Thursday, October 12th, 2017

Halsey – Bad at Love

But I hear Halsey is secretly very good at tenpin bowling, so there’s that.

Katie Gill: Today on Cheap Joke Theater: well love’s not the ONLY thing she’s bad at.

Rebecca A. Gowns: This is the bi representation we need (even if it’s not what we deserve): a girl who’s dithering, jealous, bad at love, but wanting love! The lyrics are messy and tough in that 2017 confessional vein, which feels like both oversharing and calculating at the same time. (Which also feels very bisexual? Speaking as a bisexual.) I wish the music had a bit more drive to it; as it is, the tune is almost as loopy and vacillating as the lyrics. For all its appealing attributes, it also kind of just trudges along, so it’s not exactly a great candidate for replays or playlists.

Alex Clifton: Anthemic but not as cathartic as it should be. “I’m bad at LOOOOOOVE!” should feel like a release, but from Halsey it feels like she’s screaming what she thinks others expect from her. The open bisexuality is a nice touch, but this is a real letdown after the emotional rawness of “Strangers,” easily the best track from Hopeless Fountain Kingdom. Amidst the twinkly production, Halsey’s actually never sounded sweeter, but this track demands more vulnerability for it to catch on.

Stephen Eisermann: When describing this song, Halsey said she wanted to song to sound like Leonardo DiCaprio in  a Hawaiian T riding down the highway in a convertible with friends (I’m paraphrasing here). I… don’t see that when listening to this track, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Nothing about the song strikes me as breezy or fun, but more cathartic, like an old friend venting to you about four previous relationships where something went wrong. It’s an interesting basis for a song and Halsey’s natural tendency to fit a lot of words into a verse works in favor of the track. The muddy production frames the lyrics well and it all meshes into a song that manages to both engaging and gloomy, even if she likes to describe it as something that sounds, frankly, fun and upbeat.

Hannah Jocelyn: While it came out first, “Bad At Love” sounds like the more compelling version of “Too Good at Goodbyes.” But while Sam Smith never gets specific about much of anything, Halsey is honest to a fault. Over a sparse beat, she traces her history from a high school crush in New Jersey to a brief London fling; both are given equal time with a girl she lost to “little white lines.” If that sounds slightly clunky, the album also has “Runnin’ lines like a marathon/Got it all white like parmesan,” and the lyrics here are some of the best Halsey’s written yet. Just as I’d hoped from early songs like “Gasoline” and “Control”, Halsey finds a way to directly write about mental health and its effect on love in a way deeper than her *tri-bi* catchphrase; “I know that you’re afraid I’m gonna walk away/Each time the feeling fades.” The beat is restrained in a way that the lyrics aren’t, which makes the tension in the lyrics even greater.

Alfred Soto: After the buzzing psychodrama of “Strangers,” Halsey returns with another: a love triangle with a drug-addicted woman in Cali and a boy who tastes like Jack someplace else. Not singing like a zombie counts as a virtue if you’re a woman aiming for pop radio play in 2017.

Edward Okulicz: The plainspoken, open verses flip genders of romantic partners like it’s not even noteworthy, which is itself noteworthy. I love how her voice drops on the “’cause” when she says “always make the same mistakes ’cause” and from there, the song should either lift off or revel in its wounds. But the chorus is clumsy, like a scream of impotence, and what it’s screaming sounds too much like an apology.

Will Adams: Again, I appreciate Halsey for being visibly bisexual and not skirting that via gimmicks — the first verse is about the guys she’s been with, the second verse switches the pronouns without any fuss. I guess I’m still waiting for the nexus of that much-needed voice with good pop writing, or in “Bad at Love”‘s case, how not to take your powerful, declarative hook and weaken it with an unsupportive chorus.

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