HARRY STYLES – FINE LINE

Leave it to Harry Styles to wait until the end of the year to release his record and screw up everyone’s Best Albums of 2019 lists just as they are getting ready to post them. Harry would be that artist to go and drop an album in mid-December, which is obviously not a typically ideal time to release new music since everyone has their minds on the holidays. Maybe dropping an album at a time when no other mainstream artists would is part of a strategy; I mean, as far as pop music goes, he does not have much competition on the charts right now. When Harry released the first single from this album, ‘Lights Up,’ pretty much all music listeners were intrigued. I mean, first off, this is Harry Styles, literally, everyone knows who he is at this point and his every move will be watched forever; he is just that talented and famous. But this track caught the attention of the music world for another reason as well; this style of music is not really similar to what we have heard from Harry before. It has a lot more of a mature and sophisticated vibe than most of One Direction’s music(I will say that their last album was actually pretty sophisticated and mature, especially compared to their previous records), and it is a lot grander and less mainstream pop than his previous solo work. When this track was released, it seemed like Harry had finally and truly found the sound and style of music that he wanted to pursue, and everyone was excited if he could put it all together and make an excellent and complete record. The other two singles released in anticipation of Fine Line, ‘Watermelon Sugar’ and ‘Adore You,’ just made the music world more excited, and it really looked like Harry was about to do something great. That assumption that a lot of us music lovers had that Fine Line would be awesome has turned out to be correct, as this album is definitely going to have to be added to my favorite records of the year. On Fine Line, we see Harry leave all of his emotions on the table, with beautiful ballad after beautiful ballad describing the situations of love, loss, and anxiety that he has been experienced over the past few years. On Fine Line, Harry Styles reminds us that he is not just some star performer puppet, but he is also an ordinary man with ordinary feelings, and we all need to remember that.

You’re so golden. I don’t want to be alone. You’re so golden. You’re so golden.
I’m out of my head, and I know that you’re scared, because hearts get broken.
..

I love the upbeat and positive tone that this record starts out with. On ‘Golden,’ Harry wears his influences on his sleeve right from the start, with elements of late 60s British rock shining through; if you thought that Harry’ infatuation with Mick Jagger and David Bowie that we have seen on Saturday Night Live was a joke, I think it is pretty obvious from the way this album starts out that it is not a joke. Although Harry is singing about how the person he into seems like they are nervous about getting into a relationship because they have been hurt, and there is an undertone that Harry is actually talking about himself. ‘Golden’ is so bright and light and fun, and it is an excellent opener to Fine Line. After that nice opener, we get into the section of the album that contains all the singles, starting with the super groovy ‘Watermelon Sugar.’ Like the first song, I really love how bright and grand this track is. ‘Watermelon Sugar’ is the perfect mix of funk and easy-listening pop-rock; it is equally perfect for playing to get everyone out to the dance floor, or to play while just laying out and chilling at the beach. I literally can not even think of this song without bobbing my head and moving my hips, because it is just so groovy and fun. Harry keeps this fun and funky vibe rolling with the next song, ‘Adore You.’ This song actually gives me major Simon and Garfunkel or Billy Idol vibes. These artists were known for mixing traditional pop music with whatever was popular at the time, and Harry is definitely doing this with this track. Even though ‘Adore You’ definitely has a funky bass line that sounds really nice coming after ‘Watermelon Sugar,’ Harry seems to be using this funky style that people love to highlight and bring to the surface some of the pop-rock sounds that he loves. This is apparent in the next song as well, ‘Lights Up,’ which was the lead single from this record. ‘Lights Up’ actually sort of gives me an early era Coldplay vibe; I feel like this track could have been even bigger back in the early 2000s, which is obviously saying something. My favorite thing about this song is that super catchy post-chorus, where some people think Harry is revealing a certain aspect of his private life that has long been speculated. Regardless of what you think this post-chorus means, you have to admit it is pretty hard not to scream-sing these lyrics: Shine, step into the light. Shine so bright sometimes. Shine, I’m not ever going back…

