Looking back at the rest of the year, it’s without certainty that Harry Styles had the strongest album roll outs of 2019. With three unique, diverse and strong singles to the huge accolades he’s received from industry and media personnel alike, the coveted stints on SNL and The Late Late Show With James Corden, the exclusive fan listening sessions, the impressive Rolling Stones and Zane Lowe interviews, the pop-up shops and the epic sold out launch show at The Forum in Los Angeles. He really is smashing goals and has created one of the most buzzed about albums of the year, and ‘Fine Line’ doesn’t disappoint one bit.
This riveting 46 minute listen hears you immersing yourself into twelve reflective tracks that embody a heavy emotional presence and breaks barriers for Styles himself. Behind all of the glitzy rock n roll production that transports you back to the 70’s and 80’s, he’s truly captured just how heartbroken and sad he’s been with some deep lyrical reflections.
It’s been well documented over the years that the rockstars you think that have it all are in fact struggling with heavy issues at the core. While some successfully hide behind their glamorous exteriors, Styles has continually opened up to his fans and unleashed his emotions in the most beautiful and therapeutic way.
His debut self-titled album finished with the raw lyric “even my phone misses your call, by the way” which may seem so simple but it’s also so vulnerable and invoking for many different reasons. And this lyric segues into the new album perfectly as it closes one chapter and ‘Golden’ euphorically opens a new one. Perfectly describing the ups and downs of the honeymoon phase of a relationship, he tries to encourage the other person to live in the moment and fall with him even though that is a vert scary thing to do.
“I’m out of my head, and I know that you’re scared because hearts get broken” he sings during the anthemic chorus. The production is very bright and would be the perfect soundtrack to a summer afternoon coastal drive with the windows down and the volume turned all the way up.
Keeping the anthemic energy strong and the infatuation storyline present, ‘Watermelon Sugar’ and ‘Adore You’ give you slick polished production and have unsurprisingly already become instant fan favourites.
But the album starts to shift with the welcoming of lead single ‘Lights Up’ which starts to embrace the core of who he is and what he stands for. It holds a really powerful sentiment of equality that will immediately capture your attention. But during the bridge I couldn’t held but start singing along to Vanessa Amorosi’s ‘Shine’ hook which is eerily similar in structure. Coincidence?
Then the real sad boy is unveiled through the first of the heavy heartbreak tracks, ‘Cherry’. This song recounts a break-up and the despair and anger he felt as he was trying to come to turns with what happened and had to watch her move on with someone else.
“Don’t you call him baby. We’re not talking lately. Don’t you call him what you used to call me” he emotionally delivers during the soft hook. With an acoustic guitar leading the production he adds in a sweeping cinematic polish that reminds me of Sufjan Stevens. And it’s safe to say he has you absolutely hooked and onside with these honest confessions.
‘Falling’ is one of the albums strongest (and saddest) tracks and will have you immediately wanting to cry even if you’re happily in love and happy with the current version of yourself. He opens the ballad with the simple key strokes of the piano that open up about the self realisations of who he’s becoming and the consequences of the actions he made. “I’m in my bed and you’re not here. And there’s no one to blame but the drink and my wandering hands” he candidly confesses. While the song has a heartbreak sentiment to it, he really puts an emphasis on his own self reflection.
‘To Be So Lonely’ then injects a bit of groovy production to your listening experience with a real nostalgic feel highlighted in the chord progression of the hook. The melody is so intoxicating and has an anthemic touch while he sings about an ex trying to be friends but ultimately leaving him feeling lonely. “Don’t call me baby again, you got your reasons. I know that you’re tryna be friends, I know you mean it. Don’t call me baby again, it’s hard for me to go home to be so lonely” he sings.
Back to dreaming about love, ‘She’ describes his ideal type of lover in this sexy and slick song that will immediately become a fan favourite and a highlight in his live show. The harmonies are just so pure and I could listen to this on reply with no issues.
‘Sunflower, Vol. 6’ hears him reaching the acceptance stage of a heartbreak. He reminisces one more time about his feelings and confesses that he’s been trying to deal with the break-up in his own way. “I don’t wanna make you feel bad but I’ve been trying hard not to talk to you” he sings during the post-chorus. But it’s the imagery of the refrain that reminds me of a perusal past relationship and the grieving stages that saw me reminiscing on our experiences and wanting them back even though I knew it wouldn’t happen. “I couldn’t want you any more. Kiss in the kitchen like it’s a dance floor”.
‘Treat People With Kindness’ is one of the most experimental tracks in the collection and holds an impactful punch as he looks towards a world full of kindness. This song has a very nostalgic rock n roll feel to it with the obscure melodies that add a really cool layering to it.
‘Canyon Moon’ and title track ‘Fine Line’ are the only songs on the record that fall a little flat within the listening experience. In amongst all of the other songs they have the least impact. Whether that’s a reflection on their melodies not being memorable enough or their raw emotion and lyrical reflections not striking the right chord. But ‘Fine Line’ does close the album beautiful with the repeating of the lyric “We’ll be alright” as he tries to move forward with his personal journey.
This record takes the listener on a very emotional journey of drastic highs and lows as he opens his heart and allows everyone into the dark revelations that are unfolding inside his head. And while he’s doing that he’s also created a record full of highly memorable moments that will come to life in his live show.