• Gaudie Arts

If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power (2021) - Halsey | Music Review

by Emily Gevers
Rating 5/5

courtesy of Genius.com


If you’re a Tumblr-veteran like me, the name Halsey is likely to evoke a feeling of bittersweet, slightly cringey nostalgia and memories of lyrics scribbled onto Converse shoes and the smell of Manic Panic hair-dye (everything was blue indeed).


But Halsey has come a long way since her debut album Badlands (2015); the 13-track concept album If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power marks their fourth studio release. According to Halsey themselves it is ‘a concept album about the joys and horrors of pregnancy and childbirth.’ The surrounding artwork is heavily inspired by Renaissance artwork and depictions of the Madonna.


The opening track, ‘The Tradition,’ creates a medieval atmosphere that carries on through the entire album. The bridge ‘Well, flesh amnesiac this is your song/ And I hope what’s left will last all summer long’ are not only some of the strongest lyrics of the album but also show off Halsey’s talented vocals. ‘Lilith,’ as well as ‘Girl is a Gun,’ and ‘You asked for this’ are confident-bordering-on-bratty songs about bodily autonomy, female emancipation, and the inherent horrors of the All-American picket-fence purgatory.

If you’re a Tumblr-veteran like me, the name Halsey is likely to evoke a feeling of bittersweet, slightly cringey nostalgia and memories of lyrics scribbled onto Converse shoes and the smell of Manic Panic hair-dye (everything was blue indeed).

‘Darling,’ which features guitars by Lindsey Buckingham, and ‘1121’ are incredibly bittersweet ballads about unconditional parental love that make me cry more often than not.


According to Halsey, ‘honey’ is a song about ‘A wild girl;’ this upbeat, fun song, which features Dave Grohl on the drums, is a lovely track about sapphic love and adventurous relationships. This spring anthem would be a great soundtrack to a queer adventure movie.


‘I am not a woman, I’m a god’ and ‘The Lighthouse’ are dark, gritty songs. Similarly to the opening track, ‘The Lighthouse’ has a strong narrative driven by themes of autonomy and revenge, with a haunting bride to match.


‘Ya’aburnee’ is Arabic and roughly translates to ‘may he bury me’. It’s a way of saying that someone hopes they die before their partner as they could not stand to live without them. Accordingly, this slightly disjointed final track is another bittersweet love song to both Halsey’s partner and her new-born.


If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power is both a love letter to, and a word of caution about, motherhood and love in all forms, be it maternal, romantic, self, or queer, love.