Harry Styles, a 25-year-old British singer-songwriter, released his second studio album, a pop-rock roller coaster that goes by the name of “Fine Line” on Dec. 13, 2019. The album peaked at #1 on the Billboard 200 Chart on Dec. 28 and is currently fourth on the chart. In an August 2019 Rolling Stone article titled “The Eternal Sunshine of Harry Styles,” the 12-track album was described by the ex-One Direction heartthrob as being “all about having sex and feeling sad.”
I was a devoted Directioner in my early teens and loved Styles’s 2017 debut self-titled album “Harry Styles.” His first album was pretty powerful in how it marked Styles’s individuality and versatility as an artist, with a sonically diverse array of songs like “Sign of the Times,” “Two Ghosts,” “Ever Since New York” and “Kiwi.”
“Fine Line” is a perfect balance of continuity and evolution for Styles as he explores universal themes in-depth like love, sexuality and human relationships.
Styles is undoubtedly the most successful of the now-parted fifths of One Direction. Zayn Malik, Niall Horan, Liam Payne and Louis Tomlinson have all achieved varying levels of success in their respective genres. While Malik and Payne are trying to break free from their cookie-cutter boy band pasts, Horan and Tomlinson are taking more wholesome approaches to make their music.
The reason why I find myself enamored by how far Styles has come since he was a 16-year-old boy from Cheshire on the "The X Factor (UK) Interactive" in 2010 is his effortlessly unconventional attitude towards his artistry.
Styles is fearless in his self-discovery, appealing to a niche aspect of mainstream music whilst also dipping his toes in a multitude of genres like pop, rock and alternative music. With his undeniable good looks, luscious hair, impeccable sense of gender-bending fashion and unique music, Styles has charmed audiences worldwide.
Deepti Rao, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, appreciates Styles for the way he is unabashedly himself.
“I feel like he’s very authentic in his music because it's based on his self-expression and the exploration of his identity in a post-One Direction era. He doesn’t conform to societal expectations of what a male singer should be. His approach to life is something everyone should embrace, in being more true to themselves,” she said.
The fun album cover for “Fine Line” has pink and blue as its stand out colors, which may be perceived as an allusion to the bisexual pride flag.
When questioned about how and why Styles embodies his sexuality in his work by The Guardian in December 2019, he simply said: “Am I sprinkling in nuggets of sexual ambiguity to try and be more interesting? No ... I just think sexuality’s something that’s fun. Honestly? I can’t say I’ve given it any more thought than that.”
It’s important to remember that the heart of who Styles is lies not in his sexuality or clothing, but in his music. The “Fine Line” album opens with the upbeat and glorious song “Golden,” followed by three electric singles we all should have blasted on the radio by now: “Watermelon Sugar,” “Adore You” and “Lights Up.”
These songs are followed by a shift in tone with emotionally vulnerable and melancholic numbers like “Cherry” and “Falling,” some of my personal favorites off the album.
“Cherry” is deeply personal and reminisces on Styles’s year-long relationship with ex-girlfriend and model Camille Rowe, by ending with an actual voicemail in French that Rowe sent to Styles.
The next song, “She,” takes on a more sultry tone. It is followed by the rather odd but enjoyable “Sunflower, Vol. 6,” which is characterized by Styles almost yodeling at the end of the song. “Canyon Moon” and “Treat People with Kindness” are two very different feel-good tunes.
The final, titular song “Fine Line” is supposedly about the fine line between love and hate and is a six-minute song that perfectly wraps up Styles’s musical melange. The last minute or so is particularly brilliant and transportive, and by the end of your listening, Styles wins you over.