It’s glaringly obvious at this point, but Halsey is one of the most captivating musicians of our generation. Last year saw Halsey dropping one of the most popular songs of the year with her and BTS’ “Boy With Luv,” while this year sees her working on The Player’s Table alongside Euphoria‘s Sydney Sweeney and riding the v successful coattails of her third studio album, Maniac—and that’s just the recent highlights.
Honestly? Not too shabby for a girl who started out by posting her music on Tumblr and moving to New York with dreams of making it big. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Halsey’s been on her
queen king sh*t for a solid six years now, which is why Budweiser—your favorite beer brand, duh—tapped her to be the face of their new “Be a King” campaign and even collaborated with her on limited edition merch. (Fans can pre-order it here, and profits go to the National Alliance to End Homelessness.)
In light of that, Cosmopolitan sat down with Halsey to talk about what being a king means to her, how she to came to this enviable point in her career, BTS, Kelsea Ballerini, what’s on her horizon, and more, below.
Cosmo: You just secured a billion views on “Boy With Luv.” What was it like working with BTS, and do you stay in touch with the guys?
Halsey: I actually am still in touch with them! Whenever anything big happens for the both of us, we congratulate each other. We’re really looking forward to the time we can hang out again. It’s kind of bittersweet that we’re off and can’t see each other because of the restrictions on travel right now, but they’re the best. I would work with them again one hundred thousand times.
It was really awesome to work with them and go to Korea to make a music video with their team, too. I wouldn’t say it was unlikely friendship, because it wasn’t that unlikely at all. We all like the same stuff, and I was pretty surprised at how easy it was to get along with them. Someone else would maybe focus on the language barrier, but there isn’t much of one when we’re spending time together. We just have a very natural rapport.
Speaking of collabs, what was it like taking the stage with Kelsea Ballerini at the CMT Awards? Do you have any thoughts on the backlash towards your performance of “The Other Girl”?
The CMT Awards were fun, but I’m used to backlash. For those who said the song wasn’t “country” enough, the cool thing about music right now is the ability to traverse genres and bring different perspectives together. Kelsea and I had completely different upbringings and grew up on completely different music, but we found an intersection in that.
Whether it’s the cross-section of hip-hop and pop punk, or pop and country, there’s amazing material coming from shared experiences and musical genre-bending. It’s my favorite thing about being a musician right now because I get to make whatever I want. When I made “You Should Be Sad” on Manic, I didn’t go, “Oh, well damn this can’t be an album song because it’s country music,” I went, “Hell yeah, I gotta get my cowboy boots on because I was feeling country for this song!”
The fans would kill me if I didn’t ask—have you recorded any new music since the pandemic started?
I write new material everyday. I have a studio at my house, but I’m taking more time these days to explore other mediums. I just started getting involved in the film and TV world, so I’ve been thinking about TV shows that I’m writing, creating, or acting in.
I’m working with one of my best friends, Sydney Sweeney, right now. She’s an incredible business woman, talented creative, and kind person. We’re getting started with our work on The Player’s Table with Jessica Goodman who is a genius, but music will always be a part of what I do. I’m writing music for the show at the moment, but as for an album…I can’t force myself to sit down and make one because I feel like they write themselves. Me writing an album is like that episode of SpongeBob Squarepants where he’s sitting at his desk all day and only writes out the word “the.”
How does your origin story factor into the Budweiser concept of “being a king”?
People hear about me and they want to paint my story as a rags to riches tale, but that’s not true. It was a very slow and painful process. When I look back on it, I’m so proud of that teenage girl who dropped [my first album] Badlands because I had all the odds against me. I didn’t know anybody in the music industry. I was from New Jersey. I had no fucking money, and there was no way I was going to college.
Me wanting to do this was so far fetched, and the fact that I changed my name in the process—I think I had the foresight to know that being me wasn’t enough. I had to become somebody completely different. At the time, I felt that Ashley didn’t deserve to be famous and successful because she wasn’t that special, but if I made Halsey, maybe she could be. [Changing my name] gave me the opportunity to create a new persona that wasn’t bound by the expectations I had for myself or the limitations that others placed on me because of my upbringing or my socioeconomic situation. I created a person, and she could do everything. There was no way that Ashley was going to become a king, but I made a new name for myself and took her to paranormal, supernatural heights.
What does being a king mean to you, and do you identify more with the title ‘king’ or ‘queen’?
I definitely feel like a king. I’ve always felt like male-based power positions have appealed to me. It wasn’t initially my idea to be called a king, but Budweiser brought it up and I loved it immediately.
In terms of the gender dichotomy behind it, it’s cool that we’re entering an age where those roles are unimportant to an empire like theirs. Historically, I’ve had a very negligent opinion toward gender roles and restrictions and have never really taken those things into consideration when I create. I just like what I like. Also! Something about being a New Yorker also has king energy. When you’re in New York or you’re from New York, you’re like, “Yeah, I’m a fucking king.” It’s different from queen energy for sure.
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