In 2019, women have a lot to complain about, and on her newest single, aptly titled “Nightmare,” Halsey airs her grievances with a potent combination of conviction and emotion. The female artist released the single alongside a video featuring an all-female cast that included Cara Delevingne, Suki Waterhouse, and Debbie Harry on May 17.
“Imagine getting onstage every night and seeing young women sweating mascara tears, lightning in their eyes, throwing elbows and raising fists, screaming till the veins in their necks raise under warm skin, and not being inspired by it,” Halsey tweeted shortly after the release of both the single and the video. “This song is about you, for you.”
The single demonstrates this dedication to young women through its empowering lyrics. The haunting intro to the song is composed of the lines “Now I lay me down to sleep / I pray the Lord my soul to keep / If I shall die before I wake / I pray the Lord my soul to take.” These lines, quoted from an 18th century children’s bedtime prayer, almost act as a lullaby and are antithetical to the nightmarish images and political activism that follows.
Following this prayer comes the bold chorus in which Halsey wears her emo pop-punk heart on her sleeve. Although the heavy electric guitar riffs and aggressively shouted lyrics are a new sound for Halsey, they still mesh with her angsty attitude and are reminiscent of some of her earliest music. The chorus, in which Halsey screams “I, I keep a record of the wreckage in my mind / I gotta recognize the weapon in my mind / They talk shit, but I love it every time / And I realize,” demonstrates how her music is a record of some of her darkest tribulations.
Halsey utilizes her platform to deliver this female-empowering anthem. It reflects many of the difficulties women face in today’s society, specifically addressing the problems with misogynistic views of both femininity and the female body. She digs at slut-shaming men with “I’ve been polite, but won’t be caught dead / Lettin’ a man tell me what I should do in my bed.” She calls out catcallers with “Come on, little lady, give us a smile / No, I ain’t got nothin’ to smile about … I don’t owe you a goddamn thing.”
In light of the recent criminalization of abortion across the United States, particularly in the case of Alabama’s anti-abortion laws, the message in “Nightmare” could not have come at a more opportune time. In addition to being an incredible piece of music, this single is even more profound in its embodiment of Halsey’s feminist beliefs, subversion of traditional female archetypes, and stance against social injustice.
Featured Image by Capitol Records