In the chorus of "Castle," the opening track of her 2015 debut album Badlands, Halsey makes a declaration punctuated by two observations: "I'm headed straight for the castle / They’ve got the Kingdom locked up / And there's an old man sitting on the throne that's saying I should probably keep my pretty mouth shut." Then, on the outro of "Don't Play," from 2017's Hopeless Fountain Kingdom, another declaration is made: "Women, don't play no games." I've seen Halsey perform both of these tracks live to audiences of fans who scream each word back at her with twenty times the energy and emotion of the studio recording.
A recent tweet of the singer's reads: "Imagine getting onstage every night and seeing young women sweating mascara tears, lightning in their eyes, throwing elbows and raising fists, screaming till the veins in their necks raise under warm skin, and not being inspired by it. This song is about you, for you." This could be an intro to either of the aforementioned songs; but, the capstone moment of any future Halsey shows will be during the moment when she performs the song this tweet actually pairs up with: her latest anthemic single "Nightmare."
"Come on, little lady, give us a smile / No, I ain't got nothin' to smile about," she says with grit during the pre-chorus, continuing, "I got no one to smile for, I waited a while for / A moment to say I don't owe you a goddamn thing," before diving into a chorus that trembles with anger. The alternative pop track bounces between lullaby-like melodies and booming rock arrangements. The production pairs well with the duality of women showcased in the track's music video. Halsey and the women she stands beside appear bleeding and battle-ready in one scene and pristine and adorned in pearls seconds later, among a number of other presentations.
The release of "Nightmare" coincides with a time of unease amongst millions of women in the United States whose reproductive rights are being dictated by people who aren't them, a topic Halsey has briefly spoken out about on Twitter and plans to do so through a more proper medium in the future. Other lyrics in the track, such as "I've been polite, but won't be caught dead / Lettin' a man tell me what I should do with my bed" and "I'm tired and angry, but somebody should be," further amplify the elevated emotions that many of these women feel at this moment in history.
On a number of occasions, even beyond her music, Halsey has used her platform as an artist to provide a voice for the women in her following. In 2018, she delivered an emotionally binding speech at New York's Women's March, and later that year delivered another at Glamour's Women of the Year summit. Earlier this year at the 2019 iHeartRadio Music Awards, Halsey spoke about the perception of young girls' interests during her L'Oreal FanGirls Award acceptance speech.
This responsibility of representation isn't something that artists are required to take on by any means–but it is in moments like these where the importance of using large platforms to amplify marginalized voices stands out as most important.
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