FINE LINE – Harry Styles: Review

Julia Neumann & Sophia Elfrink

After disappearing for nearly two years, Harry Styles has returned once again, making his debut of a solo career.

He recently dropped FINE LINE, his second album, featuring 12 new tracks. As FINE LINE approaches the top of music charts this week, we must recall “HARRY STYLES,” Harry’s first album-known for its transcendent tunes, vintage flare, impressive vocals, and inspiration from icons like Elton John, The Beatles, and The Rolling Stones-and ask ourselves, has he done it again? 

First of all, Harry Styles is an icon. He is “a 23 year old man who is so incredibly kind, talented, down to earth, grateful, WOKE, beautiful, and funny. He can make anyone smile with his horrible jokes. He can make anyone cry with his beautiful and deep music. He can make anyone drop to their knees just at the sight of him. He believes in equality for all men, women, LGBTQ+ , and POC. “I’d like to know every single one of you in here tonight — if you are black, if you are white. If you are gay, if you are straight, if you are transgender. Whoever you are, whoever you wanna be, I support you, I love every single one of you.” He puts hours and hours and hours of thought and effort into his lyrics, he can act, he can sing, he can model, he can host, he is harry styles, you won’t find someone better.” (Urban Dictionary) Well we couldn’t state it any better. He continuously provides interesting music loved by ma

When examining Harry’s newest album we both agreed that it did not live up to our hopes.  In our opinion, the one major downfall of FINE LINE, is the lack of Harry’s vocal presence. Unfortunately, we never see the range of his full vocal capability. Reflecting on his career, Harry has grown more original as he ventures farther away from 1D. But after the release of “HARRY STYLES”, critics comment that he still has room to grow artistically.  Honestly, with FINE LINE it doesn’t seem like we’re even closer. In addition, FINE LINE itself is quite inconsistent. Harry tries to pull influence from famously timeless artists like The Eagles, Queen, The Rolling Stones, Elton John, and The Beatles. It’s pretty hard to live up to any of these artists, however, Julia and I have both concluded that FINE LINE fell short of what we envisioned.

To sum it up: “Essentially, we’ve gone from one direction, to pretty much no direction.” -Theneedledrop

So, coming off of this stellar first album, where does FINE LINE fit into his style and compare to the previous work. The tracks of FINE LINE reflect Harry’s work as he has “reinvented himself as a global pop star with a rocker’s heart.” It holds a much more upbeat rhythm to each song and combines beats from popular 90s styled music. Most of the songs feel like the kind of music you’d listen to during a “hip” BBQ with your friends during a hot summer day. Honestly, it almost feels like he is trying too hard to achieve this “rocker” ideal and not allowing his real expression and potential to show. Although, some of the songs are still really great it just feels like the vibe is fake. Personally, when we saw the new album had been released we were quite excited, having loved his first album which featured some of our favorite songs. However, the first album also reflected a much more sorrowful tone, with slower paced beats and apparent first impressions with deeper meanings in the lyrics. FINE LINE is a pretty solid album “filled with classic-rock references, however the result is more imitative than original.”

Listed below are our personal opinions on each song.

1) GOLDEN

Not even going to lie, I hated this song the first time I heard it. It felt too poppy and seemed to have lost Harry’s signature “soft rock” spin. However, after listening to it a second time I enjoyed it more than the first. If you carefully listen to the lyrics, Harry takes you through a personal story. I don’t foresee myself listening to this often but the instrumental components mixed with original lyrics create a pretty solid track. 

2) WATERMELON SUGAR

Harry Styles has ventured towards his more controversial and you could say, raunchy side. Harry recently tweeted “Kiwi walked so Watermelon Sugar could run.” Interesting parallel between the two albums. Similarly to ADORE YOU, I like the first 40 seconds. Then Harry continues to repeat the phrase “Watermelon Sugar” around 23 times. He lost me at about the 10th. If you don’t mind repetitive songs, check out this track.

3) ADORE YOU

I love the first 47 seconds of this song. The opening stanza grabs your attention as it holds interesting imagery and room for interpretation.

Walk in your rainbow paradise (Paradise)

Strawberry lipstick state of mind (State of mind)

I get so lost inside your eyes

Would you believe it?”

What stood out most about this track was its mix of genres. Normally, I would stress the need to refine a style, but for this song it works. ADORE YOU boasts an impressive instrumental section but also holds elements of soft rock and pop. The only thing that I might critique is the repetitive chorus. But that’s nothing new for Harry.

