Haley’s Poetic Playlist: “Gasoline”

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For the second song on this Poetic Playlist, I will focus a little bit more on the artist herself to gain a better understanding of the true meaning behind the lyrics.

Halsey (aka Ashley Nicolette Frangipane — she simply rearranged the letters in Ashleyto create her stage name, Halsey) wrote and performs the song I’m looking at today, Gasoline.” This song appeared on her recent album, Badlands, in which she thematically weaves allusions to her bipolar disorder. This particular song focuses on the issues of conforming to society and the difficult situations that up-and-coming artists are exposed to in the music industry.

“Gasoline”

“Are you insane like me? Been in pain like me?
Bought a hundred dollar bottle of champagne like me?
Just to pour that motherfucker down the drain like me?
Would you use your water bill to dry the stain like me?”

So, as I mentioned earlier, Halsey has bipolar disorder, and this song really sheds light on her personal struggle with the condition. The opening line establishes her perspective on her mental state. She details a specific manic episode during which she bought a bottle of $100 wine because she had no control over her emotions or actions (unrestrained spending is a common symptom of bipolar disorder). She literally filled a bathtub in a hotel with the expensive alcohol, which she mentions in the third line.

In an interview, she talked about how she was 17 at the time and that she sat in the wine, having a mental breakdown in the hotel where she was staying. The rhyme scheme here flows so beautifully that I really dont mind it. I especially love the irony of her dry[ing] the stainwith her water bill.

“Are you high enough without the Mary Jane like me?
Do you tear yourself apart to entertain like me?
Do the people whisper ’bout you on the train like me?
Saying that you shouldn’t waste your pretty face like me?”

Here, Halsey alludes to another symptom of bipolar disorder, which is known as hypomania. She asks her audience if they experience these episodes of being high,like she does, without the influence of marijuana. The next line, about entertaining, is — according to Halsey — the most accurate description of who she is as a person. She claims that she loves attention and yearns to be famous and well-known, but admits that these cravings come with a price.

During manic episodes, she often puts her full energy into entertaining her fans, which is undermined by the fact that the music industry is quite demanding of artists. The last two lines here reference her unconventional looks. She used to have blue hair and recently shaved it all off, leading to harsh judgement from the general public because she does not live up to the conventional perception of beauty.

“And all the people say,
‘You can’t wake up, this is not a dream,
You’re part of a machine, you are not a human being,
With your face all made up, living on a screen,
Low on self-esteem, so you run on gasoline.’”

Here, the chorus gives voice to Halseys take on how society speaks to her, saying that life is not a game and that she was made to be some sort of robot, shell of a person, or puppet. Shes become part of the machine that is the world we all live in, a place that has little regard for individuality.

When she speaks about her “face all made up, living on a screen,”Halsey examines the expectation of artists and stars to always look perfect for the rest of the world. I like that she equates self-esteem to gasoline. Not only does this make a nifty internal rhyme, but it touches on the fact that modern society is all about feeling good about yourself. This references the epidemic of social media determining ones self worth. Halsey claims that these robots lack a sense of purpose, so they rely on an artificial substance to get through the day — which is not far from the truth.

“Oh, oh, oooooh, oooooh,
I think there’s a fault in my code,
Oh, oh, oooooh, oooooh,
These voices won’t leave me alone,
Well my heart is gold, and my hands are cold,”

This post-chorus stanza mentions Halseys inability to adapt and conform to society when she admits that there is a fault in [her] code.She also refers to the internal demons that constantly pursue and torture her, which double as another reference to her mental illness. The line about her heart being gold is just a play on the idea that a robot would have a metal heart and she chose it to be gold. The fact that her hands are cold symbolizes both the chill that metal often has as well as the fact that she is so distant from the rest of the world and generally experiences the effects of depression when she is not experiencing a high.

“Are you deranged like me? Are you strange like me?
Lighting matches just to swallow up the flame like me?
Do you call yourself a fucking hurricane like me?
Pointing fingers cause you’ll never take the blame like me?”

Again, Halsey references the fact that her bipolar disorder separates her from the rest of the people she knows, deeming herself derangedand strange. In the second line, she talks about a party trick that is a much tamer version of fire eating (which is dangerous, making it more entertaining because of its risk). This symbolizes the fact that she takes risks on a regular basis to entertain and to gain attention — the pain from these acts distract her from what she is feeling. Fun fact: she also has a tattoo of an unlit match on her arm, and she said she will have the flame added when she feels that she’s had a self-defining moment in her life, so this also might reference that.

The third line references another song on the album called — you guessed it — Hurricane.” (When she sings this line, there is a musical allusion to the other song in the background, which is really beautiful and musically poetic.) A hurricane is unpredictable and destructive, just like Halsey sees herself, which prevents her from getting close to people. And finally, in the final line, she admits that she is too prideful to take responsibility for her actions. For example, she doesn’t try to comply somewhat with societal expectations.

“And all the people say,
‘You can’t wake up, this is not a dream,
You’re part of a machine, you are not a human being,
With your face all made up, living on a screen,
Low on self-esteem, so you run on gasoline.’

Oh, oh, ooooh, ooooooh,
I think there’s a fault in my code,
Oh, oh, ooooooh, oooooh,
These voices won’t leave me alone,
Well my heart is gold, and my hands are cold.”

Overall, this is a haunting and eerie song that illuminates the topic of mental illness and the struggles of fitting in that many people experience in today’s world — especially Halseys audience. This song may be the best one on the album, and it makes a wonderful addition to this playlist.

— Haley Renison, Poetry Editor

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