There was a time when Niall Horan had two tracks approaching 500 million Spotify streams (‘Slow hands’ y ‘This town’), while Harry Styles only had ‘Sign of the times’, who was also content to get “only” 200 million. Years later, it’s clear that things have changed, but it doesn’t mean that Niall has hit a bump like poor Zayn did (who had songs exceeding a billion listeners but hasn’t even smelled those figures again). The Irishman has been finding his niche with a less ambitious but very accessible sound, with a calmer image and various ballads in the vein of a Lewis Capaldi or Ed Sheeran.
Back on the islands, Horan has continued to solidify a more adult image as one of the coaches of ‘The Voice’. With Styles as a global superstar, Tomlinson oriented more towards rock, Payne as a headless chicken and Zayn in his bubble, Horan has found his place here and, in terms of artistic merits, with this album he manages to be the second of One Direction to currently offers more interesting material. Although he repeats with TMS and with the already collaborators of One Direction John Ryan and Julian Bunetta, he adds in the production Matt Zara (Julia Michaels, ALMA) and, be careful, Joel Little, the first producer of Lorde (pre-Antonoff), with whom the New Zealand made the wonderful ‘Pure Heroine’.
And there really is in ‘The Show’ a small evolution in sound, although it follows the point of harmless ballad from time to time. The lead single ‘Heaven’ it’s quite decent (and tell me you can’t imagine it playing at a festival at around seven, with the sun starting to burn a little less), ‘If you leave me’ y ‘Meltdown’ (that vocoder) are also more uptempo, there is even an explosion of sax in the springsteenian ‘Save my life’, etc. Also noteworthy are ‘Science’, ‘You could start a cult’ (halfway between the songs of bonfire and ‘I will follow you into the dark’) o ‘On a like tonight’which reminds ‘Bitter Sweet Symphony’.
“This record is a reflection of where I am today as a person, as a musician and as a songwriter (…) it sounds like something a thirty-year-old would do, not a younger version of what I’ve done before”Horan recently commented in an interview with Rolling Stone. It is true that the evolution in sound is beginning to be, not so much in the lyrics: although there are some that attract more attention such as ‘Science’, ‘Heaven’ or the nice ‘Never grow old’ (“I hope we still dance like we’re fallin in love / hope we grow old, but we never grow up / hope we still fight over bands that we love / hope we still cry cause we’re laughin’ too much”), the lyrics usually have plenty of room for improvement for Horan to come up with a great song like the ones Styles has. But, with everything, he has already achieved more than the rest of his colleagues: unlike his two previous albums, ‘The Show’ it does not become a ball (and it is a great success that it closes with ‘Must be love’), and it is, as he intended, his best album to date, assuming a step towards maturity. We will have to be aware of whether the following is his ‘Fine Line’.