For the longest time, Harry Styles skated along with the pop monster machine One Direction. He was the undecided frontman, the face of a world-famous boyband that broke unbeatable records. When the group chose to go on hiatus nearly five years ago, uncertainty hung in the abyss—what would come of each member’s musical success? One thing was sure for Harry: His star power and popularity could take him anywhere.
The pop star’s debut self-titled album was one that brought classic rock nostalgia and the potential for an even broader audience. But there was an edge of hesitancy, hinting at Harry’s room to grow, not just creatively but personally.
His sophomore LP Fine Line opens enthusiastically, as the fast-paced “Golden” shows off the 25-year-old’s lower register. It sets the tone for a deeply personal 12-track journey full of broken hearts and far-off adoration.
You get the feeling Harry has experienced some things—deeper, more heartwrenching things, rather than the surface-level problems. He sings about loneliness like it’s a sixth sense, begging for clarity in the midst of a breakup. Ever since being catapulted into fame, his every move has been scrutinized, picked apart by media outlets (and a hardcore fanbase). It makes sense the ex-boybander secluded himself, keeping his life as private as possible, something he could never quite do while on top of the world with One Direction.
He fell in love, lost it, and dealt with the repercussions. You see that slice of heavy emotion in “Cherry,” Harry’s desperation seeping through the folk-pop track. There’s a sliver of the selfishness one feels when going through relationship withdrawals. The terms of endearment, familiarity, and sense of security are all gone—and then they’re all given to someone else, and Harry aches for it to be his again. It’s most definitely the standout song on an open-hearted record.
But it doesn’t stop there. “Falling” could be perceived as the second part of “Cherry,” delving further into Harry’s broken reality. “What if I’m someone I don’t want around?” he asks, watching himself turn into someone he isn’t fond of, a side effect of a tumultuous breakup.
While he reminisces on the demise of something once precious to him, Harry still appears to be under a spell. “She” is his own fantasy, perpetuating the perfect lover as he smoothly croons, “She lives in daydreams with me.” The nearly two-minute guitar solo at the end brings it all home, delivering a psychedelic feel to the record as a whole.
There are elements of Harry’s first album evident in Fine Line —from that Fleetwood Mac-esque “Canyon Moon” to the retro vibe of “Sunflower, Vol. 6.” But when it concludes with the LP’s title track, you watch Harry come full circle.
“Fine Line” is hauntingly devastating—Harry’s voice echoing with a sense of heartbreak. It summarizes the entirety of the record, what was gained, lost, and overcome. Harry unveils a raw intensity he hasn’t quite touched before, a feat that can only be accomplished when being completely honest through the creative process. When the six-minute track comes to a close, there’s a sense of finality. He reassures himself, raspily singing “We’ll be alright,” something that needs to be heard even in the darkest of times.
Fine Line offers strong proof of Harry’s caliber of talent. He took his first record and made something different than a radio-friendly chart-topper. But now, with his new LP out in the world, there’s evidence of growth, making each song resonate even greater. With real-life experiences come genuine emotions. Harry’s had the chance to endure them, and now, he’s shared it with a still-healing heart and newfound vulnerability.
Featured image source: Columbia Records