September 29, 1994
Washington, New Jersey, United States
Synth-pop songwriter Halsey made her name with covers posted on YouTube, and within two years became a major artist doing originals. A Clark, New Jersey native, she was born Ashley Nicolette Frangipane; her stage name is both an anagram of Ashley and a nod to a Brooklyn subway station. She studied classical strings as a child and was diagnosed bipolar as a teen; as her father is black she famously claimed that she was "tri-bi": Bipolar, biracial and bisexual. After switching from violin and cello to guitar, she began performing acoustically in her late teens. Unable to attend music college for lack of finances, she instead studied creative writing at community college. Her unrequited crush on One Direction singer Harry Styles was the impetus for her earliest viral videos, posted in 2012 when she was 17: The song "S.O.S." was a musical love note to Styles, while "The Haylor Song" made fun of his then-girlfriend Taylor Swift (to the tune of her hit, "I Knew You Were Trouble"). Whatever embarrassment those songs caused her later, they were widely shared by One Direction fans. Two years later she posted an original song, "Ghost" which featured a moodier electronic sound. She starred in two very different videos-the first depicting a heterosexual couple in a stormy relationship, the second showing physical love with another woman. She signed to Astralwerks soon after, and toured nationally as the Kooks' opening act. Her set at South by Southwest, according to a Twitter tally, was the festival's most talked about-no small feat as Miley Cyrus also appeared that year. After a tour with Imagine Dragons she released her first album Badlands in late August 2015, the album was an immediate hit and made #2 on the Billboard albums chart. Along with "Ghost" the album spawned two additional hits, "New Americana" and "Colors." The following year she was guest singer on the Chainsmokers' Number One single "Closer"; she also landed "Not Afraid Anymore" on the soundtrack to Fifty Shades Darker. Her second album Hopeless Fountain Kingdom, released in June 2017, is an ambitious concept album drawing both from Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet and her love of superhero comics. It too was an immediate hit, debuting at #1 in Billboard. Soon after its release, Halsey announced a campaign to support the Global HER Act, aimed at overturning the institutional gag rule on abortion services instituted by President Trump.