While Halsey is prepping for the first-ever performance of songs off her new album, Hopeless Fountain Kingdom, she lays out her sole criteria for knowing whether or not the album is successful: “If I can walk on that stage at Vevo Presents, and have my fans singing back the words with the same lightning in their eyes as they did on the last album, then I’ll know I’m going to be okay.”
She doesn’t cite sales, streams, awards or dream concert venues — though she’s already headlined a sold out show at Madison Square Garden — instead, Halsey wants to feel connected, she wants to feel heard. This might as well be the mantra of the much-maligned millennial generation, and based off the roaring crowd that greeted Halsey at The MacArthur show in Los Angeles last week, this dream is still coming true on Hopeless Fountain Kingdom.
In just two years, Ashley Nicolette Frangipane has forged the kind of connection with her fanbase that most artists dream of creating, and that most pop stars need to keep doing what they do. Part of the deep connection forged between Halsey and her fans is based on shared identities, the kind that pop stars don’t usually claim for themselves, even if they’re true, let alone champion. She’s long been open about her identity as someone who has bipolar disorder, identifies as bisexual, and has a biracial heritage (her father is Black).
Frangipane grew up in New Jersey, the daughter of a hospital security guard and a car dealership manager, and she’s also been open about her working class family’s financial struggles, particularly when it comes to not being able to afford college.
Plenty of pop stars come from poor or middle class backgrounds, and seek to obliterate their past in a whirlwind of success, but Frangipane seems to be still vividly in touch with the discomfort of growing up with not enough, frustration of not belonging to the cool kid’s club. And while many artists pay lip service to their fanbase, Ashley — aka Halsey — is one of the few who seems to really mean it; these songs mean nothing to her if they don’t mean something to you.
This emphasis on subjectivity is certainly part of what helps her step outside the hallowed circle of indie-approved “cool” bands, and arguably, her separation from that faction of the music industry is a further part of her appeal for diehards. Halsey is not “cool” in the way Lorde is “cool,” and for a lot of fans, this is what makes her even more relatable. F*ck the tastemakers, we choose our own heroines, right? I have no interest in pitting pop stars against one another — even if Taylor and Katy have proven that on some level, it works — but the distinct similarities between the way Halsey and Lorde came up makes it hard not to occasionally compare them.