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Generic production undoes Halsey’s ‘Hopeless Fountain Kingdom’

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Annie Zaleski

Three stars

Halsey Hopeless Fountain Kingdom

Halsey is one of the most relatable pop stars of recent vintage. The Jersey-born artist’s interviews are notoriously candid, and her feature on The Chainsmokers’ monster hit “Closer” conveys the perfect balance of vulnerability and longing. Her second studio album, Hopeless Fountain Kingdom, continues the confessional trend. “I can sometimes treat the people that I love like jewelry,” she sings on the affecting piano ballad “Sorry,” her voice Adele-esque in its glamour and intimacy. Other songs find Halsey wielding a slightly raspy delivery while vividly describing the push-pull of irresistible but unhealthy relationships, staying out too late to numb heartache and the emotional isolation of romantic turmoil. The hip-hop-tinged “Bad at Love” is even better: Halsey recites a list of failed relationships and repeatedly wails “I’m bad at love” on the chorus, despairing at her own shortcomings. On the downside, the album’s music isn’t up to the standards set by Halsey’s bloodletting lyrics. Generic modern electronic production with nods to hip-hop and house abound, meaning that only a few songs—the sultry, tropical-pop standout “100 Letters,” retro-soul throwback “Alone” and highlight “Strangers,” a splash of late-’80s synth-pop cool—feel distinctive. Halsey and her brave, bold perspectives deserve better.

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