for anyone. The song is vulnerable and references possible past feelings of suicidal ideation and how they are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and finding happiness. Overall, I felt like this song is a song about hope through the darkness (particularly that of mental illness).

8. “1121”

“1121” is a song referencing the date that Halsey found out that they were pregnant, and it discusses Halsey’s positive feelings for their child and being a mother. While the other songs on this album tend to be darker and horror-themed, it is clear that Halsey has found happiness and hope in their child.

9. “Honey”

“Honey” addresses Halsey’s sexuality as she identifies as bisexual, and the song
largely focuses on Halsey’s past intimate relationship with a girl. I particularly enjoyed how subtle this song was at addressing sexuality, while also emphasizing how important the relationship was for Halsey and how it has left them with many memories. We can also assume that heartbreak was involved.

10. “Whispers”

“Whispers” is a darker song that again seems to reference Halsey’s struggle with love and relationships as well as how her struggles with her mental health and maintaining stability. I connected deeply to this song because I felt like my experience with mental illness was intimately portrayed, and Halsey did well at describing how difficult handling mental illness is for those who might not understand.

11. “I am Not a Woman, I’m a God”

“I am Not a Woman, I’m a God” is another emotionally painful song that addresses sexuality and how women who are seen as sexual are seen as being “unfit” for motherhood, while those who appear “motherly” are seen as not having sexual appeal. I personally liked how this song explored both ends of the spectrum and how difficult it is to grasp the transition to motherhood and how the way society views motherhood affects self-image.

12. “The Lighthouse”

“The Lighthouse” is another lyrical song that tells a story that I connected to
Halsey’s experience with bipolar disorder, rage and relationships with men.  Throughout the song we hear Halsey singing about various experiences with men and telling the story from the perspective of a siren (which are said to lure sailors to their deaths). I enjoyed this horror element which helped us to see deeper into Halsey’s inner experience.

13. “Ya’aburnee”

“Ya’aburnee,” the last track on Halsey’s new album, comes off as more of a song meant for her new child and her current relationship. My interpretation of the song was that Halsey was singing about how deeply they are connected to their child and their partner and how those strong feelings have led them to being unable to be without them.

Overall, “If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power” is a horror themed work of art that
expertly intertwines elements of mental health and illness with Halsey’s experience of becoming a mother. Each song is open to interpretation by the listener, but I hope that my insights help you to absorb more of the beauty in each of Halsey’s songs. I am so thankful to have found an artist who connects with mental health and illness so well.

Image via Halsey’s Facebook

Originally published: September 2, 2021
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