Harry Styles & Niall Horan: An Emotional Maturity Scale

After my freshman year of high school, my two cousins and I flew from Chicago to LA for a long weekend that just happened to be the same weekend One Direction’s debut tour passed through the City of Angels. This was the beginning of my interest in the group which has sustained until now — nearly 10 years later. Needless to say, I was thrilled when all members of the band released solo music within a few months of each other.

Harry’s album, Fine Line is spectacular. The musicality and the story line along the tracks give you a painful insight of his crashing in love to the heartbreak that follows and the eventual reconciliation with moving on from the past. We get Paul McCartney and James Taylor vibes all throughout.

After listening to Niall Horan’s newest album, Heartbreak Weather, I can’t help but compare the two former band members. Niall’s music is full of negative language that essentially blames this woman for his feelings. After listening to all the songs, I think he needs to figure out a better post breakup coping mechanism.

The two opposite breakup reactions blew my mind. The artists have had very similar last few years, are about the same age and in the same industry. Unintentionally, they have created a spectrum of emotional maturity that I can classify nearly every male (okay, female too but that isn’t what we’re focusing on here) I know along. Harry addresses his own flaws, calling out his faults in numerous songs, owning up to his mistakes and then giving credit to the woman who he shared such an important and formative time with. Niall tends to play the blame game with his ex-partner. He sings about the breakup and then immediately goes to sleeping around with girls, one night stands and then feeling either guilty about it or like a “powerful man”. This leads me to believe that Niall has pushed away feelings acknowledging the past by ignoring his heart and moving on before he is ready. This is a recipe for disaster, but also brings excitement for what his next album has the potential to be — an self-actualizing introspective piece of art? Who knows?? We have seen what Harry is capable of, while I think Niall should strive to hit his mark a little higher next time. Heartbreak Weather seems like therapy which is great, but the product after therapy can be even better.

John Mayer had an Instagram live the other day (everyone should follow John Mayer on Instagram) where he said he can’t write a song about his feelings of anxiety and dread during this Coronavirus right now because you need to take the time to let it all sink in. He said you don’t write a breakup song as it is happening and demonstrates this while acting out a breakup scene and writing down emotional (and beautiful) lyrics on a pad of post it notes and asks the imaginary partner to use her phone so he can record a voice memo. This is exactly what Niall did — he didn’t take the time to listen to his heart and hear what he needed to hear from himself. Instead, he threw himself into the writing process and churned out an album before he was actually ready to create something worth listening to. I don’t mean to say there aren’t a few good songs here because I really like San Francisco and Black & White. The music is so similar to the likes of One Direction — very pop-y. They don’t show off that he was the only member of the band who actually knew how to play an instrument while they were in the band. He needs to play off his strengths along with his emotions. While I think raw emotions are important, there are other ones that make better songs for an album and can paint him in a better light instead of a selfish guy who can’t take responsibility for his role in a relationship.

I’m looking forward to see what comes next — how the sounds change over time. This may seem like a bash on Niall’s music, but it’s not. These are simply my observations! Thoughts?

Originally published at https://christine-michelle.medium.com/ on April 9, 2020.

FINE LINE — HARRY STYLES

Even though a tour doesn’t look promising for the near future, we can still talk about the music we can’t wait to see live, right? Here is my exceptionally late review of Harry Styles’ newest album:

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Overall, I LOVE it. I think the order of the songs tells such a beautiful story. We travel from infatuation to love to heartbreak to acceptance to moving on. The vibe of each song reflects the mood he’s going through which is all connected by the lyrics. While some of the songs can get a little repetitive, I think each has such a vivid story that can relate to the listeners in different stages of life.

Song by song thoughts:

Golden — WHAT A START PEOPLE! So poppy and energetic. Here he is encouraging another person to embrace their vulnerability. He wants us to enjoy the moment because everything is fleeting. It reminds me of how golden hour is so beautiful but doesn’t last long so we need to hold onto it while it’s here. The object of the song is “golden” aka the fleeting beauty.

Watermelon Sugar — This is carefree, summer lovin’ vibes. The horn section in this one is ~ everything ~ and gets me dancing every time.

Adore You — Reminds me of how I feel towards my dog when she doesn’t want to hang out with me. He is in love with someone who is unaware/doesn’t care/will not be bothered with his emotions, but that does not stop him from loving him/her/it with all his being. If you haven’t seen the video, stop everything and watch it here. You’re welcome.

Lights Up — Here is suddenly super introspective. We get a peek into his subconscious while he questions so many decisions and who he is as a person. It sparks the question of how confident we are in ourselves when the opinions of everyone else seep into our brains. Do you know yourself enough to not let those opinions form the one you have about yourself?

Cherry — One of my favorites. I love the imagery we get here. I can’t help but be heartbroken for him when he says he misses her accent and her friends. The song is almost a James Taylor/Paul McCartney vibe with the imagery and the soothing tone of his voice.

Falling — This one just kiLLS. The memory of the one he loved and coming to terms with the fact that she doesn’t need him anymore. Had me feeling too sad for weeks.

To Be So Lonely — Vibe switch here! Now he is over her?? A beautiful change of tone that gives new hope to the listener. Also the percussion repetitions really bring everything together. (I know nothing about music production so you probably make these with a keyboard or computer of some sort?)

She — My other favorite on the album. The instrumental at the end really gets me going. It gives me Eleanor Rigby vibes. Creating a vision of this perfect woman he doesn’t even know but fantasizes about. He is falling in love with the “idea” of a person instead of the person in front of you which evokes these expectations of people that we make up in our heads.

Sunflower Vol. 6 — Upbeat and optimistic but also a little nervous about the future? @everyone, especially us with the post-grad scaries. The strange noises at the end are great and grab my dog’s attention each time.

Canyon Moon — Love this moon title. I feel like I’m on a summer vacation with my family because of the breezy and carefree tones throughout bringing him back somewhere with less stress. *goes to happy place*

Treat People With Kindness — Suddenly we are in a MUSICAL! I can imagine the dancers shuffling across the stage with props in an opening sequence and HS breaking through the middle with a top hat, cane and gigantic smile across his face.

Fine Line — We’ve come to the calming end, giving us time and space to evaluate what we just experienced. He leaves us with an encouraging “we’ll be alright” to move on with our days. Isn’t everything a fine line??

These are simply my thoughts and interpretations of the songs and are not affiliated with Harry Styles at all (even though I wish he had given me his input.)

Here is an interview by Zane Lowe with Harry. Highly recommend for some beautiful content and insights into the writing process.

Originally published at https://medium.com/@christine.michelle/fine-line-harry-styles-186c684d371 on February 7, 2020.