iHeartRadio is an Internet radio platform. Halsey did an interview and photoshoot with them in 2017.
"I've definitely lived a lot of life, since my first record," says Halsey about her upcoming album Hopeless Fountain Kingdom, due out this June. "The difference between being a teenager and now being an adult, and I have a home, I have traveled the world, and I've had experiences that have given me a fresh perspective in making this record."
From first seeing her on YouTube performing covers, to the release of her debut album Badlands, to hit collaborations with artists like Justin Bieber and The Chainsmokers, to now, her brand new single "Now Or Never" and upcoming sophomore album, it has been thrilling to see Halsey grow as an artist over the last few years. And the next phase of her career begins with the release of her single "Now Or Never," the first song from Hopeless Fountain Kingdom.
We recently caught up with Halsey, and during an exclusive interview, she talked to us about the meaning behind her new single, what fans can expect from Hopeless Fountain Kingdom, what it was like putting the record together, the inspiration for the concept behind it, and more.
On the meaning behind "Now or Never" & working with Benny Blanco
Halsey says that her new single "Now or Never," which was produced by Benny Blanco, is a more optimistic part of Hopeless Fountain Kingdom, but undoubtedly about something many people can relate to. "It's about two people who are in a relationship, and one of them is begging the other person, 'Okay, you need to love me now or never. I'm tired of waiting, I'm tired of waiting for you to figure it out, and waiting for you to get it together. I just want this now. I want this to work out. And I need to know if it's not going to, because I need to go look at my other options.'" She adds, "It's a pleading song, but it's kind of careless at the same time. It's saying, I want you and I want this to work, but it wouldn't be the end of the world if it doesn't, kinda thing."
Halsey worked with Benny Blanco on "Now or Never," and she calls the producer "one of [her] favorite people in the world" and a "genius." She explains that during the process of the making of the album, the two became very good friends, and formed a strong connection. "We became really good friends in the process of working on some songs for this album, and he started becoming kind of like my therapist, in a weird way, where I'd come in and I'd be singing a song, and we'd finish the track, and then be ready to go. And he'd be like, 'Hey, I heard that thing you sang. Are you okay?' And it was kind of like he was hearing a cry for help. Even when I was singing, which was really cool because it made us bond really quickly. I formed a really strong bond."
On the making of Hopeless Fountain Kingdom
Benny Blanco isn't the only producer that Halsey worked with on Hopeless Fountain Kingdom with. The 22-year-old also shared studio time with Greg Kurstin, who has worked with artists like Adele, Sia, and Rihanna. "He's more than just a producer, he's a musician. He plays piano, guitar, so many instruments, and those songs on the record are really musical. You'll really hear a lot of emotion in those records because it was just me and a guy sitting down. No computer. Just a voice and an instrument, writing songs the old-fashioned way."
In addition to Greg, Halsey also worked with people like Ricky Reed (AKA Wallpaper), who has worked with twenty one pilots on several hit songs. "He's got a finger on the pop pulse, right now, but he used to be an Alternative guy. So I kind of let him drag that Alternative mentality out of him a little bit, again."
Although Halsey worked with some very talented producers on her new album, she is responsible for a lot herself, including the concept, writing the songs, being executive producer, co-directing all of the music videos, writing all of the treatments and stories, and developing interactive experiences for fans to experience the album in its entirety. As she puts it, "[What] I'm really excited for my fans to know about this album is how outrageously much of a control freak I really am." She adds, "I haven't slept in six months, but it's totally worth it because everything [will] hopefully make [my fans] so happy. I hope that they're proud of me when they hear it, and they know that it came from my heart, and that it was all real and me."
On the concept and story behind Hopeless Fountain Kingdom
Hopeless Fountain Kingdom is Halsey's second studio album, and the followup to her 2015 debut Badlands. And just like Badlands was a concept album, so is Hopeless Fountain Kingdom, and the new concept is more complex than it was for her debut album. Halsey says she really learned what it means to make a concept album from when she was making Badlands. "I was 19, and I didn't even know how to make a regular album, let alone a concept album," she tells us. But she has taken the knowledge she gained from creating Badlands, and has applied that to Hopeless Fountain Kingdom.
"For this [album], we put a lot of work into setting up the experience. So, mailing kids stuff in the mail, like secret messages to their house. Doing scavenger hunts. We have character profiles for all the characters in the storyline so you could watch them interact, and watch them engage as if you're watching the two protagonists actually participate in the story that's unraveling."
The concept behind Badlands was about a girl living in a apocalyptic society, and not wanting to escape knowing that she really should. Halsey calls this a "metaphor for our mental space [where] some people find themselves, myself included, comfortable in their depression." For her new album, the concept is more of a love story, and compares it to the story of Romeo and Juliet. "Hopeless Fountain Kingdom is a story of two people who want to be in love so badly, they're willing to change themselves for their love. And in doing so, they let the real versions of themselves die. It's a Romeo and Juliet story. And we have a lot of really incredible videos coming. It's gonna be awesome."
The Romeo and Juliet concept was inspired by true life, and by a real relationship of Halsey's. She says, "The big thing that led me to making what turned out to be a Romeo and Juliet story was, I was in a relationship with someone for a really long time, and I broke up with them, and then I sat down to write this album and realized I didn't know anything about myself. That's hard when you want to write music that's authentic, and that's honest and organic. I realized that I didn't know how to write about me, I only knew how to write about him. And that was bad. So it was almost like that strong girl who fought her way out of the Badlands, she was gone. I had to go back and save her. And I'm lucky that I did. I found her and I brought her back. And I sat down, and the record just started spilling out of me like it was nothing, like it was easy. But I had to go find her first and think to myself, when I'm alone and I'm not in a relationship, who am I? Who am I without the gaze of another person? When I'm getting dressed in the morning, and they're not sitting at the foot of my bed, what clothes do I pick out? When I'm laying on my couch, and when I'm ordering some food, what restaurant do I choose? What playlist do I put on in the car? Who am I when they're not watching me? When they're not judging me? And that's a lot of what this record is about."
On what fans can expect to hear from Hopeless Fountain Kingdom
Halsey explains that her new album shows tremendous growth from her last album, and her songs are very mature. She also says that fans can expect more urban and R&B elements, as well as some songs that are more stripped down and vulnerable. "All in all, it's a really complex record, and it tells a really great story. On their own, you'll love one of the songs if you hear it. But when you hear it all as a body of work, they play off of each other so well, and I'm really proud of it."