Halsey On Top: 'Without Me' Reaches No. 1, and a Pop Star Levels Up Again

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With this newest smash, the singer is now one of the crucial bankable pop radio artists working. How did she rise so excessive so shortly?

“Tell me, how’s it really feel sittin’ up there? Feeling so excessive, however too distant to carry me / You know I’m the one who put you up there, identify within the sky, does it ever get lonely?”

The first half of the refrain to Halsey’s “Without Me,” which hits No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 this week, is a seething mixture of anger, cynicism, pettiness and ache, directed at an ex who used her till her love was now not very important. Halsey’s voice, simmering within the previous verses, boils over on the phrase “really feel,” as if the emotion coursing via her veins is just too unadulterated to maintain in examine. Before she delivers the second half of the refrain and the incredulous hook of the music — “Thinking you would li-i-i-i-ive with out me” — the underside of the manufacturing drops out, and Halsey is alone along with her devastation, save for a number of finger snaps and somber piano stabs.

As her first solo Hot 100-topper, “Without Me” appears like a tipping level for Halsey as a A-list fashionable artist. It hasn’t taken a ton of time for her to succeed in the sort of superstardom. Two years in the past, Halsey was a promising pop character, able to commanding sizable dwell audiences however unproven on Top 40 radio, save for her characteristic on the 2016 Chainsmokers smash “Closer.”

Today, she has develop into one of the crucial dependable pop radio artists working, because of the a number of hits from her 2017 sophomore album Hopeless Fountain Kingdom and the singles which have adopted in its wake. In the identical week that “Without Me” reaches the chart pinnacle, “Eastside,” her moody collaboration with Benny Blanco and Khalid, reaches a brand new peak of No. 11 on the Hot 100. Halsey has now collected six prime 20 Hot 100 singles — 5 of them previously two years alone — and posted within the prime 20 of Billboard’s 2018 year-end Top Artists and Radio Songs Artists charts, respectively.

Halsey has all the time had the kind of distinct but malleable voice completely suited to this second in pop. She can ship a sticky hook to interrupt up rap verses (as she does on the G-Eazy collaboration “Him & I”), successfully function over R&B manufacturing (going toe-to-toe with Khalid on “Eastside”) and belt out a huge pop chorus (just like the titular declaration of “Bad at Love”) with out sacrificing any of her self-possessed angle.

Yet for the reason that launch of her intriguing but uneven debut album, 2015’s Badlands, the important thing to Halsey’s rising success has been her notable songwriting growth. Compared to Badlands tracks like “Ghost” and “New Americana,” which had been formidable however overly cliched, newer singles “Now or Never,” “Alone” and “Eastside” are extra nuanced, capturing romantic strife, social anxiousness and dashed skilled goals with extra evocative element.

In specific, “Bad at Love,” which peaked at No. 5 on the Hot 100 final yr and options Halsey reflecting on previous romances with each women and men, can be remembered as a groundbreaking radio hit for its normalization of same-sex attraction — a legacy that might have been dulled if the music had not been a razor-sharp self-assessment with a killer pre-chorus. Halsey has shortly develop into extra snug constructing the tales round her massive hooks; “Without Me” is maybe probably the most assured yarn she’s spun so far, however it’s the continuation of an upward development, too.

It’s additionally a reasonably surprising win. “Without Me” was launched in early October as a standalone single not tied to any album and smack in the midst of Halsey selling “Eastside.” (In the identical week that “Without Me” dropped, Halsey carried out “Eastside” with Benny Blanco and Khalid on the 2018 American Music Awards.) The music has spent the previous three months rising up the chart with none main “narrative” connected to it. It’s not a comeback single for Halsey, or a serious detion from her current sound. There’s no meme, or viral video or featured artist that’s serving to it appeal to new listeners. The bridge of “Without Me” interpolates Justin Timberlake’s “Cry Me a River,” which is attention-grabbing, however actually not a catalyst for an explosion of streams. And, in fact, followers have speculated that the “Without Me” lyrics nod to Halsey’s relationship with G-Eazy, however Halsey has denied that the music is about one particular person.

In the top, it doesn’t actually matter. There’s no cheat code that “Without Me” used to get to the highest of the Hot 100 — it’s only a actually polished, profitable pop single, the sort that Halsey has been tossing out an increasing number of often. It’s additionally her first solo single to succeed in the highest 10 of the Streaming Songs chart, the place it’s peaked at No. three — troublesome territory for conventional pop acts to dominate as of late, and an excellent signal for her future. No matter how lengthy “Without Me” stays on the prime of Hot 100, and each time a follow-up single or new album drops, Halsey is at present in an enble place as a bankable radio artist with more and more spectacular songwriting chops and streaming energy. For the foreseeable future, it's laborious to think about pop with out her.