Former One Direction member Harry Styles introduced the world to his solo work with his self-titled debut in 2017. The album reflected his love for classic rock and experimentation with gritty songs like “Kiwi” and “Carolina,” as well as the bold, soaring “Sign of the Times.” In 2019, he’s back at the forefront of the music scene, fine-tuning his personal style.
In discussing the creation of Fine Line, Styles said in an interview for Apple Music that he hoped to make his sophomore album “feel really fun.” Fun is exactly what he has achieved and more. The album takes listeners on the twists and turns of love, regret, remorse and sadness. Styles delivers these raw emotions with nods at his usual inspiration from rock, folk and pop, along with his own Harry-like charm.
Fine Line knows how to get listeners’ attention. It opens up with the shimmering “Golden,” a lively track that sounds like it’s been bathed in sunlight. This grand entrance is followed by singles “Watermelon Sugar,” “Adore You,” and “Lights Up”; upbeat selections that keep listeners hooked.
“Watermelon Sugar” is a breezy, dance-able tune with a nice touch of horns that add to its summery- feel. “Adore You” travels back to the ‘80s with synths that wash over the listeners as the song breaks out into the infectious chorus of “I’d walk through fire for you/ just let me adore you.” All this, paired with quite a catchy bassline, makes the song one of the most memorable from the album. It leads into the funky “Lights Up”, which gets better with each listen. This song is a combination of twinkling piano, lively bass and shining choir vocals that create a fresh sound in Styles’ discography, making it a catchy and enjoyable track.
The album also delves into softer territory with songs like “Cherry” and “Falling.” “Cherry” is more acoustic, while nodding at one of his biggest influences, Fleetwood Mac. The track’s clever use of a girlfriend’s voicemail at the end leaves an obvious hint at where the grief of this song stems from. “Falling” leans heavily on the piano while Styles powerfully puts the feelings of post-breakup heartache out into the open.
“To Be So Lonely” is a welcomed twist with old school rock and roll vibes. It’s paired nicely with a cello looping in the back as Harry croons about coming to terms with loneliness. Up next, “She” is a sultry tune that pulls from his love of the ‘70s. The beginning is reminiscent of Pink Floyd, and the song ends on a high note with a strong guitar solo.
Next on the album are the more playful “Sunflower Vol. 6” and “Canyon Moon”. “Sunflower Vol. 6” is a groovy, laid-back song. It’s just the epitome of fun, and silly background chants towards the end of the song work for the care-free mood of it. “Canyon Moon” has a sweet cadence that creates the image of friends letting everything go and just having a good time. Whistling in the background carries the jolly sway of the song to the end, and is sure to leave a smile on listeners’ faces.
The second to last track, “Treat People with Kindness,” falls flat next to the rest of the album. It tries to be uplifting and brings in the help of a background choir to do so. But where experimentation serves Styles well on the rest of the album, here it creates a forgettable track. The hook is repetitive, and not in the way where it succeeds in other songs like “Watermelon Sugar,” but instead where it becomes tired and dull.
Recovering from the misstep of “Treat People with Kindness” is the outstanding closer “Fine Line.” Over the course of 6-minutes, the haunting song starts slow and builds to end the album with the perfect note, “we’ll be alright.” It’s a peaceful reminder that in the midst of his heartbreak, loneliness and melancholy, that everything works out in the end.
Overall, Fine Line is a great album where Harry Styles further develops his own personal sound and voice. There’s room to grow, but it’s a promising showcase of what he’s capable of and leaves a doorway for him to continue improving and refining his sound. The album enchants with its use of daydream-y harmonies, strong guitar and bass parts, delightful brass sections and clever displays of emotion. All in all, it’s an album that fans, old and new, will just adore.
Listen to the album here: