Forecast looking cloudy with brief moments of sunshine.
Being in self-isolation allowed me to do two things; remember how dull life is back home in Barry Island (seriously, I can’t even go on the bumper cars), and listen to the music I want without my friends chastising me for my questionable taste.
On the 13th March, Niall Horan (aka the “likeable one” from One Direction, according to Billboard Magazine at least) released his second official album ‘Heartbreak Weather’, the follow-up to his hit debut album ‘Flicker’. His debut album didn’t sit well with critics on first release, but garnered a cult following from former 1D fans, as well as good ol’ pop music fans like myself.
So with nothing else to do during self-isolation (excluding any important deadlines, dissertation work or job-hunting), I thought I’d give a little listen to Mr Horan’s latest work and review his latest work from cover to cover.
Track 1: Heartbreak Weather
Title tracks usually capture your attention immediately; they might not be the best song on the album, but they have to hook you in for the next thirty or so minutes. This track does that for me. A good solid melody that makes you feel like you’re on a road trip, with the sun glaring down on you. Not the biggest fan of the drums in this, but then again I’m not a professional music journalist, so what do I know? 8/10
Track 2: Black And White
I was waiting for the rest of One Direction to make a cameo in this one. It’s a quintessential One Direction-esque tune; boy likes girl, boy kisses girl, hint of some hanky panky, and a grand metaphor about loving the said girl forever and ever and ever. This sounds like it would be a mid-table Eurovision hit that would chart in the Netherlands for three weeks. Overall, a mediocre tune that doesn’t really speak volumes. 6/10
Track 3: Dear Patience
Right, is Patience a metaphor for a girl? Or is it something more meaningful? I’m assuming it’s a metaphor for a lady-friend he’s declaring his love for, but the lyrics in this track are incredibly thought through and emotional. Horan pours his heart out for just over three minutes in what has to be one of the sleeper hits of his album. 8/10
Track 4: Bend The Rules
What a surprise – another song lamenting about a lost l… wait, it’s not? Track 4 of the album is an emotionally charged song about suspected infidelity and the consequences that come with it. You wouldn’t immediately assume that this is the case with this track; it took me a good fifty seconds to catch on to the plot of the song, but other than that, it’s a pretty vanilla tune to say the least. Unmemorable would be too harsh though. 5/10
Track 5: Small Talk
Change of pace now for Niall. Goodbye to the sweet laments about unrequited love and cheating, he wants to get you to his bedroom for some hanky panky. Naughty boy. The pre-chorus sounds very similar to Bruno Mars’ 2010 hit ‘Grenade’, but without the climactic pay-out that is the hard-hitting chorus with an infectious beat. The track picks up towards the end, but it doesn’t leave you wanting more. 4/10
Track 6: Nice To Meet Ya
There’s a reason that this track was released prior to the album; it’s an insanely memorable, infectious melody that you can easily whistle to, and highlights Horan’s captivating vocal range. This song unleashes Horan’s rarely seen suave and sexy style; we often associate ZAYN and Harry Styles being the ‘bad-boys’ of One Direction, but not little ol’ Niall and his little blond locks. The change of direction in this track picks the whole album up and carries it on its shoulder all the way to the finishing line. 9/10
Track 7: Put A Little Love On Me
What’s that? You want another sexy tune? Well tough luck, here’s a heartfelt ballad – what we often associate with Niall Horan. I’ll be honest, I literally screamed ‘Oh for god sake Niall’ when this track immediately played after Nice To Meet Ya, but it grows on you. If this album was a four-course meal, it would be the little palate cleanser you get before you tuck into your slice of apple pie; well-needed but underwhelming. 7/10
Track 8: Arms of a Stranger
Another sleeper hit of the album right here. What starts off as another staple love song with soft vocals and a gentle piano arpeggio quickly turns into a true toe-tapper with a belting chorus. As the album progresses, I can only think that Niall Horan might be the perfect Eurovision entrant. Horan for Eurovision 2021 anyone? 8/10
Track 9: Everywhere
Basically Track 8, with guitars replacing the piano and more drums. He claimed in an interview with the Sun that he wrote this track in ten minutes whilst walking on a beach in the Bahamas. Not going to lie, it shows. 6/10
Track 10: Cross Your Mind
I feel if the year was 2014, this would be UK Number 1 for at least two weeks; it’s a good track with a great rhythm, and masks the unimaginative lyrics about an unrequited one-night-stand that we expect from popstars such as Niall Horan. That being said, it’s a decent tune. This would be a 10/10 if it was an acoustic track however. 7/10
Track 11: New Angel
At this point in the album, I was losing attention and this track did not help. I had to check my Spotify account because I thought the album had ended and started to play suggested tracks. For me, it really doesn’t grip my attention. Maybe it’s because we’ve heard tracks like this before from the likes of Maroon 5 – I mean it’s VERY Maroon 5, but Rio Wellard wouldn’t mind if you kept this CD. 4/10
Track 12: No Judgement
The beginning of this track is a lot like Anne-Marie’s ‘Ciao Adios’. I was hoping that the rest of the track would spark a tad more creativity, but it just follows the same blueprint that Anne-Marie used three years previously. Nonetheless, I really like the track but it didn’t stick in my head… Ciao Adios did instead. 7/10
Track 13: San Francisco
The penultimate track needs to set up the finale in my opinion. It needs to get you hyped for the last song and maintain the overall feel of the album. Sadly, this song doesn’t do it. The pre-chorus once again sounds a lot similar to an Anne-Marie track of past fame (Alarm for those interested), and is then followed by an underwhelming chorus. This track is however an example of Niall’s beautiful voice, so that’s a plus I guess? 5/10
Track 14: Still
For the first minute, I wasn’t happy. In fact, I was angry that this ended the album; the beginning minute is so vanilla it makes bread and butter seem like a gourmet food. But that all changes in the final two minutes; it turns into what I can only describe as a perfect stadium anthem – you know, those songs singers always end with on their tour, where they get streamers and other party related items to fall onto the crowd. As a final track goes, it’s a fitting end to the album. 7/10
Album Rating: 7/10
Overall, it’s not a revolutionary album that will spark new genres and place Niall Horan in the heavenly heights of the pop world, but was it ever going to be like that? What Niall has created is a solid pop album that is relatively easy to listen to and takes you on a journey; sure, not all the destinations are pleasant and some are revisited multiple times (I’m looking at you Tracks 8 and 9), but it is definitely an album that can perk up your spirits.