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Smooth Bananas: ‘If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power’

Since her debut album in 2015, Halsey has become quite the superstar. One might even say she’s grabbing for more power with their most recent album, “If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power.”

The album, produced by film composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, and released by label “Capitol,” is the fourth studio album from the singer-songwriter. The album runs approximately 40 minutes and features 13 tracks of varying lengths. The album is described as a concept album primarily about pregnancy, childbirth, and the post-partum period.

The album is not much of a departure from Halsey’s usual style. Her lyrics are defined by a wit that can be described quite easily as “deeper than a trench within a trench.” Some critics have goaded the singer-songwriter for sounding a little too much like an angsty teen who just stepped off Tumblr, but others have applauded their use of striking metaphors such as calling themselves a hurricane or begging for self-immolation in pursuit of stardom. The album, while not that much different than the rest of her music, is an evolution following their previous trajectory.

The album’s place as a concept album is firmly cemented by the interwoven themes throughout the tracks. The album takes the listener through finely walked lines between self-destruction and survival, self-control, and relentless instinct, and asking big questions like “Be careful what you wish for.” Halsey uses these themes to create a picture of horror. The idea that pregnancy can be both heaven and horror is something many parents can relate to on a spiritual level. Halsey taps into this wellspring of pain in the most authentic way.

The production value is what sets the album apart. It appears Reznor and Ross are eager to put their foot down in popular music for an extended period because they bring these songs about horror and pleasure to life with a certain experimental flair. The affectations they create with sound lend themselves perfectly to the subject matter that Halsey sings about at any given moment. They have a range that is hard to capture, and this frankly comes from their background in film. The pair worked on the award-winning film, “The Social Network,” and the amount of expression that film scores require is expertly transplanted into this album.

The album is also interesting because there are no major singles or featured songs. It’s almost like Halsey is forcing you to sniff out the meat of the album just by listening. Often people will simply listen to the single and then move on from the album. Halsey wants to avoid this approach and make people listen to her messages about patriarchy and their commentaries on American life in the modern world. She has always tried to shine a light on the darker corners of the world and this album achieves that goal even further.

“If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power” receives an A rating.

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