Halsey’s fourth album If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power is officially out now. With this one they have pulled out all the stops. It’s currently on repeat and I am not ashamed to admit I was blasting it on my drive to work. At this very moment I’m also still trying to process their IMAX film of the same name. Halsey has always taken us on a journey with their albums. From Badlands to Hopeless Fountain Kingdom, we’ve been introduced to so many worlds that they have created.
If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power has brought us into an entirely different one that is unlike anything before it. That’s one of the reasons we love Halsey so much. They never do the same thing twice. We’ve all been waiting to see Halsey on the big screen and getting a film based on their fourth album was definitely something we did not expect. The idea of creating an album concept movie for IMAX was pure genius and just like I said in previous pieces that I have written in the months leading up to this, it was incredibly immersive.
If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power, an hour-long film experience set to the music of Halsey’s upcoming album, introduces a young pregnant Queen, Lila, as she wrestles with the manipulative chokehold of love to ultimately discover that the ability to create life (and end it) unlocks the paranormal power within her.
There are few words spoken throughout If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power but that’s the point. In the beginning of the film, the character of the nameless aristocrat seeking to bring Queen Lila down says “This woman will not go quietly. She’s already made that clear.” Through the entirety of If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power, the music does the talking. One of my favorite songs ‘Bells in Santa Fe,’ which is the first track played in the film, uses foreshadowing with the lyrics “All of this is temporary” and “Don’t wait for me, it’s not a happy ending.” I obviously do not want to spoil it for others, but Halsey means what she says.
Every song from the album isn’t in the film and I didn’t expect it to be because the film was only an hour. They couldn’t give us everything in one sitting.
The songs that were in the film were amazing and listening to them inside a theater with other Halsey fans was really enjoyable. It felt like Halsey had invited us all to an album listening party and it was unforgettable.
The film which was directed by Colin Tilley who has previously worked with Halsey on their music videos for Without Me and You Should Be Sad, captures Halsey beautifully and the lavish sequences are stunning to look at. In If I Can’t Have Love I Want Power, Halsey is naked both in the literal and figurative sense. There is so much vulnerability showcased and the entire film centers on Queen Lila dealing with the highs and lows of being pregnant.
While I will admit at times it was hard to follow some parts of the movie, the theme was clear. As Halsey previously said, the film If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power is about “the lifelong social labyrinth of sexuality and birth.” Also, surprisingly, though it was advertised like it would be a horror film, it wasn’t that at all. It did have a few jump scares that got me and had me saying “Dammit Halsey” but the film was more dramatic than anything else. One thing was clear as I watched it; Halsey can act.
The challenge of doing a film that has minimal talking is that you have to be sure to convey emotions with the right amount of body language. Halsey did that and more. Their subtle looks during the king’s funeral were deliciously evil and told us exactly what we already knew from the very beginning of the movie. They also had a few moments that had me in tears. It was clear that the emotion Halsey was showing came from a very real place.
When Halsey announced the album’s release, they spoke about the inspiration being based on “the dichotomy of the Madonna and the Whore.” Halsey’s message with If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power is to show that a woman can be both a sexual being and a vessel for life at the same time. Those two things do not have to be separate.
Society attempts to place women in a box that dictates what our roles should be. Everyone is judging Lila. From the douchey aristocrat to the matriarch, every step she takes is scrutinized. She’s not “acting as a lady should” and it makes them all angry.
Queen Lila shatters those ideals of how a woman is supposed to act by fighting back and making her voice heard despite those who wish to silence her. Even in the final sequence, she does not go quietly.
There are many ways that If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power can be interpreted, and I certainly feel like I missed a bunch of things. Halsey always has more meanings in everything they do so a re-watch is needed ASAP. I hope this film is released in other places at some point because I want to add it to my film collection.
If I Can’t Have Love I Want Power the album is available now.