On “Fine Line,” Styles Displays His Prowess as a Solo Artist

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Emma Randall-Jarrard

Harry Styles has released a few hits with his sophomore album, "Fine Line."

Jinho Lee, Contributing Writer

Rating: 4/5 Falcons

For emerging artists, a solid debut record is important to getting on the map in the music industry. However, a strong sophomore record is also crucial to an artist establishing themselves in the long run. Harry Styles’ sophomore album Fine Line proves that his career has more longevity than his One Direction past had predicted, with experimental pop-rock bangers and intimate heart-wrenching ballads.

Immediately, the album opens up with “Golden,” an upbeat rock anthem that signifies a departure from his previous work. Although lyrically repetitive (the song spends half of it’s run-time on the line “you’re so golden”), “Golden” is a fun, playful kick-off to the album. The album follows up with well-produced, high-energy singles “Watermelon Sugar” and “Adore You,” both burdened by their repetitive choruses. While these three tracks are all lyrically exhausting, they feature compelling background vocals and instrumentations that allure listeners.

Continuing into psychedelic lead single “Lights Up,” Styles shows a side of himself that feels more personal and vulnerable than we have previously seen. The album alludes to an unsuccessful relationship, sonically following the narrative through intimate, heart-wrenching ballads “Falling,” “To Be So Lonely,” and “She.” In “Falling,” Styles croons “ I’m well aware I write too many songs about you.” “She” ends in an intense electric-guitar solo, and is easily the standout track of the album. These tracks are the ones where Styles shines the most; they feel the most real, honest and introspective.

Styles shows a side of himself that feels more personal and vulnerable than we have previously seen.”

Towards the end of the album, the campy “Canyon Moon” feels out of place on the tracklist, and feels more like filler than crucial material. Styles loses listeners with corny “Treat People With Kindness” which sounds like the outtake of a Broadway musical and comes across as having only surface-level wokeness. However, the album closes on a sweet note with the tranquilizing title track “Fine Line,” which is essentially six minutes of musical ecstasy.

For how commercially successful Styles’ work in One Direction was, in comparison Fine Line could be written off as a flop. However, Styles is managing to make a bigger splash than his ex-bandmates—works by Liam Payne and Niall Horan continue to not make the Billboard Hot 100, while Fine Line debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 with a whopping 478,000 units in its first week—the highest for a male pop star in over four years. Fine Line reaffirms Styles’ mark in pop culture with a sonically cohesive celebration of music.

This piece also appears in our January 2020 print edition.