Niall Horan – The Show

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You’d think a gig as a reality show judge would suggest a waning career in the public eye, but now, on his third album, Niall Horan continues to prove himself one of the most consistent figures in the pop sphere, both in terms of of its quality. and their sales numbers. Again bringing his natural vocal tone of a tender storyteller to the table, the instruments actually pick up a bit of your typical Horan drive on quite a few tracks here. With a bit more of an ’80s cult following as all the big pop stars take a spin, a couple of tracks cross the threshold of overproduction and risk burying Horan’s voice, but they dovetail to make an engaging pop track and well produced with the same frequency. Still, the more straightforward cuts are where Horan really shines, throwing in a couple of clever and romantic lyrical gems and really sounding like he really means every word of them. At only ten tracks long and staying no longer than welcome, Horan has yet to do anything quite as subversive or flashy in his career, but once again he delivers another truly solid set of tunes.

Lead single “Heaven” opens the album, and it’s one of those pop songs that at first feels like background music to retail workers, but eventually settles comfortably in your brain the more you listen to it. The tune is a bit off-putting at first, but as soon as it started to grow on me, I began to appreciate some of the amazing and memorable choices they made. Horan’s biggest draw actually might be his simple ability to sound like a charming, affable storyteller who really should be singing about hobbits and the like, a better Ed Sheeran, if you will, and combining that energy with a heavier instrumental. powerful and driving than him. it used to really work: it’s almost like he sounds surprised that his romance story deserves such a big fix, but he leans into it anyway. However, this dichotomy doesn’t quite connect when the melody isn’t quite as strong, something demonstrated on the next track, “If You Leave Me.” There’s something odd about the way Horan’s vocals blend at times in the front half of the album, and by the time he hits a climactic falsetto note in the chorus, you find his voice muffled and fading into echoes: it’s a weirdly nasty computerized sound. sound The random funk beat of an instrumental is upbeat and dynamic, but too generic to carry things on its own. I feel like I’ve heard the exact bass line somewhere, though I can’t place it.

Although most of the album thankfully doesn’t suffer from this, it’s a little telling about the direction the major labels are taking that the garisher ’80s-inflected and oddly faded tracks were uploaded at the beginning of the album and selected as singles. “Meltdown” might be the worst offender, especially since I thought the legendary millennial scream might have been extinct forever, but here it’s completely interrupting the melody and the flow. With some over-processed synth chords and an unpleasantly fast tempo, it’s an extremely busy instrumental. The harmonies that go into the chorus are too filtered to be effective, and I’m sure they would sound great if the producers just hit us with them instead of melting the track’s many elements into a sludge. “Never Grow Up”, however, rightes the ship with an incredibly cute sentiment. There are many songs about lovely old couples. This actually finds Horan observing those where the spark has died down and hoping it never becomes that way, wanting to maintain the childish spirit of excitement that is born in the honeymoon phase, from spontaneous dances to playful, nonsensical fights. about pop culture. . Suddenly the mix shifts to hear his distinctive, one-of-a-kind tone up front, and the album’s new humanity makes it all the more heartfelt. There are definitely plenty of moments in Horan’s material that are reminiscent of other singer-songwriters from his early days, but if you can ignore how much the title track sounds like Passenger’s “Let Her Go,” it’s another catchy one as it tackles a more dramatic orchestral theme. instrumental. Paying homage to the bad times that let him know how good he’s got it, the too-short bridge contains the kind of risqué melodic choices he wishes would turn up a little more often here.

The two best tracks on the album kick off the second half. Despite its title, “You Could Start A Cult” is actually an incredibly sweet love ballad over nothing more than an acoustic guitar riff. Horan taps into the soulful high point of his mixed voice to deliver a tune in which he is completely in awe of her mate, naming her the kind of figure who is not only beautiful, but has the kind of captivating, magnetic attraction. to have kingdoms. dueling for her affections or a legion of devoted followers: Horan is one of them, as he affirms his undying dedication. A harmonica solo near the back sends the ballad over the edge. After a smooth piano outro, the album cuts into its most impactful track, “Save My Life,” and it’s a shock to the system in the best way. An 80s inflected song done right, the harmonies blend so much better and the background guitar has a chance to go wild and adding little flourishes is a great touch. Gearing up for a jubilant sax blast, it’s a magnificent cheese platter as Horan toasts the aforementioned cult leader’s life-altering abilities.

The final series of tracks isn’t quite as strong, but it does reaffirm the fact that there really aren’t many people who can sell a formulaic pop track as much as Horan does, except perhaps his former bandmate, Harry Styles. All the boyband training paid off, as he often gives it his all in his performances. “On A Night Like Tonight” is one of those, an appropriately swirling and dreamy song about a late-night summer date. “Science” is more generic on the lyrical front, as Horan delivers an incredibly superficial message about persevering through tough times, but it still sounds great nonetheless. Diving into its lowest register, it makes the most of the quiet, whispering drama over piano and strings. It feels like the kind of safe, gloomy thing to do to end a mostly romantic album with a track with the “if it feels like love, then it must be love” hook, and the upbeat la-la-las are A bit to take in, but part of enjoying Horan’s music is submitting to this sort of thing.

After three albums, Horan has been able to hit the mark of pretty good, but not great every time. He clearly has a smart team of pop mavens around him, in this case John Ryan and Joel Little, proven hitmakers behind the boards, and there’s no reason to hope he won’t continue. Hopefully in the future, when the commercial appeal isn’t as great as it used to be, we get something a bit abandoned.

Favorite Tracks: You Could Start A Cult, Save My Life, Never Grow Up, Heaven, The Show

Least Favorite Track: Meltdown

Score: 7/10

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