As Halsey’s follow-up to 2015’s lush masterpiece “Badlands” starts and she reads a passage from Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” with all the forced sincerity of a high school performer, I knew I was in trouble – It’s not that the album is bad by any means, it’s that it announces from the get-go that it believes itself to be more clever and meaningful than it actually is. The majority of the full-length songs here are just fine, including some stand-outs like “Eyes Closed” and “Heaven in Hiding,” but they’re interspersed with meandering, short interlude-like songs (a la Frank Ocean’s “Blond”) that distract from the overall project, making the whole thing feel self-conscious. In some ways this should have been a third album for Halsey instead of a second, it just feels like she’s jumping ahead of herself here instead of developing a consistent sonic identity she can toy with later on. As it is, this isn’t bad at all, it just could have – and should have – been a lot better.
Rating: ★★★ (out of 5)