Halsey's Genre Identity Crisis
  • WEDNESDAY, MAY 24, 2017

  • Posted by: Larisha Paul

In the weeks leading up to the release of her sophomore album Hopeless Fountain Kingdom, New York-based singer Halsey took to the stage at this years Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas. This was a nerve wracking performance for her, as it was her first time on an award show stage without the company of Andrew Taggart and Alex Pall, best known as production duo The Chainsmokers. Halsey lent her vocals to their track "Closer," which became the biggest song of 2016 with over a billion plays on Spotify and a placement on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for 42 weeks. The singer had a fairly large following before this track began dominating the tracks, her premiere album Badlands debuting at No. 2 on the top album sales chart; however, the pressure is definitely on for the next album. People are still getting a feel for Halsey as an artist - and she's apparently still getting a feel for herself.

In an interview with radio host Zach Sang, Halsey voiced her concerns with the way she is often labeled as an artist saying, "Kendrick [Lamar] has done a Maroon 5 feature, a Taylor Swift feature and a Sia feature -- which is more pop features than I've done. No one's calling him a pop star." This statement stemmed from Halsey's annoyance towards people who refer to her as a pop star when she considers herself "inherently an alternative artist." This seems like an odd observation to make, because why would anyone call a rapper a pop star? Having dozens of songs on which you rap, and additionally having a handful of features with genuine pop artists, still qualifies you as a rapper; however, on Halsey's end - when you have an entire album of pop-driven songs as well as features with pop artists like The Chainsmokers and Justin Bieber, it's hard to see your music as anything beyond pop.



In backing herself up, Halsey says that she isn't sure if this labelling mishap occurs because of a "male thing" or an "urban thing," but chances are it's neither. It's easy to pull gender into an argument regarding treatment and labels, especially in the music industry, but this was probably not the best time to do this. Nicki Minaj has plenty of songs on which she sings to a pop melody, but at the end of the day she's a rapper and everyone sees her as such. So, no, it isn't a male thing. But it isn't an urban thing either - a term often used to speak of black or hip-hop culture without directly alluding to race. Following the Zach Sang interview, Halsey sat down with Zane Lowe of Beats 1 to discuss the features on Hopeless Fountain Kingdom, one of which includes rapper Quavo of trio Migos - which she describes as the "urban element" of the album. Other "urban" elements can be found in the inspiration she draws from Kanye West as well as the Weeknd. What can be gathered from this is that when the end result benefits her, Halsey sees being urban as a positive quality, whereas when it stops her from being categorized as a genre that she isn't, it's an opposing force.



At the end of the day, of course, the music matters much more than the labels attached to it, and Halsey does create music that possesses a certain level of quality to it - no one would be listening if it didn't; but she is only harming herself by making these dense comparisons, especially to artists as well known and widely praised as Lamar. Kendrick Lamar is considered a rapper because he is in fact a rapper. He isn't, unlike her, a pop artist. The simple solution to solving this genre assigning issue that Halsey finds herself in is not to point fingers at other artists, or any other individual for that matter; but rather, the solution is for her to take a look at what it is that she's creating. If you want to be considered an alternative artist, it would be in your best interest to create alternative music - but until then your pop music will qualify you as a pop artist. To be fair, we only have one complete album displaying the style of Halsey's music, so we'll just have to take another look after the release of her sophomore album Hopeless Fountain Kingdom, out next Friday.

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