"Two households, both alike in dignity / In fair Verona, where we lay our scene / From ancient grudge break to new mutiny / Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean." No, you aren't back in your high school freshman English class. Welcome to Hopeless Fountain Kingdom, Halsey
's long awaited sophomore album. Taking on the theme of Romeo and Juliet
after drawing inspiration from, most obviously Shakespeare, as well as Baz Luhrmann, director of the more modern Romeo + Juliet
(1996) starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes, Halsey crafted her album around the themes of their story through the eyes of her own experiences.
Halsey's story begins with "100 Letters," a forceful ballad that serves as a precursor to the way the rest of the album travels through a failed relationship by informing the listener of how it all ends before they even know what happened, in the same way that Romeo and Juliet
begins. This is an interesting tactic to use, but it works. No one is going to hear lyrics like, "I find myself alone at night unless I'm having sex / But he can make me golden if I just showed some respect" and not wonder about what drove her to write that. Knowing that that relationship went up in flames, the second single to be released from the album, "Eyes Closed," shows that even though the relationship may be over, its impact does not disappear immediately. Halsey sings, "He don't realize that I'm thinking about you / It's nothing new" in the bridge, showcasing her struggle to forget her past lover while trying to give her all to this new relationship.
Continuing to inform us of this original disastrous relationship before it became so, "Heaven in Hiding" depicts two lovers in a subtle yet intimate scene, it is here that an interesting note should be taken, "Said this ain't what you usually do / And a girl like me is new for you / And I can tell you mean it cause you're shaking," presents a sort of reluctance from one of the lovers–a concept further explored in "Alone." This track somewhat provides a source for the lover's reluctance with lines like "I know you're dying to meet me / But I can just tell you this / Baby, as soon as you meet me / You'll wish that you never did." This then leads to the suggestion that the lover speaking prefers being unknown, saying "I stayed night out in Paris where they don't know my name," which they seem more comfortable with than being in contact with their partner, which is depicted in the lyric "Said he tried to phone me but I never have time." You usually make time for things of that nature, unless of course your point is to not have to confront them at all about anything.
The perspective of the scene of "Alone" is flipped in the succeeding track "Now or Never," which was the first single to be released from the album. Here we hear someone speaking the other side of the argument, pleading for the reluctant lover to return with, "Wishing you were around with me but you're in a different town than me" and "Never pick up never call me, you know we're running out of time." Imagine the person you love going to Paris without you and then not answering your calls. Geez, that's harsh. Back to the developing story, "Sorry" serves as an apology from the reluctant lover, but not in the way that you'd think. Here, the lover acknowledges the missed (avoided) calls and the way she runs away when the relationship is going well; but, the apology comes in the form of the lyrics "I'm sorry to my unknown lover / Sorry that I can't believe that anybody ever really / Starts to fall in love with me / Sorry to my unknown lover / Sorry I could be so blind / Didn't mean to leave you / And all of the things that we had behind." The somber piano ballad ends as Halsey sings, "Someone will love you / But someone isn't me." This serves as the last track before "Good Mourning," a break between acts where the idea of hopeless as a state of mind rather than a place is contemplated.
If you thought there a chance of the second part of this album starting off a little less dramatic you're gonna be disappointed. Sorry. "Lie" showcases a short conversation between characters voiced by Halsey and rapper Quavo of Migos. Halsey pleads, "All I'm saying is if you don't love me no more then lie," to which Quavo responds, "Got no one to lie to / There's no need to lie no more" in a very modern romeo-esque verse. Short, but banging, track "Walls Could Talk" shows the more toxic sides of the relationship being discussed, as if it weren't bad enough. There's mention of fist fighting in the back of limos and lock picking as Halsey brings the walls to life, stating that they'd most likely say "Shit is crazy right?" Imagine finally being able to talk and that's the first thing you say. Shit is crazy, man.
In "Bad at Love," Halsey addresses her messy past, showing in one instance how a relationship with a girl ended sooner than it could begin, resulting in a unfortunate the one that got away scenario and, in another instance, showing how two past relationships with men ended in her being called a bitch and her career in music not being supported because of his desire to turn her into a housewife. But of course, Halsey wouldn't just let that slide so easily. "Don't Play" is easily the most badass track on Hopeless Fountain Kingdom, where she makes sure that it's known just how over these boys she is, singing "I'm moving on / I'm getting paid / I'm on my own / I had some space to deal with it" in a drawn out pre-chorus before going off in the chorus itself which includes almost solely the lyric "Motherfucker, don't play with me" accompanied by a wicked instrumental track.
As for the one that got away, she returns in "Strangers," the thirteenth track on the album featuring Lauren Jauregui of Fifth Harmony. Lauren sings, "She doesn't call me on the phone anymore / She's never listening, she says it's innocent" which seems to be the big red warning signs of impending doom in Halsey's relationships. The two vocalists come together for the chorus as they make the differentiation that that are strangers rather than lovers, combined only by their shared desire "to be touched, to be loved, to feel anything at all." This brings us back to the original theme of Romeo and Juliet, the strangers who fell in love and subsequently died together with four other people dying the process of all of that. Luckily, in this scenario, no one died.
As the album comes to a close, Halsey becomes must more personal on the grounds of mentally feeling rather than romantically. "Angel on Fire" shows a transition from life of the party to the one who cowers away and hides in the corner as Halsey pleas for things to return to the way things were before, when people would ask about her and give her the attention that she cannot ask for herself as it's her "own anxiety that makes the conversation hard." This continues into "Devil in Me" where she recounts being told that she is "too much to handle," leading to her realizing that if she wishes to get her flame back, she has to wake up the devil in her–an act which she has been avoiding completely.
In the final track on the album, "Hopeless" with an appearance from Cashmere Cat, Halsey returns to the concept of what hopeless is, coming to the conclusion that all she can do is "hope hopeless changes over time." With all being said and done, there are still many holes in the story that probably require extremely deep analysis to fill, but we don't really have time for that, do we? The album's visual trailer as well as the already released "Now or Never" video assists in painting the scene, but I'm not sure if it's enough. When an artist becomes this personal on an album it's oftentimes difficult to share that with others in a way that translates to everyone in an understanding way. I'm looking forward to all of the visual work that is still to come for Hopeless Fountain Kingdom, this is certainly Halsey's most intriguing project yet.