Love is love in Halsey and Lauren Jauregui's duet "Strangers," a haunting goodbye to a relationship that's lost its magic. Breakup songs are nothing new, but this collaboration stands out among today's pop hits. For the first time, Halsey uses female pronouns in her lyrics, writing "a love song for the LGBTQ community" that coincidentally dropped five days ahead of the start of Pride Month.
"I don't know if anyone should do anything that's not authentic to them," Jauregui — who, like Halsey, is bisexual — told correspondent Meredith Graves when Fifth Harmony visited MTV News last week. "If you love women and you want to sing about love, don't feel the need to say 'he.' Don't feel the need to adapt to the society or the culture.
For Halsey, it was a no-brainer to feature Jauregui on her concept album. Hopeless Fountain Kingdom, released June 2, puts an LGBTQ spin on Romeo and Juliet by switching between male and female pronouns throughout the narrative. When Halsey's label originally suggested Katy Perry for "Strangers," it was a hard pass: "I'm not putting an artist on this song unless they're fucking gay."
Jauregui came out as bisexual in November 2016, shortly after the U.S. presidential election. She penned an emotional open letter to Donald Trump supporters: "I am a bisexual Cuban-American woman and I am so proud of it. I am proud to be part of a community that only projects love and education and the support of one another."
The same month, she starred in a "disarming, sensual, and empowering" photo shoot with her girlfriend at the time, artist Lucy Vives. Photographer Nicole Cartolano told MTV News of the project: "Both girls trusted me to photograph them together as sort of a coming out, but they were nervous how their families would respond and the publicity they'd attract, especially from the Latin American community."
Cartolano released the full photo series, titled "Bare with Me," on her website in March 2017. The couple had broken up by that point, but they agreed to share the pics publicly anyway. "It was important to use their voices to show the world that this is OK, this is acceptable, in the gentlest way possible," Cartolano explained, adding that Lauren described it as "love in the 21st century."
"Strangers" delivers a similar message to Fifth Harmony and Halsey's massive young fanbases. On June 9, Lauren even joined Halsey on the Today show to perform their same-sex love song on live television. You can't get much more mainstream than that.
Finding that kind of representation in music "is really complicated," Halsey told Paper in a Pride Month interview. "Pop music can often be really ostracizing. It's just a shame that it's so hard for marginalized or minority people to get the same pop music experience as people who are heterosexual or generally part of the majority. They deserve the same pop music experience."