Connect Four: Halsey, Frenzy, Marina & Poppy

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Pretty pastel sights paired with perfectly pleasant pop and indie sounds – this, my first connect four article, is my version of the ever-popular “if you liked that check out this…” approach to blog writing – enjoy!

Halsey – Hopeless Fountain Kingdom (2017)

First, let’s begin with Halsey’s latest album Hopeless Fountain Kingdom. Six months have passed since the release of Halsey’s second album and it remains one of my 2017 favourites. The album has charted and sold well in North America, a solid second studio offering from an artist on the up. Collaborators include Quavo, Cashmere Cat and Benny Blanco. Halsey has been quoted stating that the album is a concept album. The 13 tracks include both subtle and obvious references to Shakespeare’s enduring tale of the star-crossed lovers Juliet Capulet and Romeo Montague. The concept works, the album feels like a complete story and is best listened to without interruption. Each track is a new “scene” in the unfolding drama. Highlights include the commercially successful single “Bad At Love”, “Now or Never”, “Eyes Closed”, “Strangers” and the outro track “Hopeless”.

A Fine Frenzy – One Cell in the Sea (2007)

How does Halsey’s pop offering today connect with an alternative indie album released 10 years ago? The first connection is in the 6th track on Halsey’s album, “Sorry”. A Fine Frenzy (who no longer performs under this name), released a song on her album One Cell in the Sea entitled “Almost Lover” – listening to these songs back-to-back is almost the perfect soundtrack to grieve a newly ended relationship – the come-to-jesus bandaid-ripping moment we all take at the end of something that really hurts to walk away from (for whatever reason). Similar to Hopeless Fountain Kingdom, One Cell In The Sea is an excellent album to listen to without skipping a track. Other reasons you might like A Fine Frenzy if you like Halsey; strong vocals, powerful lyrics, great hair and style – and they both have pretty cool stage names standing in for pretty cool birth names (Ashley Frangipane and Alison Sudol, respectively).

Marina & The Diamonds –  Elektra Heart (2012)

The overarching themes of loneliness and alienation explored on One Cell In The Sea are also explored on Elektra Heart, albeit in a different way (that is more aligned with the concept art of the final artist on this list, but we’ll get back to that).  Both albums include phenomenal musicianship and beautiful vocals. Marina’s album was produced by Benny Blanco, connecting her back to Halsey. Marina’s electro-pop is very different from A Fine Frenzy’s indie rock which is easy to hear on tracks such as “Primadonna” and “How to be a heartbreaker”. While One Cell in the Sea invokes a sadness downbeat, Elektra Heart delivers the sadness upbeat to counter it. Circling back to Halsey again, the sadness of Marina’s album  lies in the absurdity of celebrity. In the song “Alone”, Halsey sings “I know you’re dying to meet me / But I can just tell you this / Baby, as soon as you meet me / You’ll wish you never did”. In “Bubblegum Bitch” Marina sings “Got a figure like a pinup / Got a figure like a doll / Don’t care if you think I’m dumb / I don’t care at all”. Elektra Heart is yet another album that should be played through without skipping a single track. Marina, similar to both A Fine Frenzy and Halsey, has a unique style and it is fun to watch her videos. Bringing me to the final artist on this list, definitely no stranger to making videos, the enigmatic, polarizing, Poppy.

Poppy – Poppy.Computer (2017)

An appropriate segway from Marina to Poppy would be Marina’s penchant for colour, including pastels as demonstrated in her music video for “Primadonna Girl”. Poppy’s wardrobe is full of outfits that the Chanels of Scream Queens fame would die for, and the backdrops to her Youtube videos look like the nursery section of Toys R Us – Poppy’s world is cotton candy pink and an assortment of all things soft and pretty. Poppy’s world is also theatre of the absurd and her Samuel Beckett is a director named Titanic Sinclair. Poppy’s controversial Youtube channel aside (fans either absolutely love it or are completely repulsed by it in a 1990’s Teletubby kind of way), the music on her debut studio album Poppy.Computer is definitely worth checking out. Standout tracks are “Beach Blonde Baby”, “Computer Boy” and “Interweb”. One final link back to the girl who started this connect four, Halsey – Titanic Sinclair (whether he truly believes what he says on Twitter or is simply looking for controversy to convert to publicity) has picked fights with Halsey, Melanie Martinez and Katy Perry – all artists with similar aesthetics and themes in their songs. Proof positive that, love it or hate it, Pop music is never without its derivative nature and I like it that way – connect four.

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