That’s not just a rhetorical question. Many pop stars present, or sell, themselves as one thing, attuned to one genre and demographic; then they branch out, or reach out, or switch producers (hello, Taylor Swift). A few show range early; usually (think Prince) these rarities look and sound like auteurs, lords of each track they make, gaining their powers by comprehending and using the distinctions of genre and audience, race and age and region and sexuality, that can confound and constrain the rest of us.

Halsey’s not like that. Instead, her third album, Manic, released just before the pandemic, says something irreplaceable about her and about many of us right now: it’s the sound of a chronically unsettled, almost pathologically voluble, and brilliantly self-knowing millennial, certain she lacks security and wants attention, but howlingly uncertain where, or with whom, or how, she can belong. Where earlier artists’ diversity of...

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