Ever since they made their mainstream pop breakthrough between 2016 and 2017, thanks to their omnipresent Chainsmokers collaboration “Closer” (a quintessential radio smash if ever there was one) as well as their hit-spawning sophomore concept album, hopeless fountain kingdom, Halsey has ruled the charts and airwaves, becoming one of the music industry’s most ubiquitous modern pop stars.
With a sharp knack for melody and lyrical storytelling, as well as an unfailing penchant for visual drama, Halsey’s pop prowess is undeniable. But while she may look like a pop star to most, Halsey’s a rock star at heart — they grew up listening to Evanescence and attending Warped Tour religiously, after all — and she’s delivered more than a handful of rocking, raucous moments in her career that prove just that.
From teaming up with some of the scene’s most talented musicians on various pop-punk bangers to churning out nu-metal collaborations, the past few years have seen a slow-but-sure homecoming for Halsey’s rock roots, a journey which culminates on their feminist alt-rock opus, If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power (out Aug. 27).
Below, check out five of Halsey’s most badass rock moments that preceded her new album.
Released in 2019, the raw, guitar- and drums-driven “11 Minutes” bares Halsey’s true emo soul as she and her collaborators — YUNGBLUD and Travis Barker (the latter a pop-punk legend, in case you’ve been living under a rock) — memorialize a dysfunctional relationship.
This rock-influenced, rage-against-the-patriarchy anthem sadly never made it onto the singer’s at-the-time-forthcoming album Manic (it was likely cut as it didn’t quite fit in with the overall sound and vibe of the record), but standalone single “Nightmare” certainly made noise — loud noise, for that matter, thanks to that wonderfully angry, unrelenting hook — when it was released in May 2019.
Colored with shades of Linkin Park and Massive Attack, Halsey’s first team-up with Bring Me the Horizon, released in late 2019, is a spooky, industrial affair that sees the artist pressing into their more experimental inclinations. Though not as obviously rollicking as the other entries on this list, the cryptically-titled “¿” is nevertheless one of Halsey’s more alternative, hard-leaning offerings — an unusual, intoxicating pit stop in her discography’s path towards full-blown rock euphoria.
Halsey’s a little bit like Harley Quinn herself: totally unpredictable. It makes sense, then, that the singer was tapped for this absolute banger off the Birds of Prey soundtrack. Produced by Bring Me the Horizon (a favorite collaborator of Halsey’s, it seems) and released in February 2020, “Experiment On Me” showcases the rougher edges of Halsey’s voice as she screams and shouts over an unrelenting nu-metal soundscape.
Halsey’s teen years spent kicking it at Warped Tour and hanging around the local Hot Topic come full circle on this one with Machine Gun Kelly. Released in late 2020, and featuring nostalgia-inducing production by Travis Barker (another familiar name on this list), Halsey unleashes their suburban angst on the frenetic pop-punk anthem “Forget Me Too.”