February 17, 2019
Todd plays "Without Me" on the piano.
HALSEY - WITHOUT ME
A pop song review
Todd: Wanna hear a funny thing that happened about a month ago?
Clip of Halsey - "Bad at Love"
Halsey: I'm bad at loveTodd (VO): Okay, so you know that song, "Bad at Love" by Halsey?
Todd: You know, (singing) I'm bad at love, ooh, ooh.
Todd (VO): Yeah, it's a song about all her bad relationships, and in the verses, she goes into them one by one and how they all failed?
Halsey: So I told him that I never really liked his friends
Now he's gone and he's calling me a bitch againTodd: Well, my buddy, the Rap Critic (screenshot of Todd and Rap Critic from Mac and Devin Go to High School ), you remember him, a while back, he pointed out she's supposedly so (screenshot of RC's Twitter feed) bad at love, but she doesn't do anything wrong in the song.
Halsey: But I never got the chance to make her mine
Because she fell in love with little thin white linesTodd (VO): You know, it's like, "Well, this guy is a sexist asshole, or this girl I dated had a drug problem." "So, how is Halsey supposedly so 'bad at love' when they're the fuck-ups?" was his question.
Todd: Now, I already thought of that. So, I told him, well, (Todd's tweet) obviously, it's about her having bad taste. Bad taste in men/women.
Todd (VO): If these are the kinds of people she attracts, she can call herself "bad at love".
Todd: I was pretty satisfied with that interpretation. But, like a month ago, I realized... wait a minute, what about that last verse?
Halsey: London girl with an attitude We never told no one but we look so cute Both got way better things to do But I always think about it when I'm riding throughOkay, hold on. No one did anything wrong there. No one got hurt. That was just a casual thing that fizzled out. How does that fit the song? How does that make her bad at love? Maybe she's "bad at love" because she gets all dramatic about things that aren't problems... and I posted all that. That's the type of high-quality content you can find on my Twitter feed, subscribe now.
I didn't expect her to respond.
I don't know how she found it but right after I posted that, Halsey, the actual fucking person, popped into my mentions to explain her songwriting choices to me. I was not prepared for that, and I backpedaled hard enough to leave a Todd-shaped hole in the wall behind me. And I explained that I did like the song and I was just kidding around, ha ha ha. I think I called her "ma'am" at one point even though I'm ten years older than her. I don't remember cause I blacked out from embarrassment. When snark goes wrong.
For the record, I wasn't sucking up to her. I do like that song. Although she did say she meant that chorus kind of facetiously like, "Oh well. Guess I just suck!"
As a critic, I would respond that she may have written it facetiously but she didn't sing it that way. It seems very sincere and that's where it gets its power, and I think the verses could've stood to be a little darker. I think these are all based on real relationships and it might have worked out a little better if she'd just made something up instead.
In any case, after my brush with fame, her career hit its biggest height yet: a number one single. I took that as a sign cause, heheheh, Halsey has been on my mind quite a bit in the last month. So I thought now would be a good time to discuss her and her massive smash hit, "Without Me."
(Snippet of the music video plays)
This is a number-one hit, seriously?
Okay, so I'm listening to this and this is provoking a lot of thoughts in me, like uh... why do I listen to this kind of music again? Wow, that sounder way harsher than I meant it. That wasn't like, a slam on the song. It's just something I've been asking myself a lot in these pop-anemic last couple of years. Like, "What am I doing here? I didn't come naturally to plastic, bubblegum music. I hated that shit growing up. Why do I bother now?"
Well, I dunno. Why do I go to those stupid superhero movies every couple of months? I like big, larger-than-life figures with splashy colors and costumes and fight scenes. I could be seeing indie dramas, but those are about regular people. Pfft, who cares? Call me a shallow critic if you want, but I'm not that interested in music that's just music. I like the big, gaudy videos and biographical career arcs, and all that stupid extra stuff. I like music with mythology attached to it, the big iconic figures, and in the late 2000's when I started reviewing music, those figures were all pop stars. It really is just the same nerdy impulse that made me into comic books when I was a kid. You got these larger than life figures in ridiculous costumes, and every release is an event. That's my nerd cred. You may have all 42 volumes of the original Dragonball manga, but I listen to mainstream music!
So yeah, that's basically how I got into this. The pop stars like Lady Gaga or Katy Perry, those are my superheroes... or at least they were before the bomb dropped.
In hindsight, Lorde's big anti-pop pop anthem, "Royals" seems like the shockwave that destroyed everything. Basically, Lorde killed Superman and now we're in some kind of post apocalyptic dystopia comic instead. It didn't happen right away of course, and you obviously can't pin everything on one song, but it feels like the turning point that explains where we are now: How we got from Pitbull to Post Malone. How we got from "Part in the U.S.A." to "Stressed Out." And slowly but surely, those big godlike figures, the big names with big reputations burned themselves out. The genre still exists, but the hits are coming from people like Charlie Puth or Camilla Cabello or Dua Lipa. Y'know I like Dua Lipa a lot. I don't like Camilla Cabello at all, but in both cases there's no star power coming off of them. They're just people who make songs.
It's my job to keep track of these people and I barely know what they look like. And that's before you get into EDM where the music is made by disposable no-names working for literally faceless producers.