Welcome to Hook & Reel, a series showcasing music that’s guaranteed to catch your ear.
Halsey’s had quite a journey, hasn’t she? She went from dropping her lithe, thundering debut single “Ghost” at the start of 2014 with minimal fanfare and a very humble fanbase, to becoming the first female to notch a #1 album in 2017 with her sophomore effort hopeless fountain kingdom, as well as delivering one of the biggest songs of the summer – the meticulously manicured pop paradigm “Now or Never.”
Looking back, it’s no surprise that the singer/songwriter has been able to strategically build her success to this titan-like level of super stardom. She built a feverish band of followers from the authenticity in her early music and social media presence, and with each new song she shared, she towed a line that most artists try their entire careers to master. She constantly explored different electronic textures and instrumentation with a feverish artfulness and passion that bled through her work. But even as she experimented with a multitude of sounds and styles, she helmed her music with pop-leaning hooks and ear-grabbing refrains, making herself an easy candidate for radio.
So, with her first single from HFK still making serious waves on the charts and radio (and showing no signs of stopping), it brings to mind the question: what will she choose as her follow up singles? “Strangers,” the slay-worthy same-sex love song featuring Fifth Harmony’s Lauren Jauregui, is a definite consideration, especially since it already charted on the Hot 100 the week after her album dropped. But a fiery gem hides within the deluxe tracklist of her album, one bound to be a guaranteed smash in the current pop landscape: enter “Don’t Play.”
Halsey worked with Badlands producer Lido on “Don’t Play,” and the two fashion a lightning-hot declaration of individuality and feminist badassery. The song starts as Halsey sits elegantly on a throne of shuddering, bass-heavy synths and needling production. Twinkling keys strut scintillatingly around the starlet as she coolly asserts her confidence and dismisses a former lover, all with a flow that drips as smooth, sweet, and deadly as poisoned honey. Then comes the chorus, where Halsey seethes the sharp refrain before Lido swoops in and slices through the track with a breakdown that surges forward like a siren, announcing Halsey’s triumphant independence.