Pop singer Halsey gave more established names like Katy Perry and Lorde a run for their money at Glastonbury this weekend.
The US singer first gained attention as a social media queen, posting videos on YouTube under her real name Ashley Nicolette Frangipane.
But it’s as Halsey (an anagram of her first name) that she’s found fame, with a knack for writing gutsy pop songs that explore her flaws and failings.
Her first album, Badlands, went platinum in the US, thanks to its so-called “millennial anthem” New Americana (“We are the new Americana / High on legal marijuana / Raised on Biggie and Nirvana / We know very well / who we are”).
Last year, her career received an unexpected shot in the arm thanks to her contribution to The Chainsmokers’ ubiquitous hit single, Closer.
A masterclass in pop writing, the song wistfully tells the story of a boy and girl bumping into each other in a hotel bar four years after they broke up.
The lyrics, which Halsey co-wrote, bore all the hallmarks of her best work – especially in its vivid depictions of place and time (“so baby pull me closer in the back seat of your Rover”).
With one megahit under her belt, she set to work on her new album Hopeless Fountain Kingdom, which has sold 500,000 copies in its first two weeks on sale in the US.
Ahead of her Glastonbury set, the star sat down with BBC News to talk about the record, and how it helped her rediscover her sense of self.
You must have heard of Glastonbury before – but what’s it like to see it for the first time?
I mean, I grew up in the middle of a small town in the US and as a kid I knew about Glastonbury. It’s like Woodstock. It’s massive.
I always dreamed one day I’d get to go, but I never dreamed one day I’d get to play. And I certainly didn’t think it would be so soon.
It seems like it’s a very kind place, and people are making friends.
You said you didn’t think you’d be here so soon – but your album is selling by the bucketload! Has the speed of your success been a surprise?
It was definitely really rapid. The thing about my second album was I kept thinking, “Do people still like me or was the first time an accident?”
But I’ve met so many amazing fans in the couple of weeks since the release, and everyone keeps telling me they feel so connected to the record. I think as an artist, all you really want out of your album is to feel like you’re not alone.
Because you wrote it for a reason. You wrote it because you’re feeling some kind of emotion that you had to get out in the world. And if fans say, “that makes me feel like I’m not alone”, then you get to say back to them, “Well, you telling me that makes me feel like I’m not alone either”.
So it’s very mutual. It’s a language of love.
The album came from a place of pain and loneliness. To get that result must feel, I guess, both rewarding and strange.
Yeah. The record is really about me going through this prolonged break-up. I’d been in a relationship so long it almost felt like I forgot who I was, when I was alone. And writing this album helped me rediscover that.
Going through that pain and having it turn into something positive that helps other people – you’re kind of making lemonade out of lemons.
There’s been another recent album about that, hasn’t there?
Haha! It’s a pretty universal concept in music. It’s like, “hey, make me feel less bad about my pain!”