Lexi Carmack | Reporter
British pop star Harry Styles’ sophomore album, Fine Line, is filled with influences from classic rock, such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, and David Bowie. Styles has emerged into his own, and each track is filled with individualism and flare. Styles started as a lead heartthrob in pop boy band One Direction, and after the group broke up in 2016, Styles began to work on his solo career. His self-titled debut album in 2017, followed by a world tour, helped his career skyrocket. Now, his 1970’s inspired music and style have boosted him as a solo artist, and he’s taking the world by storm.
The first track on the album is an easy-going song that seems to be about being the fear of committing to a relationship. With low leading vocals and soft, higher-pitched backing vocals, the track is very easy to listen to. Headphone listeners will be in for a pleasant surprise as Styles chooses to bounce some of the instrumentals from the left and right side, likely taking inspiration from classic rock artists like The Beatles, who commonly would have instrumentals in one side and vocals in the other. The song has a mystical feel to it and is a laid-back, mellow track, which makes a great choice for the album opener.
- Watermelon Sugar
This track, first performed on Saturday Night Live in Nov. 2019, is riddled with hidden meanings. One popular conclusion is that the song is about Styles’ ex-girlfriend, supermodel Camille Rowe, as an interview with Ellen revealed that one of Rowe’s favorite books is Watermelon Sugar by Richard Brautigan. The song is defined not only by Styles’ hypnotic vocals, but also by the engaging guitar riffs throughout the song and the short blasts of trumpets as each chorus ends. The song seems to build up to a finale, becoming more exciting after every line.
- Adore You
Not only is this song one of the most endearing of the album, but it is also one of the only songs with a music video. This track is accompanied by an eight minute music video that follows Styles through his journey on a made-up island called Eroda. Styles loves to fill his songs with “easter eggs”, and fans were quick to notice that Eroda is also “adore” spelled backwards. With lyrics like, “I’d walk through fire for you, just let me adore you” and “it’s the only thing I’ll ever do”, the sweet song quickly became a fan favorite. Styles shows off his impressive vocals, but the ballad also serves as a place to show how much effort Styles truly puts into his work.
- Lights Up
Released on Oct. 11, 2019, the first single and fourth track of the album reminds listeners that their worth is found in how they view themselves, and not what others think. Styles repeatedly asks the audience “Do you know who you are?” and then sings of stepping into a light and never going back into the dark (“Shine, I’m not ever going back”). This song seems to represent how he isn’t going to go back into pretending that he’s something he’s not, and the journey he took to get to that mindset. The song has a euphoric feel to it, and this can also be seen in the music video, which is filled with mysterious shots and low lighting.
This track seems to be about Styles’ heartbreak. This shouldn’t be a surprise, as Styles said in a Rolling Stone interview that the album is about his relationships and being sad. Again, the song seems to obviously be about his ex-girlfriend, Camille Rowe, as the last 35 seconds are occupied by a light guitar melody and an echoing voicemail that is to Styles from Rowe herself. The melancholy lyrics give life to the song, making it vulnerable and one that listeners can connect with. The plucked guitar chords make the song seem happier than it really is, but the audience can hear the sadness in Styles’ voice.
This song, also a fan favorite, uses the metaphor of “falling” to describe, yet again, Styles’ breakup with Rowe, as the song sings of a “Beachwood Café”, a café that the two often visited. Styles asks “What if I’m someone I don’t want around?” and “What if I’m someone you won’t talk about?”. This track is likely the gloomiest on the album, and also is likely where Styles is the most vulnerable. The song expresses his emotion and concern towards the breakdown of is relationship. Styles is unsure of himself and his relationship in the song, and though the song as a whole is heavy, the smooth piano instrumental and somber vocals make the song an easy listen.
