Halsey introduces herself to broad audience on “SNL”

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On Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018, Halsey performed on “Saturday Night Live.” The singer performed twice, which is standard for the long-running program. What was different about Halsey’s performance was the authentic performance aspects and how it managed to captivate people who might not have been fans in the first place.

Who is Halsey?

Admittedly, I had no idea who Halsey was. I recalled her likeness and voice from a car commercial. Immediately, she prompts comparisons to Pink. But, her voice is different, and she’s talented. If audiences want to find out more, they have to keep listening. Or watching.

As of right now, the Internet is not terribly helpful in aiding the clueless in figuring out exactly where Halsey came from. Where has she been before appearing on those urban, edgy, vaguely seductive car ads? It is difficult for the uninitiated to tell. Regardless of search terms used, mostly the Web wants to tell researchers of various sort who Halsey is dating (G Eazy) and what she wore on their recent lunch date. There was little in the way of background information or analytical discussion.

What is known is that Halsey (a play on her real first name, Ashley), is young, approximately 23 and that she brings a streetwise sweetness to her performances.

With a recording history that dates back to 2014, Halsey released her third album in 2017. “Hopeless Fountain Kingdom” seems to be generating the right kind of attention for the singer, due, arguably, to the song “Bad at Love.”

Halsey on “SNL”

I watched Halsey perform on “Saturday Night Live” not knowing much about her and  having even less of an idea with whom she was linked romantically- – not that such things typically matter. What matters is how well an artist performs. So I listened as the now-familiar strains of “Bad at Love” played, and Halsey began her swagger-rich performance. But not only did she sing, but as she mentioned different lovers, people portraying those significant others came onstage. They interacted first flirtatiously with her, then, one man seemed agitated. Then, they formed a link to her by touching fist to shoulder and moved with her. Halsey’s “SNL” performance went from traditional to performance art in minutes.

In addition to how the singer and her additional performers interacted, they were also color-coordinated. Everyone wore either bright yellow or orange with black piping or detailing. The citrus brightness might have served to help audiences focus. Certainly, when musical guests wear dull, dark colors it is sometimes difficult to focus on what appears to be just a singing face. The performance left viewers wondering how could the second act get any better than they had just seen?

For her second song, Halsey performed “Him & I.” And she was joined by G Eazy who appears to be her boyfriend. The exchange and chemistry between the two made me think of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda, and then as I looked at them, nearly sparkling in dark, but well-made clothes, I couldn’t help but think of “The Great Gatsby.” Is this the new Jazz Age? With their slicked back hair, urban confidence and general air of fashionability, I wondered if Daisy Buchanan would have looked as content as Halsey if she’d chosen to marry anyone besides Tom? The cool that exuded from the performers played up their neo-romantic track.

Thus, this most recent musical guest raised the bar for this year’s performers. Halsey performed in a way that introduced people to her and her work that was effective even for people who didn’t have a clue who she was.

 

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Dodie Miller-Gould is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana who lives in New York City where she studies creative nonfiction at Columbia University. She has BA and MA degrees in English from Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, and an MFA in Fiction from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Her research interests include popular music and culture, 1920s jazz, and blues, confessional poetry, and the rhetoric of fiction. She has presented at numerous conferences in rhetoric and composition, and creative writing. Her creative works have appeared in Tenth Muse, Apostrophe, The Flying Island, Scavenger's Newsletter and elsewhere. She has won university-based awards for creative work and literary criticism.

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