Harry Styles has become a household name over the past decade — first as a teen heartthrob in U.K. boy band sensation One Direction, alongside his bandmates Niall Horan, Louis Tomlinson, Liam Payne and Zayn Malik. One Direction achieved stardom almost overnight because, well, five hot guys with accents will make any teenage girl swoon, twelve-year-old me included. Even when I thought I was “too cool” to like One Direction publicly, secretly I would blast their newest album (which came out every November like clockwork) and dance around my room, singing along to whatever love songs accompanied the album.
When Zayn left the band, I was heartbroken, and even more so when the four piece announced their “hiatus” that would begin after their fifth album was scheduled to be released. But this brought in a new era — the solo 1D era.
And Harry is definitely the Beyoncé of One Direction.
Fine Line is Styles’ sophomore album, and was released Dec. 13. As Styles proclaimed, the album is all about “having sex and being sad.” Or, in layman’s terms, the storyline for the album is a relatable one: the highs and lows of both falling in and falling out of love with someone.
And oh boy, that is not wrong.
The album starts with a somewhat upbeat pop song, “Golden.” The song brings the idea of being “scared because hearts get broken” to the table, along with the idea of being alone. “Golden” introduces the idea of being starry-eyed for the person you’re in love with, especially when caught up in the whirlwind of a new relationship because they can do no wrong, and, in their lover’s eyes, are good as gold.
Following “Golden” comes “Watermelon Sugar,” the second song that Styles dropped following his double duty on Saturday Night Live as both host and musical guest. The song features an upbeat tune, complete with trumpets in the background while Styles serenades the listener about wanting that “summer feeling” and wanting to taste that “watermelon sugar high.”
“Adore You” comes in hot on the heels of “Watermelon Sugar.” It’s another upbeat, groovy song about how Styles would “walk through fire for you.” The song features backing vocals from the band as he continues to sing about “brown skin and lemon over ice,” and how he wants you to “just let me [him] adore you.” “Adore You” is the third song off the album to have been released prior to the album, but its first single. “Adore You” features an eclectic video of the isle of Eroda, a mythical island between Great Britain and Ireland, and a fishing village with a few quirks of its own.
Up next is “Lights Up,” the first sneak peak of the album, which was released in early October. It’s a song about wanting to “know who you are,” and figuring out who you are. The video that accompanies the song was dropped at midnight unannounced, in true Harry fashion. I mean, he is a man of few words, and he is an artist who, despite no warning or promo, can pull off getting his single ranked at number 17 on the Billboard top 100.
After “Lights Up,” there is a shift in the album. In “Cherry,” Styles croons about missing his lover, presumably his ex-girlfriend Camille Rowe, all with the feel of a Fleetwood Mac song, especially in the guitar, which sounds strikingly similar to a Lindsey Buckingham style. The song ends with an audio recording of Rowe taking a phone call over Styles playing the guitar, and if you’re not in your bag just yet, boy, do I have news for you.
“Falling” is the sixth song on the album, and oh my. A ballad where Styles pours his heart out about the pain he feels post-breakup, something most of the population can relate to. “What if I’m someone I don’t want around?” Styles cries out the chorus to the song over the soft playing of a piano. Just stab me right in the fucking heart, Harry, why don’t ya?
“To Be So Lonely” is a somewhat more upbeat version of expressing those post-breakup feelings. Is he still sad? Absolutely. Is he “an arrogant son of a bitch who can’t admit when he’s wrong?” Well, according to the song, yes he is. When Styles played his One Night at the Forum show in Los Angeles the same day as the album release, he teased the crowd for singing that line with their “full chests.”
Following in the footsteps of “To Be So Lonely” comes the rock ballad “She.” At a little over six minutes long, Styles longs for the woman who “lives in my [his] daydreams with me,” while Mitch Rowland, the lead guitarist in the band that Styles performs with, gives a gorgeous guitar solo. Between the song’s instrumentals and Styles’ breathy, upper-register singing, it feels like I’m listening to a Tom Petty song on the yearly road trip I would take as a kid.
“Sunflower, Vol. 6” is up next, and is one of my favorite songs of Harry’s ever, if not my most favorite song in general. A very 1960s, Beatles post-touring era beat plays while Harry sings about the domestic bliss of a relationship, and how he wants to “kiss in the kitchen like it’s a dance floor.” The light, airy tempo and upbeat drums and guitar is a stark contrast to the prior sad songs.
Another heavily Stevie- influenced song is “Canyon Moon.” With somewhat of an almost country vibe to it, Styles reminisces over a night spent with a lover while he travels “through Paris, all through Rome.” He gets through the separation from his lover by “thinking back to the time under the canyon moon.” This song follows the same, happy upbeat vibe that “Sunflower” has, but in a less dreamy, whimsical way.
The last of the trio of happy songs bears the same name as Styles’ mantra, “Treat People With Kindness.” The rhythm and group singing of the chorus, “Maybe we can find a place to feel good and we can treat people with kindness,” give this song almost a Christian pop vibe; it sounds similar to a song I would’ve heard during a Sunday mass years ago, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Styles sings about “feeling good in my skin” and it makes the former education major in me squeal with glee. An upbeat, age appropriate song for anyone that stresses the importance of being a genuinely nice person? Oh yeah!
The album closes out with the title track “Fine Line,” and is the longest song on the album, clocking in at six minutes and eighteen seconds. The soft strumming of a guitar drones on in the background while Styles croons about the reality of the end of a relationship, singing “you’ve got my devotion but man, I hate you sometimes.” The repetition of “we’ll be a fine line” twists the metaphorical dagger in your heart after a breakup, leaving you raw and open.
“Spreading you open is the only way of knowing you.”
Styles promised being sad and having sex, and that line does not fail to deliver.
The song crescendos into more than just a weepy guitar ballad with Sarah Jones on the drums, Styles crooning that “we’ll be all right.” It’s the realization that you can move on from a relationship, despite how bad it may seem.
The album takes you on the journey Harry Styles felt as his relationship with Camille Rowe fell apart: the emotions he felt, the pain of heartbreak and the acceptance that no matter what, it will be alright. Styles did not disappoint with this album, which is seen in the amount of sold-out dates for his upcoming Love on Tour. The hype around the release was well deserved.
Fine Line is so very fine.