Friday, September 17th, 2021

Halsey – I Am Not A Woman, I’m A God

The culmination of Trent Reznor’s imperial phase…


Lauren Gilbert: My first ever TSJ review was a pan of Halsey’s “New Americana,” and I stand by much of that review. I’ve always felt slightly embarrassed about listening to Halsey. Her previous albums have been music that’s just edgy enough your mom will disapprove, but not pushing boundaries far enough that radio stations will hesitate to put it in between ads to come down and get a new Kia at Team Kia of El Cajon. Ross and Reznor add just enough edge to Halsey’s lyrics to make them bite. This isn’t one of the best tracks on the album but it’s infectious and I’ve definitely screamed along to it in the car. Its near wail-like “oohs” capture the overwhelming feelings of young adulthood, the endless vacillations between feeling like you are fucking nailing this life thing and who let you be an adult anyway, you aren’t qualified for this.  I mean, who knows how to be an adult, really; and Jesus Christ, what does it mean to be an adult woman?  What the fuck even is a “woman”?  Thirty years in, and I haven’t got a fucking clue.

Nortey Dowuona: “Everybody knows something that I don’t want to know.” What does this mean? Does this mean the terrible and awful memories of raising their own children, which they will spring on you without a moment’s notice? Does this mean the ex-girlfriends and ex-friends and ex-accquaintances of you or your partner, just waiting for you to slip up to tell their very unflattering stories about your times together? Does this mean the many music critics, random listeners and even your label heads who don’t like this new direction you’ve taken and feel it’s a misfire? Does this mean the many climate scientists, howling from their dungeon of our species tipping closer and closer to our inevitable extinction, implicating your own child? Or does this mean you wrote this during the making of the bassline and drums and never fleshed that idea out, thinking just presenting the very contradiction would be startling and vivid and insightful? Cuz u were right.

Katie Gill: Once again, Halsey shows her skills at creating lyrics that fit PERFECTLY as tattoos or lines scribbled in your diary. I’m pretty sure that some Tumblr teen is already creating a gifset of these lyrics superimposed on an image of like, Veronica from Riverdale (do the kids still like Riverdale these days? Please enlighten me, I’ve spend most of my pandemic reading boat books). The song cruises along at a low-level beat, never getting much higher or more intense than a constant throb. It works for the song, but it ends with a product that feels very middle of the road. Like, of course Halsey made this song. She’s made this song before, back in 2015.

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: Dare I say, this is it the best that Halsey has ever sounded. Frustrating punctuation aside — why “I am” and “I’m” in the same title? — “I Am Not a Woman, I’m a God” is the most conceptually interesting that Halsey has ever ventured, exploring divinity and mortality in one stroke. Bonus: There’s also finally a heft to their voice that gives the menacing hook an uncharacteristic urgency and thrill. 

Alfred Soto: Often impressed but unmoved by her songs, I realize my problem rests with Halsey’s thin scratchy timbre: inflexible with exceptions. But Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross pack enough bleeps and bloops and hairpin rhythmic turns to provoke me into wondering if she listened to Fever Ray and liked them.

Ian Mathers: There are a couple of modes I think Reznor is most successful in, and I didn’t expect the “basically synthpop” one to be the one he used with Halsey, or that it would work so goddamn well. Which is, as much as I enjoy the production, really down to Halsey herself; I liked “Nightmare” but despite “I am not a woman, I’m a god” being less overtly screamy than that one it feels like she really rips into it here.

Michael Hong: When Halsey secedes control to Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, they spark a fight in each song, between the part of Halsey that wrote captivating pop songs and the part of Halsey that wanted so badly to be alternative. Halsey to their credit, writes a hell of a song, telling you who they are instead of leaving it at what they aren’t. But Reznor and Ross create an ambient wave that’s combative blocking out a ceiling for where Halsey can be. When Halsey rears their head, they still gets their moment of pop catharsis, it’s just distorted behind their wall of sound.

Thomas Inskeep: Up until now, I’ve never thought anything of Halsey, and if I did, it was negative: Oh, the female voice on that awful Chainsmokers record. But she’s taken a hard left turn here, collaborating with NIN’s Reznor and Ross on a record that sounds like the men molded their sonic imprimatur into pop, to allow Halsey to write the lyrics she needed to write atop them. “I Am Not A Woman, I’m A God” (my god, that title!) is a declaration of intent, her version of Joan Crawford telling the board of PepsiCo “Don’t fuck with me, boys!” And based on this single, I believe Halsey. Thoroughly.

Leah Isobel: Halsey loves a capital-c Concept; “I Am Not A Woman, I’m A God” states its big idea and works backward from there. Their songwriting in this mode is a little muddled, conflicting impulses firing out in all directions. You get the sense that the core of the song — their offhand admission that “it really does hurt when you love someone” — is purposefully obfuscated. It definitely works as an introduction to the ethos and emotional energy of their latest record, but its Jokerfied energy is less enticing on its own terms. I dig the Knifey synth throb though.

Tim de Reuse: 80% synth, 20% pop. The timbre of a thick, fuzzy sawtooth jackhammering through parallel fifths is techno bliss in a way few big-name artists are willing to leverage, and so 90% of the use of this particular sound nowadays comes by nostalgia-blinded synth fetishists peddling “analog warmth.” I’m glad to see an actual Pop Star in 2021 who gets what I’m talking about here — the momentum built up by the last chorus is exhilarating.

Katherine St Asaph: Sever every part of your personality that cannot be used in an engine. Fight your imposter syndrome with your Dunning-Kruger syndrome. If the world has made you a woman, turn yourself into a god in a machine. Become as implacable and impersonal as a metronome; bro down and crush your own code. (Be very confused at this song, specifically, being received as female empowerment when the first five words are “I am not a woman” and the power is ambivalent at best.) If the world has made you a fossil, turn yourself into a fossil fuel; burn yourself to run. Reject any pain or revelations; should something arise in a song that you don’t wanna know, immediately cue up something else: percussion regular as razor wire, a synth scale descending blankly like an abandoned alarm. If the world has turned your voice into a fucking meme, use a louder one. Know that the world will see this as coming into your own. A cry of despair and a cry of confidence can share a timbre.

Reader average: [6.57] (7 votes)

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5 Responses to “Halsey – I Am Not A Woman, I’m A God”

  1. Ughh the writing on those 10s

  2. christ, Katherine’s blurb is incredible

  3. “A cry of despair and a cry of confidence can share a timbre”

    B I C T H!

  4. katherine it is frankly unfair that you can write like that and I can’t

  5. @Katie the kids are pretty much hate watching Riverdale at this point because the show jumped the shark two seasons ago and the sheer soapy outrageousness is somehow compelling

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