Halsey – Artistry and Activism
Ashley Frangipane, a 24-year old artist from Brooklyn New York, began her music career like many of this generation, posting covers and original pieces to various social media platforms, as a means of emotional and artistic expression. In 2014, the then 17-year-old wrote and recorded “Ghost” under the anagram (and soon to be permanent stage name) Halsey, a song with lyrical content that touched the many listeners who tuned in, just hours upon its release. This began the steady rise of her career, fueling a concrete foundation of social media followers and fans, who would force Halsey into the eyes of big-name artists and producers.
In the midst of writing her breakthrough album Badlands, Halsey toured with big names such as the Kooks and Imagine Dragons, performing both original songs off her EP “Room 93” and covers of songs that kept her dedicated fanbase begging for more. Upon the release of Badlands, Halsey’s online presence skyrocketed, as millions of listeners worldwide resonated with the young artists raw vocals, coupled with lyrical content that evoked a powerful emotional response. The album received nods from countless music critics, including Rolling Stone, featured 3 certified platinum singles, over 200 million streams on Spotify (and counting), and a fanbase so deeply moved, thousands of Badland’s related tattoos began to surface within the Halsey fan-following.
Following the massive traction gained after Badland’s release, Halsey would go on to collaborate again with massive industry names, including being featured on Justin Bieber’s 2015 single “The Feeling,” and co-writing the massive pop hit “Closer” with The Chainsmokers, which would then remain in the Billboard Hot 100 for 12 consecutive weeks. In 2017, Halsey would then release the greatly anticipated sophomore album Hopeless Fountain Kingdom, with content inspired by Romeo and Juliet, and her recently ended relationship with producer, Lido. Again, Halsey captured her fanbase with powerful lyrics, with relatable themes of heartbreak, self-worth, and struggling to feel whole in the midst of unpredictable life circumstances. Hopeless Fountain Kingdom would feature many certified platinum titles, sell over 100-thousand copies within the first week, and became the first woman to achieve a number one album in the US in 2017.
Halsey’s massive and exponential success is no surprise to those who look beyond the numbers and calculable success of her career. The powerful, honest, and raw musical content is simply the artistic expression of an individual whose life experiences evoke powerful emotion. From the early formation of her online presence, Halsey has been a strong advocate for mental illness, women’s rights, and LGBT rights, sharing deep and personal experiences of growing up mentally ill on the LGBTQ spectrum, and would hold this piece of her identity close to her throughout her career.
In 2016, Halsey collaborated with 26 other artists as a tribute to those who lost their lives in the Pulse shooting, and would later release “Bad At Love” which is often referred to by fans as a “bisexual anthem,” due to her lyrical inclusion of both male and female romantic partners. Throughout the duration of her 2017 and 2018 Hopeless Fountain Kingdom tour, she would use the opportunity between songs to speak directly to her audience, expressing her gratitude and admiration for her multifaceted, largely LGBT and vastly intersecting fanbase, with a rainbow flag reading “all human beings are born free & equal in dignity and rights” proudly pinned on stage behind her. During the 2018 Women’s March in New York, she would not only participate by donating 100-thousand dollars to Planned Parenthood, but would recite a deeply moving poem involving themes of sexual assault solidarity amongst women facing sexual abuse and violence.
The young artist, whose small beginnings from a basement in New York, have reached the likes of millions, has paved the road for many young artists to come. Halsey’s open-book approach to her personal life, has allowed her fanbase to feel a sense of emotional connection and kinship that is often unparalleled compared to other artists in the industry. Known for her intimate stripped concerts, touching meet and greets, and personal outreach to fans struggling with mental illness, Halsey is at the forefront of artists who have a personal investment to their individual fans. Her participation in social movements, and headstrong approach to sexual identity and representation, makes her difficult to ignore, and makes for a fanbase so concrete, they are tied together by permanent ink and ticket stubs to sold-out arenas worldwide.