The pop icon, Halsey, inspired a massive crowd during her performance at the Go: The Campaign for Lehigh fundraising initiative on Thursday, October 25. This event kicked off the campaign publicly, providing a space for the Lehigh community to enjoy an evening filled with food and entertainment. While the Lehigh launch was just one of three launch events, the decision to host the first event on campus heightened the community’s excitement. The university held the other events on October 26th and 27th in New York City and San Francisco, respectively. Through these events, the university hoped to raise awareness about the campaign and its $1-billion-plus fundraising goal. The funds raised from the campaign will go towards increasing access and opportunity for students, launching a College of Health, and supporting interdisciplinary research institutes. More specifically, the university plans on renovating and expanding the University Center, as well as creating a new residence hall that will be called Bridge West.
The choice to bring Halsey to Lehigh’s campus perfectly aligned with the spirit of the event. The artist’s special connection to Lehigh and the South Bethlehem area made her performance incredibly powerful. She was able to relate to the crowd in a way that other famous musicians would not have been able to. “I used to drive to Bethlehem every weekend, I used to see every concert in Allentown… and I used to date a boy from Phillipsburg, New Jersey who went to school here,” she exclaimed, speaking to the audience in between songs. For a second, I imagined Halsey on campus like the rest of us, her presence natural and ordinary. As a society, we tend to perceive musicians in a “godlike” way, losing sight of the ways in which they are just as human as we are. Halsey felt like a friend: down to earth, familiar, and incredibly genuine. Her music reflects those qualities. The pop singer opened the concert with, “Strangers,” an upbeat song on her 2017 album, hopeless foundation kingdom. The album version of “Strangers” features singer Lauren Jauregui, from the pop band Fifth Harmony. Halsey’s choice to collaborate with Jauregui gives voice to the song’s story about two women nearing the end of their relationship together. Halsey, who identifies as bisexual, celebrates same-sex relationships in many of her songs, using music as a medium to express her sexuality.
The pop singer continued her set with “Now or Never,” a song that attempts to convey her life-long battle with bipolar disorder. When the artist sang, “Been through the ups/yeah the ups and the downs with me” she referred to the dichotomy of experiencing extreme emotional highs and lows. Halsey’s music is an extension of her activism. Through her songs, Halsey reveals the experience of those who suffer from mental illnesses in a way that is both authentic and inspiring. Her lyrics reveal that living with bipolar disorder has always been a constant battle. Yet, her success as an artist suggests that she has fought hard to do what she loves in life, despite living with a mental illness. “Now or Never,” tells a narrative about two lovers who yearn to be together, when all the world wants to do is keep them apart. There are many well-known remixes of this song, but Halsey chose to perform a more subdued rendition at the concert. While it is apparent that Halsey’s songs contain exceptional courage, the singer believes that the bravest choice an individual can make is to receive an education, stating “I became a musician because I thought it meant that I was brave and, in a certain way, it does, but not nearly as brave as devoting your life to getting an education so that you can make this world a better place.” Halsey’s words beautifully articulated the Campaign for Lehigh’s fundraising initiative, as it is centered around student opportunities and educational experiences”
Perhaps one of the most powerful moments of the night was when Hasley stopped to address the audience before her performance of “Closer,” expressing the following: “If there is any hope for making this world a better place, it’s in this audience. It’s up to you guys. I’m a musician and musicians like to walk around with these big egos thinking they are affecting change in the world, but really, all that we are is a vehicle to inspire you guys to go make that change that we can’t make ourselves.” Her words deeply resonated with the audience. Halsey’s performance was much bigger than her music or the campaign. It was a catalyst to ignite embers of change within the hearts and minds of students, reminding us of our biggest strength: our voice.