Styles walks the ‘Fine Line’ between genres

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Styles released his first album, “Harry Styles” in May 2017; his first single “Sign of the Times” came out in April 2017.

Molly Wetsch, News Editor

After the release of his self-titled debut album, it seemed as though Harry Styles was on top of the world. Following a multi-platinum certification and an incredibly successful world tour, all eyes were on Styles to see what he would do next. He certainly did not disappoint with “Fine Line,” his second record released on Dec. 13.

Styles commented on his personal setbacks in the making of this album, the most hindering being his fear of failing as an artist beyond iconic boyband One Direction. “Fine Line” definitely separates him as far as possible from the bubblegum-pop sound, with acoustic guitar and folksy harmony being the most prominent sounds on the album. 

“To Be So Lonely” is one of the songs that epitomizes this sound. The track was written by Styles and guitarist Mitch Rowland and centers around a late-night phone call that Styles makes, seemingly, to an ex-lover. Styles stays in his strong, higher range for the beginning of the song, letting instrumentation take over until the chorus, where he decisively leans towards a lower sound. The song is one of the strongest on the album; rather than some of the others which are either confusingly joyful or heavy and depressing, “To Be So Lonely” is moody and melancholy, a style that Styles should definitely explore more in the future.

All of the singles that Styles released before the album tended to lean more towards the pop-rock sound that he favored on his first album. “Lights Up,” “Adore You” and “Watermelon Sugar” are all rooted in electric guitar and loud, almost screaming vocals. It is clear why Styles chose these songs to be singles; they have all the makings of a hit while still maintaining the authenticity that he craves. 

“Lights Up” is a brave exploration of oneself. Styles reflects on his past and current self, asking “Do you know who you are?” several times throughout the song. It is clear that he has struggled with an identity crisis for some time. “Lights Up” seems like an answer to a years-long question, not only of who Styles is as a person, but who he is as an artist.  “Adore You,” while slightly lighter in subject matter, is still a step out of the box for Styles compared to his first album. He embraces his vulnerable side, yet again singing about an unnamed girlfriend. The music video portrays the same lightness that the song has, a seven-minute spectacle with talking fish and whimsical animation.

Although Styles does have some happier, more upbeat songs on “Fine Line,” several of the tracks are downright depressing. “Falling” is a slower, acoustic-guitar ballad that seems to be about a (currently unrevealed) mistake that Styles has made. For most of the song, he sings low and brooding, saying that he is “falling” over and over again. Toward the end, Styles shows off his powerful vocals, and, combined with strong harmony in the background, the song quickly becomes one of the most impressive on the album.

With the release of “Fine Line,” Styles has shown that his vocal prowess and songwriting ability is not limited to the days of One Direction. Whether or not his next album proves to measure up to “Fine Line,” it is undeniable that Styles will continue to meld traditional genres with those that he has created for himself.