Friday, October 26th, 2018

Halsey – Without Me

Maybe just without the self pity?


Taylor Alatorre: I have little use for Halsey as a personality or a representative of her generation or whatever, and the less I’m forced to think about G-Eazy the better. But this is a solid blue-eyed soul interpretation of Souled Out-era Jhené Aiko, and considering the ill-defined direction the real Aiko has taken lately (22 songs?!), that’s good enough for me. A bonus point for admitting upfront that this is a stand-alone release, instead of using it to tease an unfinished album where it’ll only appear as a Japanese bonus track.

Alfred Soto: How curious that Halsey, whose timbre is intermittently poignant, should sing verses like a producer requested she do so through a moist sofa cushion pressed against her mouth. The effect dampens the already secondhand emotions.

Ramzi Awn: So it turns out Halsey can actually deliver a solid single. The production on the vocals wears thin but the songwriting sounds new. Halsey’s pain is palpable. 

Hannah Jocelyn: Wouldn’t have expected Louis Bell and Halsey to work together at all. Bell’s specialty is his vocal production, taking vocoded inspiration from Bon Iver and Imogen Heap and mixing it with the modern trap production that virtually everyone else is doing. It’s intoxicating, a style that can even lend gravitas to Post Malone. Meanwhile, Halsey centers her music around her lyrics to a fault – even if she sings against a muddy or anodyne background, her voice always comes through. As soon as the chorus hits, Bell and Halsey prove to be a great combination, distracting “God Is A Woman” guitar and the occasional cliché notwithstanding. There’s some PVRIS grit in the way she paraphrases “Cry Me A River” during the breakdown, which is a sentence that has probably never been written before. It should be cringey, maybe it is, but she pulls it off, which is the Halsey way. “Without Me” is not necessarily the best over either artist, but it’s intriguing and makes me want to hear more from this particular combination before it becomes just another entry in Halsey’s career and Bell’s extremely productive 2018.

Joshua Minsoo Kim: Halsey does her best Post Malone impression and flounders with an awkward “Cry Me A River” interpolation. In typical Halsey fashion, she owns it and makes these things enjoyable. Also in typical Halsey fashion, this relatably uncool angst is all she has going for her.

Ian Mathers: Can’t quite get past my immense distaste for “does it ever get lonely, thinking you could live without me?”, which just feels intrinsically poisonous. Although I guess if the song was more interesting that would help.

Vikram Joseph: It seems churlish to stick the boot in too hard when someone’s so clearly hurt about the way they’ve been treated in a relationship, but damn, I wish Halsey had channelled her grievances into something which was either truly vengeful or more emotionally interesting. The angle she’s gone for – “I saved you, and now you think you’re too good for me” – sinks “Without Me” deep into a morass of self-pity. The best line (“Running from the demons in your mind / Then I took yours and made ’em mine”) hints at a darker, more revealing take on how the fallout has affected her, but even then, it would be hard to overcome a forgettable melody and a pace so laborious it deserves a designated lunch break.

Iain Mew: The emphasis on force of emotion to get through an indistinct song harks back to all the bits of her first album that weren’t “New Americana.” But none of those had a magic trick like the one Halsey pulls here, where once she quotes “Cry Me a River” the steeliness underneath comes to the surface and suddenly it turns out on subsequent listens that it was there all along.

Reader average: [6.85] (7 votes)

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