The cover art for Halsey’s new album If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power drew a lot of attention when it was first revealed, owing to how open it is, particularly in regards to Halsey’s body. It’s now attracting some criticism, with at least one writer claiming that the work constitutes cultural appropriation of the Catholic church.
A piece written by Portia Berry-Kilby for The Spectator lays out the accusations, reading in part:
“The American singer’s album was released last week and the cover depicts her and a baby in a pose resembling Fouquet’s Virgin And Child, bare boob and all. Aside from the grandiose nature of this gesture — to put oneself in the place of the Mother of God requires some hubris — such role play is not, in and of itself, first-degree blasphemy. Of course, girls and women worldwide play the role of Mary — just think of the school hall Christmas nativity. But such performances usually communicate the beauty of the Incarnation. Halsey, however, isn’t interested in such innocent symbolism. […]
Halsey exemplifies the disregard that today’s pop culture shows towards the core tenets of Catholicism. Yes, Jesus died for us all. But he didn’t die for us so that we could all free the nipple and strike a pose as His Blessed Virgin Mother.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for high art filtering into low culture. I’m not, however, so keen on a constant dumbing down of The Good Stuff so as to cater to the crass tastes of the day. And when it comes to Halsey’s latest album cover, the end result is not so much artistic fusion as it is a flagrant appropriation of the sacred.”
On Twitter, Halsey learned about this and used a childhood photo of herself to make her silent argument. The photo looks to be from Halsey’s first communion or confirmation, two sacraments of initiation in the Catholic church, based on her attire and apparent age in the shot. The subtext seems to be that Halsey doesn’t believe she’s copying Catholicism because she grew raised in a Catholic household.
Meanwhile, Halsey recently expressed her displeasure with the way some members of the music industry handled her pregnancy.