4) LIGHTS UP

As the first single dropped off FINE LINE, this track has been immensely popular. Likewise, the song and music video have been quite controversial. When interviewed on The Capital Breakfast Show, Harry shared that “For me, the song is about freedom. It’s about self-reflection and self-discovery and just, like freedom. It feels like very free to me. A couple things that I’ve thought about and I guess wrestle with a little bit over the last couple years. It’s kind of like just accepting all of those things. It’s a very positive song to me.” Although the interpretive meaning of this song is up to you, Harry’s words seem to make it that much more appealing. In fact, I actually really love this song. It is very calming yet holds my interest with some variation. The chorus is catchy and memorable. Harry’s voice sounds unconfined and has an echo which makes the track somewhat idealistic. I must say this is one of the better tracks on FINE LINE.

5) CHERRY

CHERRY seems to be a general favorite among the Harries (Harry’s fan base). Personally this song didn’t do much for me. It increasingly gains tempo and speed which adds a sense of interest, however, the background of the track is too subtle to support the vocals. I feel like Harry Styles was trying to make his own “Blackbird” by The Beatles, however, he fails to create a dynamic track. Towards the end of the song, the beat finally picks up-drops if you will- and finishes off somewhat strongly.

6) FALLING

I am very torn on this song. The best way to describe FALLING would be to imagine a Lewis Capaldi song minus some of the screeching, then combine that with James Arthur. I’m just gonna say it, the chorus is terrible. Harry’s vocals sound strained and I swear I’ve heard this chorus 1934823 times. That being said I enjoy everything in between the chorus. The rest of the song is rather mellow and heartfelt. 

7) TO BE SO LONELY

This track sounds like a standard pop song, following a strict formula. Nonetheless, I did enjoy it, especially the chorus. The lyrics seem to diverge from the typical pop industry as the represent Harry’s more vulnerable state. “So in relating “To Be So Lonely” to “Falling”, we can say that the latter reflects Harry’s sentimental side, while the former is more along the lines of his I-don’t-care or I-can’t-help-it kind of attitude.”

8) SHE

I found myself quite anxious while listening to SHE. Little details like the way Harry sings “she” made me uncomfortable. The song is quite repetitive and lacks the variation needed to make it interesting. Harry attempts to add interest through an instrumental background, featuring an electric guitar, but the sheer length of the track blurs its focus.

9) SUNFLOWER, VOL. 6

This is my favorite song on FINE LINE! It moves along quickly, has a promising background beat, and some variation within Harry’s vocal range. I also appreciate the slowed intro leading us up to the chorus. With glimpses of Queen’s famous riff and a touch of soft rock, this sounds authentically “Harry Styles”.

10) CANYON MOON

“Canyon Moon” is a bittersweet track in which Harry Styles recalls a happy moment from the past and yearns to return home.” The lyrics behind this song are well thought out and unique, providing a small glimpse of Harry’s personal side. I found myself enjoying the concept of this song, however, I believe the track lacked a vocal presence needed to make it memorable. This track is much calmer and docile compared to some of his other pop rock tracks, perhaps if you like soft rock you might enjoy CANYON MOON. 

11) TREAT PEOPLE WITH KINDNESS

       “Treat People with Kindness” is Harry Styles’ version of an uplifting, feel-good song.”

That being said, this is my LEAST favorite song on the whole album. I kinda see what he was going for, but this track falls short of what I envisioned. It sounds like a mix of Queen and Elton John. However, I found it predictable and not very thought provoking. The background vocals especially ruin the song for me; I feel like I am watching a Barney episode (listen and you’ll understand).  I do not foresee myself listening to this song in the future.

12) FINE LINE

Holy cow, this is a long song. Standing at an impressive 6:18 I found myself bored a mere 2 minutes into the track. That being said, the song itself is quite beautiful. The best way I could describe the sound of Harry’s voice on this track would be to imagine standing in an empty bathroom with loud music blaring from the other side of the door. FINE LINE seems to pull some interest from artists like The Eagles, exploring a soft rock and contemporary pop genre. I would compare this track to “Meet Me in the Hallway” from “HARRY STYLES.”

Sources:

Richardson, Mark. “’Fine Line’ Review: Styles Over Substance.” The Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones & Company, 16 Dec. 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/fine-line-review-styles-over-substance-11576530604.

Urban Dictionary:

https://www.songmeaningsandfacts.com/treat-people-with-kindness-by-harry-styles/