From boy band roots, to solo sound: More than a fine line?
Since splitting from the boy band that shot him into fame in 2016, Harry Styles hasn’t had any problem continuing to make chart topping albums. With his first self titled album hitting the top spot in UK charts in its first week, could his second album live up to the incredibly high standard of success? Or was it simply his previous boy band fandom that kept his sales rocketing sky high?
Styles’ latest album Fine Line dropped on the 13th of December 2019 and by the 30th of December 2019, the album had over 52-million streams. So it seems his success may not be determined through past fans after all. Could it?
As a die hard One Direction fangirl, I take it upon myself to review Styles’ solo work to describe just how far his sound has come from the upbeat, pop, dance numbers that had girls all over the world praying to be his girlfriend.
It is obvious that Harry has done a lot of growing since leaving the group, not only musically but aesthetically as well. His style has evolved into something very vintage chic, feminine almost. Styles questioned this opinion in an interview with The Face, “What’s feminine and what’s masculine, what men are wearing and what women are wearing – it’s like there are no lines any more.”
The Fine Line album art depicts harry holding a powerful pose on his own with a fish eye type effect to draw your eyes to him. I get major Willy Wonker vibes from the album art, which seems fitting since there is a common ‘sugary’ theme throughout the tracks.
Styles kicks off his album with a sweet, upbeat hit titled ‘Golden’. Simple lyrics, simple tune yet incredibly catchy. Immediately listeners are provided with a track relating to love, flirtation and moving on. Three topics Styles knows well from his One Direction days, which could prove that his fan base as a solo artist is a lot of the same demographic as his boy band fan base.
One of the more popular songs on the album and the first song with the sweet candy theme, ‘Watermelon Sugar’ takes the second spot on the album. This is the kind of song you crave to listen to on a hot summers day with your summer love. It’s a fruity, pop, dance track that is definitely a stand out song on this album. Track 5, ‘Cherry’, carries on the fruit references, however has a distinct contrast to that of ‘Watermelon Sugar’. ‘Cherry’ is an easy listening, acoustic style track carrying on the theme with lyrics like “strawberry state of mind”.
‘Falling’ is my personal favourite song on the album. Styles admitted to writing this song in the nude after getting out of the shower one day. A bit of a spur of the moment creation it seems, however, this song is able to hit your emotions hard. From its piano chords, deep sound and powerful lyrics, this is the most heartbreaking track on the record.
— Harry Styles. (@Harry_Styles) February 28, 2020
The differentiation between his boy band music and his solo tunes is extremely obvious. The sounds are very different, with Styles steering more towards easy listening, whimsical sounds. This is extremely evident in tracks ‘Lights Up’, ‘To Be So lonely’, ‘Sunflower, Vol 6’, ‘Canyon Moon’ and ‘Treat People With Kindness’. Each have elements of choir singing to back up Styles’ vocals, and titles that bring out further emotion even if they seem random at first.
I was surprised to hear track eight, a song with the same title as another ex-One Direction member’s songs called ‘She’. Zayn Malik was the first member to break away from the group, causing a degree of bad blood between himself and the rest of the group. For how much work Styles’ put into each song, it’s surprising that he would want to have anything similar to that of his ex-band mates. Although the songs do not have a similar sound or similar lyrics, this choice is rather odd. It was at this song, that I begun to feel bored and restless with the album. Listen from start to finish, and this song loses its momentum. I began to feel tired with it’s slow, chilled and repetitive sound.
Fine Line is not only the album name, but the name of the last track as well. It has Ben Howard’s acoustic vibes, and plays for a long 6 minutes and 17 seconds. I am unsure as to why this song was selected to have the album named after. It is not one of the songs to stand out to the public. Styles admitted to it “being a weird one”, in an interview with Rolling Stone: “I love strings, I love horns, I love harmonies — so why don’t we just put all of that in there?”. The song received mixed reviews from fans on Twitter:
“fine line is harry’s best song,” i say into the mic. the crowd boos. i begin to walk off in shame, when a voice speaks. “she’s right,” they say. there in the 3rd row, is harry styles in the forum himself.
— dana (@FINELINEDANA) April 10, 2020
something about fine line by Harry styles makes me wanna lay in the grass outside
— Grace Carver (@GraceCarver16) April 8, 2020
listening to fine line by harry styles makes me miss my nonexistent boyfriend who broke my heart
— 𝐉𝐎𝐉𝐎 (@goIdnangeI) March 20, 2020
With all five ex-band mates releasing new music around the same time last year/early this year, they all are wanting to now tell their own stories. Their fanbase is definitely still of the younger demographic — however, Harry is reaching more into the LGBTQI+ community and the alternative crowd. Styles remains to have no problem selling out stadium tours in a matter of minutes and I doubt his popularity will cease as he continues to grow and shape into his own music.