Review: Harry Styles – ‘Fine Line’

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Psychedelics meet indie, pop-rock, and The Beatles with an essence of One Direction and what do you get... Harry Styles' 'Fine Line'.

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Harry Styles‘ second album continues to showcase his talent and growing success since parting from One Direction in 2015. Fine Line has a unique feel to it, with varying styles across the 12 tracks that culminate in a genre-bending and somewhat experimental album. From the European influences in the Spanish-esque guitar of ‘To Be So Lonely’ and the French spoken-word ending of ‘Cherry’ (a voicemail from his ex, French model Camille Rowe), to its stark musical differences in the One Direction vibes of ‘Lights Up’ (sounding similar to ex-band mate Zayn’s music), to the Mick Jagger and 60s rock influence in ‘She’ – Fine Line takes fans on an immersive musical journey.

The album ends with its title song, ‘Fine Line’, and although this song is certainly catchy, it’s probably the most forgettable and unnecessary song on the album. When put against wonderfully beautiful songs like ‘Watermelon Sugar’ (which hasn’t left my head since I first heard it!) and ‘Sunflower, Vol. 6’, it just comes across a tad boring and uncreative. Though Styles called it a “big epic outro” in an interview with Rolling Stone, even stating that this is the “music I want to make”, I’m not so sold. Being 6:18 minutes long, listening back to the song is a bit of a task, but that’s the only way you can appreciate it slightly more; the lyrics become oddly enticing, giving reason for the songs musical simplicity.

Fine Line is certainly an album based on love, whether that be of a partner, ex-lover, the self or even strangers, and Styles’ boyband background certainly helped him perfect this theme. ‘Adore You’, the poppiest song of the album, showcases the cutting tones of Styles’ voice, all whilst he confesses his feelings for another. Though lyrics like “you don’t have to say you love me”, “lately, you’ve been on my mind”, and “I’d walk through fire for you, just let me adore you” would certainly be cringe if in an Ed Sheeran style ballad, ‘Adore You’s pop style makes it a funky tune to boogie to, all whilst thinking of someone you’ve caught feelings for.

‘Watermelon Sugar’ equally embodies the theme of love, but that of a summer romance; instantly transporting you back to sunshine, berries, love and happiness. Styles clearly knew this would be a season-shifting song, singing to a funky indie-pop backing (reminiscent of Paramore’s After Laughter), and containing lyrics like “tastes like strawberries on a summer evenin'”. Much like how people often cling to the warm weather and fond memories that it brings, Styles sings about this person in a summer-infused romantic light. The lyrics “breathe me in, breathe me out, I don’t know if I could ever go without” and “getting washed away in you” both romanticise his muse in a desperation of not wanting them to end or go; a metaphor for how people react when Autumn quickly comes around.

On the flip side of the album, Styles takes on themes of heartbreak, loss and fear, showcased most in ‘Falling’, ‘Cherry’, and ‘Golden’. ‘Falling’ is without a doubt the song you will sob your eyes out to. Opening with “I’m in my bed, and you’re not here. And there’s no one to blame but the drink and my wandering hands”, it’s impossible to avoid shivers and tears. The song continues to visualise various heartbreaking aspects in the downfall of a relationship, from not being able to “unpack the baggage you left”, to running of out “of things we can say”, asking “what am I now?” and accepting that “you’ll never need me again”. The truth and pain of the song makes it one of the greatest on Fine Line, and embodies the emotion and feelings that this album forces upon listeners.

‘Cherry’ moves from self-reflection and sadness to a more jealous attitude about Styles lover moving on. With very simple and beautiful strings, lines like “don’t you call him ‘baby’… don’t you call him what you used to call me”, “I just miss your accent and your friends” and “I’m selfish so I’m hating it” perfectly show these attitudes. Contrastingly, ‘Golden’ has a very upbeat feel to it, the word golden itself often tied to happiness and all things good. This song explores Styles’ fear of “hearts get[ting]broken”, and the sadness surrounding not “want[ing]to be alone”. Though every relationship has these concerns at its core, “lovin’ you’s the anecdote”, making it a risk that must be taken in the name of love.

Fine Line is a beautiful exploration of all things love, loss, fear, the self and being part of a modern world that makes all these things even more complicated and painful. Harry Styles’ ability to combine varying genres into one experimental musical exploration is extremely talented, and highlights the promising solo career that is only just beginning for Styles.

Harry Styles’ Fine Line is out now via Columbia Records.

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