Halsey has some shit to say. “Nightmare,” the lead single for the singer’s upcoming, as-of-yet untitled third album, is by far the most aggressive song — in both sound and lyric — she has ever released; with all of the tragedy and stripping of rights going on across the world right now, it’s an incredibly suitable mood for both artist and listener. Crunchy guitar, distorted synths, and agitated percussion frame Halsey’s vocal delivery, which transitions from sweet to abrasive on the verses and chorus, respectively. Taking inspiration from “11 Minutes,” her recent collaboration with YUNGBLUD and Travis Barker, “Nightmare” allows the singer to explore unmarked territory to superb effect.
Beginning with a bit too-on-the-nose recitation of the children’s prayer “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep,” Halsey launches into the chorus immediately following, screaming as she takes stock of the “wreckage of [her] life” and reveling in the vitriol people online throw her way. The first verse touches on the singer’s internal battles like body image (“pinched my skin in between my two fingers/and I wished I could cut some parts off with some scissors”), while the second and pre-chorus point the finger outward towards the misogyny she’s forced to combat by her mere existence (“won’t be caught dead/lettin’ a man tell me what I should do with my bed”). It’s proper protest music set within the confines of a four-minute pop song, and the replay value is astronomical. After the absolutely brilliant but regrettably safe single choices of 2017's hopeless fountain kingdom, “Nightmare” is an exciting return to Halsey’s musical risk addiction.