If they can’t have love, they want power

Halsey’s new album explores brutal, yet beautiful themes of love and loss

Capitol Records

Halsey’s personal experiences with the beauty and horror of pregnancy and childbirth led to the release of their fourth studio album “If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power” at the end of August.

The album lacked any singles and had little promotion before its release, leaving fans to wonder what route the artist would take their sound for this current era of stardom. The record’s gothic cover art depicts Halsey sat upon an elegant throne with a baby resting on their lap and a crown upon their head; an image greatly inspired by Jean Fouquet’s notable painting “Virgin & Child Surrounded by Angels”.

The cover art alone left fans curious, but Halsey’s release of a medieval-inspired full length IMAX film alongside the record had them waiting anxiously on the edge of their seats. The film was released in select theaters around the world and is currently not available on any streaming platforms.

The album begins with “The Tradition” followed by “Bells in Santa Fe,” two tracks that eerily introduce the album and build up the allure of the songs to come. They’re immediately followed by “Easier than Lying” and “Girl is a Gun,” which bring back the singer/songwriter’s pop roots, but with added trippy synths and berserk beats.

The album’s lively beginning run takes a brief halt with “Darling,” a song written as a lullaby for Halsey’s newborn child. “Foolish men have tried, but only you have shown me how to love being alive,” Halsey sings. The song is followed by “1121”, or November 21, the date that the singer discovered their pregnancy.

“It’s the day I found out I was pregnant. I was really sick and I thought that I had COVID, but I was just pregnant,” Halsey stated with a laugh on an Instagram livestream after the album’s release.

The record gives a few more surprises in its final run, including songs like “honey”, a track about a “wild girl on a wild night” and “I am not a woman, I’m a god”, which explains the duality of self-hatred and self-worship. “The Lighthouse” precedes the final track and haunts listeners with a sinister vibe, stating “I’m glad I met the devil ‘cause he showed me I was weak, and a little piece of him is in a little piece of me.”

The album concludes with “Ya’aburnee”, an Arabic term that translates to “You bury me.” Halsey lightly sings over a melodic beat that states “Darling, you will bury me before I bury you.” The song wraps the album up in way that still feels connected to the rest of the tracks, but soft and beautiful enough to differentiate itself and serve as the finale to Halsey’s grand piece of work.

Overall, Halsey’s newest addition to their discography is one that blends different sounds and experiments with both light and dark themes, which might take a few listens to fully appreciate. However, the intertwining of heavy hyper-pop beats, classic pop melodies and light-hearted lullabies ultimately creates an album that exposes what it means to experience and unpack the beauty and brutality of our own experiences.