August 28th, 2015:
I was in the middle of my second week of my freshman year at college. I’d moved away from home to Tuscaloosa completely clueless as to what the next year of life would hold. I knew plenty of people going to the same university, but they weren’t much more than convenient high school relationships that eventually dissolved when we weren’t constantly in the same space. Not much was holding me to the person everyone else knew me as, except for my own (annoying) need for consistency and fear of change. In the months leading up to my move, I took many of those cliche teenage drives alone with the windows down that every coming-of-age movie paints as some moment of revelation that leaves the protagonist with a new vision for the future. That doesn’t happen here– I was just doing anything I could to take my mind off the fact I had no idea what the fuck I was going to do with my life. One little five-track EP found its way to the top spot on my phone: Halsey’s Room 93.
I’d known about Halsey for almost two years at this point, but back in 2013 when I stumbled across her YouTube channel, she was still just Ashley. I was sixteen and she was nineteen. From my room in Alabama I watched her hang out with members of bands I loved, have tiny fan meet-ups on the side of the highway in Los Angeles, book her first gigs, and essentially grow into a self-made artist with a steady and loyal fanbase. Room 93 dropped in October 2014, and by that point, Halsey had a permanent space in my life.
By the time August came around, Badlands had become a full on conceptualized passion project that Halsey curated, and I was lucky enough to witness. The night of the album drop, I borrowed a roommate’s speaker, sat on my twin-sized bed in a dark dorm room only lit by a string of light blue lights, and just listened. From beginning to end, with no distractions, held breath, and (of course) plenty of tears. To this day, it remains my most important album. It was the soundtrack to incredibly formative years of my life, and no matter how many times I’ve run through it, I’m flooded with emotion because I know that I would in no way be who I am today without it. And that’s why I’m writing this, that’s why three years later I still will talk for hours to anyone who listens about Badlands. These are my memories with Badlands, and the feelings and experiences I know because of it.
FIRST BADLANDS SHOW
This is, and will always be, one of the most special concerts I’ve ever been to. It was my first Halsey show, in a small venue, with my best friend, and the energy in the crowd was electric. I came out of it absolutely soaked with sweat and tears, but my heart was so full of love, my cheeks were burning from smiling. Watching back videos from this night reminds me every time of how purely happy and safe I always feel at a Halsey show.
I met Halsey for the first time three years after I found her. Many, many failed attempts came before that (including me waiting alone outside a radio station in Nashville for hours in the rain- but I try to forget about that one). I brought along a journal I had made that had art for all the songs from Room 93 and Badlands, and a note on each page of what it meant to me. Getting to say thank you to someone who impacted your life so heavily is a really, really cool thing. I saw her the next day perform to a huge crowd on the mainstage of Lollapalooza, and I realized she wasn’t my little secret anymore.