With his second solo album “Fine Line,” Harry Styles exudes vulnerability and authenticity with a hybrid of classic rock and soft pop. The specificity of his lyrics about his romantic and personal heartbreak reveals that the former boy-band singer has become a dazzling and genuine artist.
Since Styles first rose to fame on “The X Factor” with One Direction, fans of his have come to love his goofy, high-energy character. Throughout the 2010s, Styles and his bandmates were one of the biggest acts in the world, releasing five albums and headlining four world tours. One year after One Direction disbanded, Styles released his self-titled debut album, showcasing his stylistic range with dreamlike melodies in songs like “Carolina” and “Ever Since New York” and dynamic crowd pleasers like “Kiwi.”
In an interview last November, Styles voiced that he wanted to take more risks with his second solo album and have fun experimenting in ways he had not on “Harry Styles.” “Fine Line” does not disappoint. With the progression across tracks like “Golden” to “To Be So Lonely” to “Sunflower Vol. 6,” Styles achieves that with flying colors.
The first song of the album is “Golden,” which Styles described as “the perfect PCH [Pacific Coast Highway] song.” “Watermelon Sugar” and “Adore You” come next, delivering messages of loving unabashedly and fully, highlighted by the chorus in “Adore You”: “I’d walk through fire for you / Just let me adore you.” These saccharine lines serve to showcase the focus on love throughout the album.
“Lights Up,” released as a single before the album, embodies Harry Styles’ transformation from boy-band sensation to authentic solo artist. The chorus of the song rings out, “Lights up and they know who you are / Know who you are / Do you know who you are?” and leads into the bridge, “Shine, step into the light / Shine, so bright sometimes / Shine, I’m not ever going back.”
Styles expresses he has shed his former persona and now knows exactly who he is; he dresses however he wants, intentionally blurs the lines between masculinity and femininity and remains utterly unafraid to step into the light. His evolution serves as inspiration to shine, to identify one’s authentic identity and to follow through with living it, which can be seen throughout the tracks on the album.
“Cherry,” a song which sounds as sweet as the fruit and is one of the best on the album, continues these trends. Styles sings, “I noticed that there’s a piece of you in how I dress / Take it as a compliment.” Styles’ vulnerability in his relationships is a recurring theme throughout all his songs, as he delivers the honesty and vulnerability of his experiences to his audience. In the chorus, he heartbreakingly sings, “Don’t you call him baby / We’re not talking lately / Don’t you call him what you used to call me.”
“Falling” is one of the most impactful songs on the album. With just his voice and the piano, the melodic rawness mirrors his emotional reflection of not knowing the person he has become and not knowing what to do about it. “What am I now / What if I’m someone I don’t want around?” Styles asks himself. Just as “Lights Up” inspires listeners to persevere proudly, “Falling” reminds listeners that it is okay to be unsure.
Styles makes sure to poke fun at himself too, as on “To Be So Lonely,” which serves as a refreshing, carefree note after the two previous ballads. Styles croons about his inability to claim fault in a relationship with an air of nonchalance that makes the song catchy and memorable.
The tail end of the album offers a wide variety of different song styles, from the folksy guitar in “Canyon Moon” to the musical theater quality of “Treat People with Kindness.” This stylistic variation showcases Styles’ artistic range in a way few other artists can match.
Finally, he closes his album with “Fine Line,” the smooth namesake of the album. “Fine Line” summarizes Styles’ emotional process of making the album and offers a cohesiveness to the album. With an outro of the repeated line “We’ll be alright,” Styles leads his listeners to a quiet peace that rounds out his emotionally packed sophomore album.
Styles’ latest solo album is revolutionary for introducing his fans to a different side of him, both in terms of his identity and his musical capability. Styles is taking a refreshing look at masculinity and encouraging authenticity in a way few other artists have done successfully, with the content of his music as much as his Gucci suits and painted fingernails. As Styles has grown as a musician, he has effectively solidified himself as an icon of today’s pop culture.