- To Be So Lonely
“To Be So Lonely” is the end of the trilogy of songs that are clearly focused on Rowe and Styles’ breakup. Styles sings of his trouble through the most notable lyric: “it’s hard for me to go home and be so lonely”. He sings of trying to be friends with his ex, but having troubles with it. The song has a bittersweet feel to it, as it is clear that Styles is still heartbroken, but it seems as though he is starting to move on. The seventh track is yet another song by Styles that is vulnerable. “To Be So Lonely” is one of the more unique songs on the album; the vocals were not only accompanied by the usual percussion and guitar, but also by a cello and an Indian instrument, the sarangi.
The eighth track on the album is defined by the electric, class rock-style guitar instrumentals, and even includes a two minute guitar solo to wrap up the track (think “Time” by Pink Floyd). The song is more complex than some of his other simple, personal tracks, as it is told in third person. The track seems to tell about a man that goes through his day, unable to stop daydreaming of a certain woman. “She” is another great opportunity for Styles to show off his vocal ability and range. The song is high energy and catchy, and overall is one of the strongest on the album.
- Sunflower, Vol. 6
This song is another sweet song, likely directed towards someone Styles had feelings for and is currently reflecting upon them. He sings, “I couldn’t want you anymore, kiss in the kitchen like it’s a dance floor”, and many of the other lyrics revolve around memories from the relationship. He also uses the metaphor of “planting new seeds”, which could possibly mean he looks forward to making new memories as friends. This track is one that falls under the typical pop genre, but it is still unique. Styles wraps up the song by what seems like his version of “scatting”, singing “Ooh, ooh, hey!” repeatedly. The song starts the shift back towards a happier view of things on the album, and focuses less on heartbreak.
- Canyon Moon
The tenth track on the album is more folk pop than anything else, with acoustic guitar rather than electric. “Canyon Moon” is another song that seems to be reflecting on memories. Styles sings, “Two weeks and I’ll be home, carry the feeling, through Paris, all through Rome”, then wraps up the chorus with the line, “I’m still thinking back to the time under the canyon moon”. This could be referring to Laurel Canyon in LA, a place where Styles owned property, which led fans to believe that the song is about him being on tour and missing home. Though the bittersweet song isn’t for every fan, it is a fun track that is different from almost all of Styles’ others.
- Treat People With Kindness
This song is the most surprising song on the album, as it sounds almost like a cover on the show Glee. It features choir vocals that backup Styles in the high-energy song. “Treat People With Kindness” has become the slogan of Styles’ solo career, as he tries to give his fans a safe space where he says they can be whoever they want to be without fear. This phrase has become an important one to fans, and this track excited many. To say the least, the song wasn’t what everyone expected, but because Styles sings of giving second chances and finding a place where everyone belongs, it still became a favorite. It will likely be a crowd favorite on the 2020 tour, as Styles did a great job of writing it as one that fans will be easily engaged in.
- Fine Line
The title song, though only having two verses and choruses, is one of the most important on the album. It represents the highs and lows through Styles’ relationship and current phase in life, as well as emotions he had while writing the album. It ties together all of the songs, bringing them back for one emotional finale. The song is slow, but builds in the last chorus to finish with a strong instrumental, filled with acoustic guitar, piano, and trumpets. In the last chorus Styles repeats, “We’ll be a fine line” and “We’ll be alright”, and the song again has choir vocals, but they are softer and are there to support Styles’ lead, rather than have their own part in the song. After a 1 minute instrumental, the song slows down, and the background vocals echo and fade, then cut abruptly. The song is a fantastic finale to the album and packs so much emotion into so few words.
Overall, Fine Line is a unique album that covered many genres and emotions. The album is cleverly broken up to illustrate the different phases in Styles’ life: the first four songs are about relationship with someone he loves, the next four are about the difficult breakup, the three songs after are about Styles seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and him discovering himself again, and the final song wraps it all up, Styles reassuring himself and the audience that “We’ll be alright”.
While it is easy to see who some of Styles’ biggest influences are, it is also easy to see that Styles is ‘stepping into the light’ and becoming an artist with a specific flare and style. His songs are a wonderful collection of thought-out lyrics, and many have been blown away with Fine Line. Fans can’t wait to see where this journey will take him, but there is still one question left unanswered: why can’t Harry Styles, pop icon and heartthrob, stop singing about fruit?