On December 13th (that is the Friday the 13th), former One Direction member released his second album Fine Line. The mix of piano ballads, happy-go-lucky guitar, folk melodies, and Freddie Mercury-esque layered harmonies, the record reflects Styles’s musical evolution along with truthful revelations on love, sex, fame, and just about everything else under the sun (or should we say canyon moon?).
Since his departure from One Direction, we’ve seen Styles transform into the overtly flamboyant, pop-rock soloist artist he is today. Whether it’s his ambiguous (and at times opulent) sartorial fashion choices (ie his super high-waisted trousers and SNL ballerina ensemble), his genre and gender-defying aesthetic has become a huge staple for his music.
If his edgier covers of classic One Direction songs weren’t enough to hint at changes for Styles, his debut self-titled album definitely did. It showed his capability to mix rock, folk, and pop elements with poetic lyrics and his signature 60’s and 70’s rock inspired style we know and love.
Fine Line holds similar 60’s and 70’s rock inspiration that we’ve heard previously from him. “Canyon Moon” has heavy Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club vibes, while the moody guitar solo on “She” reminds us of a darker version of the sexy rock song, “Woman,” off his last album.
Still, he brings us refreshing new sounds. From the gospel choir vocals of “Lights Up” to the indie guitar riff on “To Be So Lonely,” to the classic pop vibes in “Watermelon Sugar” and groovy, reggae sound in “Sunflower, Vol. 6”, Styles pulls all the punches; every melodic instrument a refreshing choice. in comparison to the overproduced songs that are on the charts today.
Lyrically, Styles is an open book. In an interview with Apple Music’s Zane Lowe, Styles revealed that he wanted to express his raw emotion and generally be honest. He even samples a voicemail that his ex-girlfriend, French model, Camille Rowe, left him. The words melodically echo on top of bittersweet chords at the end of “Cherry”.
Of course, it’s not just a breakup album; there are also confessions that land on a brighter note. In the pop-rock track, “Adore You,” Styles sings the hook, “I’d walk through fire for you / Just let me adore you.” Then, the laid back California track, “Sunflower, Vol. 6”, treads the same waters, with the repeating lyrics “I couldn’t want you anymore,” in the refrain.
Along with love, Styles also touches upon the relationship he has with himself. In the piano ballad “Falling” he asks “What am I now? What if I’m someone I don’t want around?” “Treat People With Kindness” is a feel-good, spread the love anthem. he revels “Feeling good in my skin / I just keep on dancin’”. The lyrics, which is backed by claps, tambourines, and bongos, brings us a modern day “All You Need is Love”—a message we all desperately need to hear in today’s day and age.
Overall, Fine Line is a breath of fresh air. With raw lyrics and an amalgam of genres, the album seamlessly wraps up 2019 for both fans and old-school aficionados looking for a blast from the past with modern day relevance, and of course, lasting power.