“The Tradition” is the first track on Halsey’s 2021 album ‘If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power.’ In the track, Halsey sings about a small-town girl who is being dressed to be a symbol of feminity just to be sold to different people. There is no known ‘tradition’ as such in the world right now, so we can assume the song is about the commercial nature of the music business.
Halsey released her fourth studio album ‘If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power’ on August 27, 2021. This is her follow-up project to her highly successful album ‘Manic’ released in 2020. About the new album, Halsey said “This album is a concept album about the joys and horrors of pregnancy and childbirth. It happened by accident. I wasn’t trying to make a political record, or a record that was drowning in its own profundity—I was just writing about how I feel. The reason that the album has sort of this horror theme is because this experience, in a way, has its horrors.”
In “The Tradition,” Halsey draws a picture of a frail and bony girl from a village far away, being dressed up in feminine clothing and flowers to be sold to the highest bidder. However, none of the buyers actually keep her. They all return her because all she does is weep. In relation to the music industry, there are many claims of artists being portrayed as sexual icons because sex sells. Madonna embraced it but Demi Lovato suffered immensely because of this. However, the tradition carries on.
Listen to “The Tradition” by Halsey
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Halsey “The Tradition” Lyrics Review and Song Meaning
Oh, the loneliest girl in town
Is bought for pennies a price
The song winds around a girl from a remote town. She has no friends or family. Maybe she set out to chase her dreams and ended up stranded in this town. If you pursue your dreams alone and do not reach them, that is a scary place to be. At this point, she could get desperate. Her vision gets blurred and her milestones get smudged.
Now she is the sex worker in the town. The whole town supports her to be sold to the highest bidder. Because all of them get a piece of the profit. However, only the girl endures the pains of her labor. Her heart is black, after being stabbed to death over and over. Now she feels nothing except hatred.
The lonely girl also has plenty of money now. But what can her money really do when she has no control over her destiny?! She is like a circus monkey dancing to the flutes of the town.
Take what you please, don’t give a d*mn
Ask for forgiveness, never permission
These lyrics send a powerful message about many broken parts of society. From the lonely girl’s perspective, she has no say in what her tomorrow is going to be. Whoever pays the highest money will own her for whatever they please to do with her. They will gladly say ‘sorry’ after everything, even the townsfolk. But they never ask her upfront if she is okay to do this.
The music industry is a cutthroat business. We have seen so many feuds ensue because of many different reasons. Label and artists’ managers have a lot of power over the artists under lengthy paperwork and NDAs. So many artists have spoken about these issues and exposed their labels and executives. But little has changed over the years.
The tradition carries on!
Let us hear what you think about this song in the comments below. Check out the complete lyrics on Genius.