Halsey has spent the past few years ascending to pop music’s upper echelon, and she’s done it without releasing an album. (She was decidedly a smaller deal when she released her last LP Hopeless Fountain Kingdom in 2017.) Next month, Halsey, a consummate singles artist, will return to the business of making full-lengths when she releases the new album Manic. Earlier this fall, when she announced the album, she shared the insular, depression-fueled single “Graveyard.” And today, she’s shared another two tracks that show vastly different sides of her musical personality.
First up is “Finally // beautiful stranger,” which is not a remake of the CeCe Peniston ’90s house-pop anthem or the Madonna Austin Powers song. “Finally // beautiful stranger” finds Halsey going full ’90s Lilith Fair, which is not what I was expecting from her but which turns out to be a nice fit. Over a lush, warm acoustic backing full of tearful pedal steel, Halsey sings about trying to open up and be vulnerable enough to get into a relationship with someone: “Beautiful stranger, here you are in my arms and I know / That beautiful strangers only come along to do me wrong.”
Halsey co-wrote “Finally // beautiful stranger” with Adele/Beck collaborator Greg Kurstin, who produced. In director Patrick Tracy’s video, Halsey gets all glammed up and sings the song in a crowded bar. But we also see her, decidedly not glammy, singing it after closing time.
The second track is a short two-minute sketch called “SUGA’s Interlude.” It’s a collaboration with Suga, one of the members of the globally massive South Korean boy band BTS. Halsey collaborated with BTS earlier this year on their single “Boy With Luv,” so she’s got a history with them. On “Suga’s Interlude,” Halsey sings about her own ambivalence about fame, while Suga raps, in Korean, about fighting self-doubt. Below, watch the “Finally // beautiful stranger” video and listen to “SUGA’s Interlude.”
Manic is out 1/17 on Capitol.