Even from an artist known for constant reinvention, Halsey turned plenty of industry heads with the June 29 announcement that Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross had produced “If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power.” Under Reznor and Ross’ supervision, the project certainly leans more alternative than prior Halsey releases but defies easy musical categorization, as its songs have garnered airplay and playlisting on multiple genre charts across radio and DSPs. Still, Capitol’s focus has been on amplifying the album as a body of work, which meant foregoing the pre-release of traditional singles or videos in favor of a 53-minute conceptual film that screened in IMAX theaters in August and bowed Oct. 7 on HBO Max.
Could that musical diversity be a boon come Grammy nominations time for Halsey — who has previously only been nominated twice, for featured appearances on albums by Justin Bieber and the Chainsmokers? Or could it hamper their chances in a category like best alternative album, where St. Vincent’s “Daddy’s Home” is considered a strong front-runner? Could “If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power” make noise in rock, where it would likely face off against tried-and-true acts such as Foo Fighters or upstarts like Machine Gun Kelly? And how might it fare against such fellow crossover acts as the Kid Laroi and Olivia Rodrigo, either of whom could conceivably submit some songs in pop categories and others in rock?
“Alternative is different than it was when that category originated, and St. Vincent’s record is quite different than Halsey’s,” says SiriusXM host Lori Majewski, who has championed the Halsey album on the air. “That’s why I think Capitol would be smart to have tried their hand at the rock categories. Today, what we used to think of as indie, we now think of as rock.”
It’s possible that Halsey could end up in alternative for her album and in a rock category for a song, as has happened with other artists who straddle that line and successfully end up competing in both. What seems certain is that her label is no longer positioning her as a pop artist.
Capitol head of marketing Arjun Pulijal, while declining to reveal the categories for which the label submitted Halsey this year, says, “Our intent was to position this album as an art-driven body of work, as opposed to a pop singles-driven campaign. It’s about making a cultural statement, pure and simple.”
Adds Capitol head of A&R Jeremy Vuernick, “I think it’s a testament to the heart and soul of everyone involved that they were willing to challenge genre identities, rollouts, processes and risk-taking. That is inherently, across the board, what this album is about.”