Fine Line Review: Back to pop

Harry Styles’ second studio album, Fine Line, is frustrating compared to his self-titled debut album, Harry Styles.

While I am a fan of Harry Styles and always have been since his days in one of the most famous boy bands of my generation, One Direction, I can also point out an artist’s faults and areas they need to improve.

Coming from a very pop-centered boy band, as most boy bands tend to be, Styles needed to find his own unique sound as a solo artist. I believe that he began this journey with his first solo album, Harry Styles. The sound of this album was more rock-centered than the music of One Direction, which was a positive change because it felt like he was experimenting with a new sound that he felt comfortable with and began to revolve the album around this new sound. Most artists write their songs based on personal experiences and utilize songwriting as an outlet to express their emotions, which he clearly shows in his first album.

In Styles’ self-titled album he focused on some of the darkest times in his life, starting off the album with his song Meet Me in the Hallway. In simplest terms, this song is depressing. He sings about the emotions he is feeling after a now ex-romantic partner leaves him. The title of the song shows his desire to rekindle this relationship and how without this partner he feels hopeless. He constantly repeats the phrase “gotta get better” to show that he can only pull himself out of this mindset by being involved with this former partner that he loves.

One of the last songs on this album, track 8, is titled Ever Since New York. Many fans have different theories about what the true meaning behind this song is, but there is one that sticks out the most and tends to make the most sense in hindsight. A month after his self-titled debut album was released, his stepfather, Robin Twist, passed away from cancer. Fans have since speculated that the meaning behind this song is that Styles found out about his stepfather’s diagnosis while living in New York which is why Styles’ has said multiple times that he feels most at home in England with his mother and sister because he associates that place with love and happiness.

There is a very prominent line in this song that says, “Choose your words wisely, cause there’s no antidote.” This means that he needed to choose everything he said around or about Robin carefully because he didn’t know when he could lose him. Also the “cause there’s no antidote” means that cancer does not have a cure and his stepfather’s fate is inevitable, and he can’t change the outcome no matter how much he may want to. These two songs in particular show how deep and emotional of an outlook Styles wanted with this first album to show his older and possibly new fans a look into his personal life and the reality of what he was having to deal with. His life was not as perfect as it seemed. This depth is not necessarily shown in his second album, Fine Line.

Harry Styles’ second studio album, Fine Line, is far more pop-centered than his first album, which was more rock-inspired. This is a step down from his first album where he toyed with the idea of having a new sound compared to his boy band days. In his self-titled album, he seemed very cool and confident while singing more of the upbeat rock songs, but also in the personal anecdotes, he was presenting in the more serious songs. There is no doubt that Fine Line is a well-written album because Styles is a great songwriter which he has proven in his time with One Direction, but also in his first album. This being said, the feelings given off in his second album feel like he is trying to suppress the negative parts of his life and only focus on the positive. While some people enjoy this more pop style of music, others do not. In his boy band days, he was singing about young love and the happiness and the struggles that go along with that, and Fine Line seems to be going back to that kind of mentality sound-wise, while there is the exception of the songs Fine Line and Falling that have more of the feeling from the first album, but the start of the second album is very pop-based and feels like he is reverting back to his old, pop, boy band days. This is disappointing to see because he seemed so confident and sure of his sound on his first solo album.

For future albums, I hope that he has found a sound he likes but also feels confident in. He shouldn’t have to hide his emotions and personal history and act like he is so happy all the time to make people a fan of him, just because he once worked in a band with four other boys.

I give this album 4/5 paws!