If you are in the business of consuming celebrity culture, you will be familiar with the cycle of celebrity regret. A famous person does, or more commonly tweets, something inflammatory, there are about 24 hours of discourse around it from people who have something to say (everyone), and before the headline leaves the news, we have a Notes app apology posted to all platforms.
Halsey is no stranger to the regret cycle. In fact, they bookended 2020 with two different apologies. In January of last year they apologized for accidentally calling for a second 9/11 after Pitchfork gave their album a middling review. Then, in December, they apologized for posting an image of them in the midst of an eating disorder, which is significantly less funny than saying the World Trade Center should collapse because you got a 6.5 on a music blog.
To me though, Halsey’s most legendary regret is one that doesn’t come up as often. It’s something they did as a teenager alone in their bedroom, where all great regrets are born.
Like many people who are now 26, Halsey spent a lot of time on the internet during their teenage years — specifically Tumblr, and even more specifically, One Direction Tumblr. Not only was Halsey part of the One Direction fandom — a Directioner, if you will — they were a big part of it.
They were known to the community as se7enteenblack, a reference to one of Harry Styles’s many tattoos. In 2012, when Styles was dating Taylor Swift, Halsey posted an audio file to their blog, titled “The Haylor Song (Trouble Parody)” — Haylor being the ship name for the two pop stars. The song is a parody of Swift’s “I Knew You Were Trouble” that takes aim at Swift for dating Halsey’s favorite boy band member.
“Once upon a time, once albums were debuted / Haylor was conceived, we panicked and we knew / She’d hurt him, she’d hurt him, she’d hurt him, him, him, him, him,” the song’s opening lines go.
The post racked up tens of thousands of reblogs and likes on Tumblr — once again, I am in no way joking when I say that Halsey was a big deal on One Direction Tumblr. They were a star. In response to the song blowing up, Halsey created their masterpiece.
The video starts with Halsey saying, “Hi guys, I’m Ashley. I’m se7enteenblack on Tumblr. A lot of you have been circulating my Haylor song, the ‘Trouble’ parody, and I've been getting a lot of really good feedback on it so I thought I would give you guys a live video.”
What’s remarkable about the video is not that Halsey sounds bad (although it is, at times, rough), but that it is so deadly serious. In their original post, Halsey claimed that the whole thing was just a quick joke, but lyrics like “And the saddest fear, comes creeping in / That we’d be pissed off, if he loved anyone, or anything,” and “She’s gonna put Harry through some tough trials / And write an album with his name on file….” would beg to differ. They cap off the video with a completely deadpan personal note: “Seriously, fuck this Taylor bullshit.”
Who among us did not feel this way about a teenage celebrity crush? I too was on One Direction Tumblr, and any time one of the members was linked to a new woman it was a four-alarm fire. When you’re young you really believe that your favorite singer is going to spot you in a crowded arena and say, “Her… she’s going to be my wife.” Large swaths of fanfiction are propped up on this very premise.
The video for “The Haylor Song (Trouble Parody)” has been scrubbed from the internet, save for a lone Reddit post, and now this website. Halsey spoke about it once in a 2015 interview with NME, saying, “I made multiple parody videos at that age; I’m quick-witted, clever and kind of an asshole, and it was how I handled that when I was 16.” They were definitely 18 in 2012, but who’s counting?
Halsey has gone on to become friendly with Swift, and performed “Shake It Off” with her during the 2019 American Music Awards. They say never meet your heroes, but nothing is written about meeting your former parasocial enemy.
The moral of this story is that virality is a curse. Even if you become a pop star, there will always be someone out there who remembers seeing your parody video on their Tumblr dashboard. And years later, that person will see you performing “Closer” and think, “Isn’t that the blogger who was obsessed with Harry Styles?” That person will be right, and they will never forget it.