Even in our current day and age, you would have a hard time to find an artist as polarizing as Halsey. Some adore her and some hate her. Bursting onto the scene in a wave of emotional teenage angst and highbrow concepts with 2014’s Room 93, she offered something different, creative and out there, giving her fans something they hadn’t seen before. 2015’s Badlands, saw Halsey lose some of her originality and brilliance as she tried so hard to remain what she was on Room 93 instead of evolving as an artist. It had its moments like the transcendent “Control” which more than proved Halsey still had it in her to be as creative and brilliant as she once was, but tracks like “New Americana” just lacked the conviction and believability, ultimately rendering her solid but translucent.
With hopeless fountain kingdom, Halsey picks up where she left off with “The Prologue”, where she tries to be deep and layered but falls flat with her reciting the prologue from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet followed by some distorted vocals. “100 Letters” finds itself with tired production and while the lyricism find fleeting moments of brilliance they are dragged down by the uninspired nature of the rest of the track’s components. “Alone” and “Now or Never” add insult to injury with generic mainstream beats and pitiful lyrics, with the former sticking out like a sore thumb with its odd R&B electro production that sounds like something Frank Ocean’s cast offs and is ultimately one of the most try hard and dull tracks in her entire discography.
The album’s cohesive sound is non-existent as she leaps from genre to genre, never resting on one long enough truly master it. “Lie”, “Bad at Love” and “Walls Could Talk” tick every box that any typical bland pop song does, the latter adopting the same vibe of something Ashley Tisdale or Hillary Duff would have happily released in the mid 2000’s. The album’s final track “Hopeless” is just that. Featuring Cashmere Cat, it sounds more like a Halsey feature on one of their album’s filler tracks.
The albums has some good points, although they are as scarce as water in the Sahara. “Strangers” provides a solid love song but has balls to discuss a queer relationship. While the lyrics offer nothing overly creative, it’s one of the better executed mainstream tracks the album hosts and is seriously elevated by the Lauren Jauregui feature, who sings with conviction and provides a refreshing sound to the album. “Devil in Me” is also strong, buoyed by the song writing talent of Sia, whose influence is immediately noticeable. While the chorus is repetitive, Halsey’s delivery, which is also quite Sia-like in itself, sells it. Finally, “Sorry” adds a nice change of pace to the album, and sold lyricism although it suffers from the same repetitiveness in the chorus which isn’t sold as well on this track.
Ultimately, hopeless fountain kingdom is an un-cohesive, misdirected and amateur album, where she attempts to sloppily copy artists such as the Weeknd and Frank Ocean. It is an insult to her fans that this is sold as anything more than a generic attempt at mass-appeal, never-mind a concept album. That term should be reserved for ambitious albums such as Melanie Martinez’s Crybaby (who is not so subtlety ripped off here, see track 7) and Marina and The Diamonds Electra-Heart. Instead, Halsey tries too hard to be alternative and mainstream at the same time instead of owning what this album is – a one-dimensional, sad and unfortunate attempt to regain the brilliance she once had but has lost somewhere along the path to this hopeless foundation kingdom.