The Meaning of Halsey

Check out this Halsey Video. Holy shit! She went country!

Why do I like Halsey better than most pop artists of today. For one, she’s talented. She kicks ass at singing. Secondly, she can sing any genre and it works. Third of all, she’s authentic. She’s never trying-too-hard. Trying to put on some personna. Maybe she is and she’s just so good at lying, but I really doubt it and I also don’t care because if a tree falls and no one is around to hear it…

Halsey got me to like music videos. I always prefer to watch an artist sing live. However, in this case, Halsey didn’t post this song live. I checked rigorously before giving in to watch this video. She only posted this Collin Tilley music video who slapped his name on the opening sequence so I could see his name over and over every time I re-watched his video which was like a million times. Obviously it was nice to see Halsey dancing around almost naked the whole time — sorry if I’m about to direct a whole bunch of pervs to your video, Halsey — but it wasn’t about the nakedness. It was about the message. This whole video — from lyrics to choreography to costuming — was a statement to whatever man broke her heart saying, “Look at what you’re missing, I hope you feel like shit without me. You should be sad.” You Should Be Sad. It’s the fucking title. This whole massive production was put together to serve this very human message. And it resonates with me.

But what about this Escher painting? Ascending and Descending. What’s his message here?

Forgive me, but I don’t think Escher was trying to say anything major here. We could impose our own ideas — “Oh this is a deep metaphor for the concept of infinity. He’s trying to say society is insane for doing the same thing, over and over, and expecting a different result when we all know this fundamental truth that history is damned to repeat itself” — but I don’t think any of that was running through his head when he made this lithograph. He was simply trying to tantalize our eyes. Or maybe he was simply trying to expand upon the Penrose Staircase. Mask it into a very hyper-real specific instance of the extrapolated ideal. Like somebody painting a very specific tree to depict the concept called Treeness. For example, one could argue that Halsey ’s song-video serves as one hyper-specific instance of the platonic form called Breakup Song. 

Halsey may be singing about somebody she knows and about a real-life experience or she might be singing about an imaginary situation that resonates with her. Or even one of her friend’s experiences. Or maybe someone wrote the song for her. It doesn’t matter. This artwork is an instance of some greater concept. 

But with Halsey’s video, a statement is being made. With Escher’s lithograph, the only statement we can even properly fathom is one of, “Things aren’t as they seem.”

Both of these pieces of artwork stand the test of time. We go back and look at them over and over. We fixate on them and try to unpack them for something. They intrigue us.

However, it is not the message that intrigues us. It’s the craft. We love the slow dancing and the fast cuts and the use of color and the choreography and how this all serves Halsey’s massage. We see how all these parts unite to make the complete entity. Aristotle called this beauty. When we can simultaneously see all the parts as individual and as a complete whole, Aristotle calls this beauty. In Halsey’s case the parts came together to make up a statement: You Should Be Sad. In Escher’s case, the parts came together to make up an entity which shouldn’t exist in real life. 

What’s important is that we see the final picture. That we connect the dots, and that we realize how these separate pieces come together to make the final picture. This is the Ah-ha moment. 

Ah-ha she’s giving it to this man for breaking her heart.

Ah-ha he’s portraying an impossible staircase.

After we experience the artwork, it sticks with us. We ruminate. “Man, I wonder what that guy could have done to deserve this? Maybe it was like what Amy’s boyfriend did to her when we were sixteen? I wonder who the guy was. Could it be about John Mayer? What was with that hair choice on the horse? I didn’t really get that message.” Or “How did Escher do that? How does that staircase seem to exist when it totally cannot? Can it? Have I ever seen something like that in real life? No, I have not. But yet, I could have sworn it made sense on that page when I saw it there.”