Harry Styles is one of the most spoken-about popstars at the moment, and righteously so. His second album ‘Fine Line’ was introduced to the world on December 13th, and it has caught everyone off guard.
Disclaimer: it is not a masterpiece, but let me elaborate.
With a promising start, ‘Golden’ catches my attention. The sounds and production are very interesting and quite eccentric, but it’s Harry Styles we are talking about. There is a clear maturity in the lyrics as well, accompanied by background vocals and Styles’ warm and comforting voice. “I know you were way too bright for me”, is the epitome of this song: such a bright tune. More albums should have an opening track like this.
My hopes, after hearing this song, were high. But as soon as the ‘Californian Watermelon Sugar’ starts playing, my expectations have descended dramatically. With a cliché and banal structure, it leaves space for the catchy ‘Adore You’, which restores the atmosphere a bit. Proving his vocal skills, Styles drags the listeners in a funky throwback along with the rhythm of the third track and then holds their hands when the dreamy ‘Lights Up’ plays its first notes. It is the first single released off the album and has a strong personality and been a more than competent comeback song.
“All the lights couldn’t put out the dark running through my heart, lights up and they know who you are”
With a smooth transition, ‘Cherry’ steals everyone’s heart. There is child-like energy about this song, very innocent and delicate. It runs its fingers alongside the listeners’ cheeks comforting them from whatever woe they are troubled by. With a shimmering acoustic guitar in the background, Harry sings “Don’t you call him what you used to call me”, showing off a more vulnerable and romantic side that was not out in the open until now. Talking about a past relationship, Styles uses ‘Cherry’ as a sort of final letter to his lovers, with much simplicity it almost contrasts with the elaborate and sparkling production of the rest of the album. ‘Cherry’ resembles more a lullaby for a lost love than an actual part of the record, and it ends with a voice recording of his ex-girlfriend trying to wake him up. I find it very sweet and pure, really transparent. Following ‘Cherry’, is one of the most beautiful moments this albums encounters, and probably one of the best songs Styles has ever written.
‘Falling’ is a gorgeous, romantic, clear piano ballad. There is a certain balance in this song I can’t really put my finger on, but it is a tear-jerker, that I can tell you. “I’m in my bed and you’re not here, and there’s no one to blame but the drink in my wandering hands”. Everything about this song is beautiful, ethereal. It is comforting and when the heart-wrenching chorus comes warmth is spread from the speakers. It is emotional, honest, vulnerable, all qualities that should not be taken for granted in an album like this. Not to sound biased, but it is clearly one of the strongest moments of Harry’s career. With a vocal peak, he sings the bridge, rocked by a faint guitar in the background, reprising the chorus and then fading away ever so sweetly.
“What am I now? What am I now? What if I’m someone I don’t want around?”
Unfortunately, though, the magical atmosphere is broken off abruptly by the second half of the album. Confused, folk, out of place songs like ‘To Be So Lonely’ and ‘Canyon Moon’ are the targets of my critique. Taking space in a record that did not have space for them.
There is a decline in the quality of the songs in the second half, alternated with acceptable tracks such as ‘She’, a mischievous and sensual 6-minute-long song, and ‘Sunflower, Vol. 6’, which belongs to a coming-of-age movie, specifically in the final scene when everything is well and all the characters run off the horizon in a Cabrio car. It pains me to say, but the lyricism in these songs is nothing too great, a bit boring and expectable, but they are nice, light songs to listen to carefreely and with no commitment, nevertheless.
‘Treat People With Kindness’, a song that mirrors Harry Styles’ motto, is a weird experience. It is one of those songs you don’t know how to feel about. With festive and old-fashioned choirs in the background, it engages the listener with a catchy yet spent rhythm, although it has Harry Styles name written all over it. He did whatever he wanted in this album, which can result in a positive outcome for some and a less positive one for others…
However, as the last track ‘Fine Line’ approaches, there is a certain something that is missing and, let me tell you, this last song makes up for all the wasted sounds and time. If Harry Styles, Bon Iver and Sufjan Stevens had a child, this is the kind of music he would produce. With a simple yet melancholic guitar playing, Harry’s autotuned and echoed voice resonates through the speakers. I was in bed when I first listened to this and I will be honest, I cried. There is an energy, a feeling in this song that digs deep into one’s soul and takes out every small insecurity and fear and makes it all better. Even if slightly repetitive, it carries on in all its glorious light, with a haunting chorus accompanied by deep and dark piano chords. There also is a hint of synths and trumpets, but the best is yet to come.
“Put a price on emotion, I’m looking for something to buy”
Lyrics are mature and well-elaborated, with sexual hints that still keep their dignity. Harry Styles was not afraid while producing this album, he let himself go and I thank him for that. The earthy bass accompanies the song until the end and, in particular in the last 2 minutes, everything explodes in a beautiful complexion of eclectic drums, trumpets, and synths. Harry’s voice screams “We’ll be alright” and, trust me, I believe him. Until songs like this are put out in the world, there will still be hope. I don’t understand where a song like ‘Fine Line’ has come from, but I am so thankful it did, somehow. What a glorious, dignified end for a blurry yet stable album.
Harry Styles is underrated by many for his past in One Direction, but let me tell you something: we should all keep an eye on him. Is this album a masterpiece? No. But when an artist proves such growth and personality, we can’t help but wonder what he has in store next.
‘Fine Line’ is a spontaneous and youthful album, even if mediocre at times, but we are absolutely not mad at it.