Written while pregnant with their first child, the album sleeve calls to mind images of the Virgin Mary with child, while sat on a golden throne – a nod to both the power and love of the album title. In fact, religious imagery is strewn across the record, not least in the pulsing Bells In Santa Fe’s ‘Jesus needed a three-day weekend to sort out his bullshit’.
For all the biblical bombast, however, it’s the tracks that lean into Halsey’s punk side where the record really comes alive. The high-energy, Easier Than Lying hurtles along, raging against a broken relationship, bolstered by fuzzed-up bass and pounding percussion. Similarly, honey (featuring none other than Dave Grohl on drums) sounds positively liberating; listen closely and you’ll hear the sound of loose shackles clanking on the floor.
But this is a record of evolving, juxtaposing moods and dynamics. As each track flows into another like a stream of consciousness, dissecting their past relationships – with others and themselves – Halsey embraces the recent post-grunge/shoegaze boom on You asked for this, evermore-era Taylor Swift on the plucky folk Darling, and swaggering, low-slung heaviness on The Lighthouse. Unsurprisingly, though, NIN’s electronic influence oozes out across the record, from the ’90s drum’n’bass bounce of Girl Is A Gun to the pulsating wooziness of Whisper, all adding layer upon layer of synthesised scenery to be explored.
In a world where pop and ‘mainstream music’ is becoming more and more beholden to releasing an endless string of singles, Halsey’s If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power is an album best served whole. Sure, it’s packing some infectious, radio-ready choruses, but there is so much more to unpack, with each listen peeling back layers of heartache but also dexterity and adventure, and a much-needed sense of danger that their peers are lacking. As Halsey moves into a new chapter in their own life, so too does their music. And we are here for it.
For fans of: Billie Eilish, Nine Inch Nails, Poppy
If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power is out now.