As I’m writing this, my quarantined brain is wired to remind me that it has been five years since Zayn Malik left One Direction, my all-time favorite band. Malik went on to pursue a successful solo career and released two albums in 2016 and 2018.
Since the remaining four of One Direction went on an indefinite hiatus in early 2016, the members of the UK pop group have all pursued solo ventures in music. The band was formed by Simon Cowell on the "The X Factor (UK) Interactive" nearly a decade ago, on July 23, 2010. As a dedicated Directioner, certain random facts about the band stand out in my head.
Niall Horan, the 26-year-old singer-songwriter from Mullingar, Ireland. Horan signed with Capitol Records in late 2016. He released his debut album “Flicker” in 2017, and was the second member after Malik to release solo music with his single titled “This Town.” “Flicker” peaked at number one on the Billboard 200 in November 2017. The album consisted of a balanced mix of songs such as the exciting second single “Slow Hands,” more gentle songs like the titular track “Flicker,” “On the Loose” and “Too Much to Ask.” “Seeing Blind” is another great acoustic jam on the album featuring American country artist Maren Morris.
Horan's second studio album, “Heartbreak Weather,” was released on March 13 and is currently at Number 4 on the Billboard 200 Chart. Horan started teasing the album since late last year with his first three singles: “Nice To Meet Ya,” “Put A Little Love On Me” and my personal favorite, “No Judgement.” This 14-track album, as the lively first track “Heartbreak Weather” suggests, aims to journey through the various seasons of romance and the meteorology of heartbreak.
What got me most excited about the album was Horan’s comedic and extensive promotion of it. His collaboration with British TV host James Corden on “The Late Late Show with James Corden” is particularly entertaining. The “#LateLateNiall” content showed off his humble, funny and underrated charming personality through various skits, interviews, performances and, of course, a brilliant episode of the show’s signature Carpool Karaoke. In December 2019, Horan was the musical guest on the "Saturday Night Live" Christmas episode with host Scarlett Johansson.
In promoting this album and his upcoming tour featuring Scottish singer-songwriter Lewis Capaldi and American artist FLETCHER, Horan has proved time and again that he is a great live performer. Last week, Horan was one of the many artists who did a 30-minute Instagram Live #TogetherAtHome concert in collaboration with Global Citizen and the World Health Organization to raise awareness about the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
In an interview with The Sun, Horan breaks down his album track-by-track and said it is meant to be listened in chronological order. The second song on the album, “Black And White” is one that takes me back to my starry-eyed Directioner days and it is meant to be “a wedding song.” Following this number, “Dear Patience” is a cautionary tale about not rushing a budding romance and taking things slowly as they come. Next comes “Bend The Rules,” a song to sway to that’s about trying to establish trust and confidence in the early stages of a romance.
Contrastingly, “Small Talk” and “Nice To Meet Ya,” compared to the rest of the songs on this album, are more flirtatious, casual and even a little cocky. “Put A Little Love on Me,” has a melancholic melody set to the piano and is the kind of sentimental and lovesick song you listen to when you look out the window and it’s raining.
Post-break-up, “Arms Of A Stranger” is a classic trying-to-get-over-someone song and “Everywhere” is a classic cannot-get-over-someone song. Things become more upbeat again in “Cross Your Mind” and “New Angel,” even though the lyrics still stick with the underlying central themes of being hurt and coping with heartbreak. “No Judgement” is a joy to jam out to and has an interesting but adorable music video.
“San Francisco” is more personal to Horan’s specific experiences with love and the singer reminisces on the honeymoon period of a relationship set in a sunny California city, with the most repetitive line in the song being: “Take me back.” The finale in the album, “Still” ends on an acoustic, indecisive and complicated note and Horan’s last words leave one thinking and overthinking: “Well, I’m still in love with you.” The deluxe version of this pop album features two additional songs, “Dress” and “Nothing.”
The overall sonic and emotional impact of “Heartbreak Weather” shows that Horan hasn’t deviated from his romantic boyband roots, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.