Graham Reid | | 1 min read
In early 2017 Harry Styles – formerly of One Direction (the guy with tousled hair) and briefly a Taylor Swift boyfriend – released his self-titled debut album.
It must have been galling for those dismissive of 1D that it was so good. It was a smart, chart-busting pop record and Styles proved he possessed considerable vocal and emotional range.
With his new Fine Line and the customary Team Harry producers and co-writers, he stretches himself even more assuredly, from the MOR pop-rock of Golden (think America with George Harrison on slide) to the adult narrative and searing guitars of the downbeat, grandeur of the six-minute She.
He delivers summershine pop (the vacuous but enjoyable Sunflower Vol 6 co-written with go-to hit writer/producer Greg Kurstin which sounds like a mid 80s McCartney album track), radio-pop (Watermelon Sugar) and the make-weight feel-good virtue-signalling Treat People With Kindness (co-written with Ilsey Juber, daughter of McCartney's Wings guitarist Lawrence).
Yes, he addresses the gallery of female fans (the tediously obvious Adore You, the aching apology ballad Falling), drops clues for the faithful to decode (a dig at Swift on the acoustic folk-pop of Cherry?) and – on the self-aware To Be So Lonely and CS&Nash-framed Canyon Moon– steps even further into a more adult milieu. Some smart, sexualised pop here.
That said, despite its confident and accomplished diversity, at times Fine Line remains safe rather than the re-invention he seems capable of.
You can hear Fine Line at Spotify here.