As a whole, I’m not as disappointed in Niall Horan as I am with the current state of our music industry. I understand that catchy songs with a certain sound to them and a message of love and lust will sell. But the marketability of a song doesn’t make it great. We shouldn’t have to remember songs just because they play on loop over the radio; we should remember songs and sing them because they are beautiful, strange and impactful.
“Heartbreak Weather” didn’t stray far from the norm. While its songs are catchy, emotional and largely upbeat, they aren’t all that special. The only thing that compelled me to listen to the entire album was the heart-wrenching love story it told.
“Heartbreak Weather” isn’t the story of a happy, healthy relationship. It’s the tale of two people whose relationship fell apart, and how they forced themselves to move on. “Heartbreak Weather,” the song, opened the album with cliché lyrics about how the singer believed the girl he was falling for seemed different from the other girls. It was repetitive, as nearly all the songs on this album turned out to be. In essence, it was boring to listen to.
“Black and White” had a better beat, but equally basic lyrics. Horan sang about how “there’ll never be another, I promise to love you for the rest of my life,” which sounds a whole lot like it was ripped straight out of “Rude” by MAGIC!
“Dear Patience” was a little more interesting to listen to. It almost made me feel like I was being romanced in a Hillary Duff movie due to its refreshingly 2000s sound. In the overarching plot of the album, the relationship in question is starting to fall apart. It does a good job of capturing the emotions of someone trying to save a dying relationship.
The next three songs on the album — “Bend The Rules,” “Small Talk” and “Nice To Meet Ya” — seem to be about both members of the couple revenge-cheating on each other. “Bend The Rules” is the first of, oddly, several songs in the album that are vaguely and confusingly country. The other two are more upbeat and funky. They would work well as montage songs in movies. “Nice To Meet Ya” stands out a little due to its fun humming in the background; it is one of three or four songs that are worth listening to on the album.
The next seven songs — “Put a Little Love on Me,” “Arms of a Stranger,” “Everywhere,” “Cross Your Mind,” “New Angel,” “No Judgement” and “San Francisco” — all appear to be about the on-and-off style of their relationship after they officially break up. They all seem to be upbeat and hopeful, but also overwhelmingly sad. “Put a Little Love on Me” is one of best songs on the album in its ability to express emotion. Its repetitiveness is also far less irritating than in other songs. “Everywhere” is also notable due to the fun clapping used in the background, and its overall danceability.
The album concludes with “Still,” which is arguably the best song on the album, and the only one that branches away from the generic sound of pop today. Rather than being only vaguely country, this song embraces being overtly country. With what sounds like a guitar in the background, Horan reflects on the relationship as a whole in a soft, broken voice. His emotion is tangible, as he inadvertently says goodbye to the girl he loves while admitting to her that he still loves her after everything they’ve been through.
Although, personally, I think the album had a strong ending with “Still,” the bonus track ends with two notable songs: “Nothing” and “Dress.” “Nothing” is a straight bop. It has all the emotion of a rock, but its beat hits in a great way. “Dress” is the opposite. It is more Irish than country. Like “Still,” it’s a reflection on the relationship — this time through the physical object of a dress she left behind in his apartment — but with more of a conclusive tone than before. Horan sings, “Maybe it’s time to put your dress away even if I don’t want to.”
While I strongly believe the world needs songs about people happy with themselves outside of relationships, sex and love, fans of Horan seem more than content with this project.
“I love his new album,” Rebecca Vales, a sixth-semester pharmacy major, said. “I enjoyed his first solo album, but I think with [this] album he’s developing more of an identity. There isn’t really a song I dislike, where on the old album I only had a few real favorites.”
On this album, I can’t say his “individuality” panned out as much as Vales and other fans believe. Hopefully Horan will continue to develop this individuality in his music and take the chance to branch away from the generic sound radio stations continuously pump out.
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Rebecca Maher is a senior staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.