Halsey’s “If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power” pairs the joys and horrors of pregnancy and motherhood.
It has never been a surprise that Halsey can seamlessly slip into whichever genre they choose. From the indie notes of “Badlands” to the radio pop songs of “Hopeless Fountain Kingdom” and the emotional streams of consciousness filling “Manic,” all of the fans have been excitedly anticipating a rock album. Especially after the punk rock anthem “Nightmare” that took radio stations by storm in 2019 and collaboration “Forget Me Too” with Machine Gun Kelly, fans have been demanding the return of “Punksey.”
With the surprise release of “If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power” in late August, fans got exactly that. Very little was known about this album that lacked radio singles. The news hit the media about a month prior to the album’s actual release, followed by the fact that the album was paired with an IMAX film starring Halsey that would play for one night only in select theaters across the country.
“If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power” is Halsey’s hardest album yet. It’s produced by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross of Nine Inch Nails, and features other famous artists such as Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac.
After announcing the pregnancy of their rainbow baby with partner Alev Aydin, news of the album soon followed, one that would put to music the endless, spiraling thoughts of how exciting yet also scary pregnancy and childbirth can be.
The songs on the album seamlessly mix together, one leading into the next. A medieval air takes over the instrumentals as the listener is immersed in stories taking place long ago. Halsey has always been one for themed albums, and the renaissance of “If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power” perfectly ages it in time.
“The Tradition” is a splendid opener, building in its almost four minutes of runtime with a haunting repetitiveness that really sets the vibe for the rest of the album. It easily mixes into the second track, “Bells in Santa Fe,” where the tolling instrumentals transport the listener to the beginning of a story where “it’s not a happy ending.”
“Easier than Lying” dives into the grungy anger seeping at the edges of the album, and I couldn’t get enough of it. Pairing with one of the most intense scenes of the movie, it’s a song all about breaking off from what people made you to be.
This angry song smooths into “Lilith,” a beat-heavy tune with just as angry lyrics regarding love and how hard it is to hold onto it.
Track five is my personal favorite, “Girl is a Gun.” Following a track about how tough love can be, this song, in an upbeat rhythm, has Halsey admitting “I feel better when the boys stop calling.” Paired in the movie with the scene where Queen Lila and all of her friends go on a drunken rampage through town, it is certainly one of the brighter songs on the horror-tinged album.
“You Asked for This” is the beginning of the haunting thoughts that twist their way into the album’s lyrics, crying “you wished upon a falling star and then left behind the avant-garde for lemonade in crystal glasses, picket fences, file taxes.” Being a major pop and punk star for the majority of their formative years, many thought that this pregnancy would be the end of Halsey’s stardom, beckoning these lyrics of a switch to mundanity and if they’re simply settling.
Immediately, though, this song gives way to “Darling,” a beautiful piece that makes me cry every time I hear it. It’s an honest love song set to a bare guitar, a lullaby to the baby Halsey had shortly after the album was
released. “Darling don’t you weep, there’s a place for me,” they methodically promise, juxtaposing the prior haunting thoughts of the last track.
“1121” may seem like an odd title, but it’s when Halsey found out they were pregnant, on Nov. 21, and the lyrics perfectly entwined the scary anticipation of more, especially with so much already on their shoulders, but being so willing to give their heart away.
“Honey” is another personal favorite of mine, a fast and wild track that gets stuck in your head like the stickiness of honey. “Whispers” does the exact same thing, but for a much darker reason, highlighting all that can affect your relationships.
“I am not a Woman, I’m a God” pairs self-doubt with self-love, showing how you can think of yourself as both the best and worst thing out there. Even though no singles were released prior to the album, this quickly became the staple piece of the album, perfectly encompassing the duality of horror and delight.
“The Lighthouse” returns the grungepunk album to its roots, with a screeching guitar outlining every lyric. It’s a sinister story of a siren, bringing revenge to the exes “that should teach a man not to mess with me.”
To close the album, wrapping up every theme and final thought, is “Ya’aburnee,” which is Turkish (Aydin is Turkish) for “you bury me.” It is a saying meant for lovers, where the one hopes they will be buried before the other, because they could simply not live without them. It is a love song to Aydin and their child, a darker, but just
as sentimental ballad as “Darling.” Pairing with the credits of the film, it is a wonderful closer, leaving the listener with a sweet feeling, knowing that in the end, the singer is happy with their life and in a place now
full of love.
This is certainly one of my favorite Halsey albums yet, full of emotion and visual lyrics, and with the pairing of an IMAX film, it was an enchanting experience. I must say, though, I think I would have enjoyed the film more if I saw it before the album was released. Most of the scenes were reused from the trailer and there was minimal dialogue. I think it would’ve been a great medium to hear the album for the first time, but I will say that it brought a new meaning to a number of the songs.
“If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power” represents the duality of major life changes, saying that it is okay to be both nervous and excited. It is out now and can be listened to on all platforms.