Following ‘Lights Up,’ we get into the slow and reflective section of the album, starting with the folk ballad that is ‘Cherry.’ This song gives me major Bob Dylan vibes; it is cool how listening to ‘Cherry’ kind of feels like you are in a room with Harry one on one and he is just telling you about how he misses all of these elements of being with his ex-girlfriend. Breakups can be super weird in the fact that even though you may not like or connect with the person certain memories were made with anymore, those memories will never fade and they will always give you a soft spot for that person you experienced the memories with. ‘Falling’ is a beautifully sad ballad about how Harry really felt after the relationship that was being described in the tracks that preceded it. ‘Falling’ brings another of Harry’s influences to the forefront; this song gives me major Snow Patrol or Death Cab for Cutie vibes. This super low key indie-pop sound is an interesting way to go for someone like Harry, and I feel like he does a pretty good job with this sounds on ‘Falling.’ The next song, ‘To Be So Lonely,’ brings another one of Harry Styles’ biggest influences to the forefront. This song reminds me so much of Fleetwood Mac, man; in fact, it reminds me so much of a specific song by the legendary group, ‘ Go Your Own Way.’ ‘To Be So Lonely’ not only has that folk-rock sound that Fleetwood Mac is known for, has a very similar attitude to the legendary aforementioned classic; on this song, Harry is seemingly trying to justify the way he acted in his relationship, trying to deflect the blame off of himself even though he knows that he is partly to blame. This track will not only make you hate your ex again, but it will also probably inspire you to listen to Fleetwood Mac’s album Rumours in the near future, which is never a bad thing. ‘She’ keeps the Fleetwood Mac vibe going, which is obviously pretty awesome, but it is also unique in the psychedelic guitar riffs that are thrown into the track. This dreamy and otherworldly riff actually goes with the meaning and feeling of the song really well. On ‘She,’ Harry is describing his ideal person, stating that he has never actually met someone that meets this description, though. The folk aspect of the song signifies Harry’s seriousness about the topic, and the psychedelic vibe of the riff gives the tone that what he wants is an unrealistic dream.

I couldn’t want you any more. Kids in the kitchen, listen to dancehall. I couldn’t want you any more tonight…

‘Sunflower Vol 6’ is probably the most unique and exotic song on this record, and it is also probably my favorite. It is interesting that Harry mentions listening to dancehall in this song, as the melody and overall sound have a very Calypso sort of feeling. I know that island music and reggae are very popular in Britain, and Harry is obviously drawing from one of his favorite sounds and inspirations growing up. The lyrical tone of ‘Sunflower Vol 6’ is upbeat and happy as well; Harry seems to be over the significant other that he loved, and he is starting to think about and remember the good times for what they were. ‘Canyon Moon’ is another song about good memories, and about how Harry longs to be home where he is free. The title of this track is a sort of play on the genre of the song; Harry himself has dubbed this track as “Crosby, Stills, and Nash” on steroids, and the Laurel Canyon style folk-rock tone of this track really reflects that sentiment. I bet I could play this song for my grandparents and I bet they would love it and assume it was made back in the 50s or 60s. ‘Treat Me with Kindness’ is yet another track where Harry wears his influences on his sleeve, and in my opinion, this one fits his exuberant style and personality the most. ‘Treat Me with Kindness’ sort of sounds like a direct mash-up of music by the Rolling Stones and George Michael; I would say it is pretty obvious from looking at Harry that Mick Jagger and George Michael are huge influences for him, and this song just sounds so comfortable and natural coming from Harry. I really love how grand and bold and exciting the chorus is; ‘Treat Me With Kindness’ makes me want to go out into the world and perform some good deeds! The album closes out with the title track, ‘Fine Line,’ which really tries to capture all of the emotions from this album. In this song, we see Harry discuss and battle with the lows and highs of the relationship he is singing about, starting out melancholy and low key and developing into a bold and loud piece of folk music. The vibe of this song reminds me a lot of the band Mumford and Sons. It is obvious from this track that Harry is still struggling and he is trying to find the place in his mind where he can remember the good memories fondly without immediately thinking of the bad times as well, and I can’t but help but root for Harry because the feeling is way too relatable. Harry Styles does an excellent job on ‘Fine Line’ at capturing this weird and sobering feeling that I am sure we all know.

Over the last few days, I have seen some reviews of this album by big music critics that do not really make sense to me. A lot of the gripes I have seen with Fine Line have been about how “it does not have a distinct genre or direction with the sound” and how “Harry tries to sound like his influences too much” but I do not see how this is a bad thing. Literally, every artist has elements of their music that sound directly like the artists that they love; it is natural to follow and build on ideas that you love from someone else, this is just how art works. Yeah, Fine Line is not very lyrically or sonically sophisticated, but why does it have to be. Music does not always have to have some deep meaning or make some sort of statement; sometimes we just want to hear something that is easy and fun to listen to. If you look at the actual listeners’ opinions on music websites in the comments as opposed to what the “experts” say, you would see the people agree that Fine Line is just a bunch dope dad pop-rock songs that are easy and fun to sing along to. It is nothing more and nothing less, and that is totally cool with me.

7.75/10

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