It’s been a turbulent three years for Louis Tomlinson since he last released an album, what with his first solo tour having to be rescheduled multiple times, a new Guinness World Record under his belt, and a leading traveling music festival on the books. Clearly, Walls was a great first record, showing intention and ambition on Tomlinson’s part. However, at times it felt stuck between past and present – as if Tomlinson was almost a little afraid to truly commit to being a solo artist.
But, he presents differently now. Whereas many singers struggle with their sophomore album, it feels like releasing Walls unlocked something in Tomlinson instead. Back in September, Tomlinson confided to EUPHORIA. that seeing the response of fans to his debut record – both upon release and on tour – has done a lot for his confidence.
That same confidence oozes from Faith in the Future, which counts 16 songs on the Deluxe version. Even though Tomlinson had hardly been able to tour by the time he started writing the album due to COVID-19, it’s clear that rich live instrumentals were constantly at the forefront of his mind. Album opener “The Greatest,” which is meant to serve as tour opener as well, sets the tone with pounding drums and an up-tempo beat. For people with preconceived notions of who Tomlinson is as an artist, and mistake him for teen pop, the song will be surprising in how loud and in your face it is. For fans, it’s just another reminder that Tomlinson was made to perform these tracks on stage. Especially considering the song is seemingly an ode to the long-standing special relationship that Tomlinson shares with them: “We’re the grеatest / It’s you and me until the еnd.”
Tomlinson certainly delivered on his promise to veer away from mid-tempo songs on Faith in the Future, with tracks such as “Out of My System” and “Face the Music” which perfectly captures the raucous and restless energy hidden in the lyrics. Nevertheless, the album feels incredibly well-balanced between more rock-heavy and even some synth/funk-inspired tracks. Thematically, the album is similar to its predecessor. While he’s been much more tight-lipped about the specific meaning or inspiration behind songs, it’s clear that finding your feet and knowing who you are continue to play a central role.
For example, there’s the track “Lucky Again” which will surely be playing on many roadtrips with its Cali rock vibes. “I’m a hard man to lose / But I figured it out, then made my way back / to a life I would choose / we were lucky once, could be lucky again.” Tomlinson sings in the chorus. “I’m a hard man to find / But you figured it out and I love you for that / Look back on a time / I was lucky once, I could be lucky again.” It speaks of a more self-assured individual, who has – indeed – faith in the future, no matter who they share it with.
Not that there aren’t songs about heartbreak on the album, but it’s clear that the approach to writing about loss of a relationship is very different. “Saturdays,” which might have taken inspiration from Coldplay and is one of the strongest songs on the record, highlights that the end of a relationship isn’t the end of you. “My heart might be broken / But I won’t be broken down,” Tomlinson’s vocals soar on the bridge. A recurring factor in the chorus, and across his entire body of work, is change. “Nobody stays the same / no matter how much you want it / some things change.”
And just like that, it shows the growth Tomlinson has gone through from his debut record to this second offering. Whereas Walls established the obstacles, Faith in the Future seems to focus on the opportunities – the lessons learned from experiencing conflict. “Common People” is a power ballad that sees Tomlinson bring an ode to his hometown and youth. “When I get lost, I go / Back to where I started.” And while sonically different, the up-tempo single “Silver Tongues” is another homage to Tomlinson’s roots if the video is anything to go by.
Perhaps one of the best songs on the album is “Written All Over Your Face”. It not only brings back the funk, punk take on alternative music popularized by early Arctic Monkeys, but also highlights a suave, sexy Louis Tomlinson vocal. From the moment that the riff flows out of your speakers, the first words “hey babe” immediately set the tone of this seductive track.
In fact, it’s Tomlinson relatively high, raspy voice that sets him apart from his contemporaries. It lends itself perfectly for the alternative rock and punk pop genre – even when he veers into dance and rave-inspired tracks like “She is Beauty, We Are World Class” and “All This Time.” Tomlinson admitted previously that he deliberately wanted to expand his horizons musically, which he surely succeeded in. The production is slick, geared towards live performances, they’re melodic, and include lyrics that undoubtedly make him an envied songwriter: “And I keep on building mountains hoping that they’ll turn to gold / But the truth is, I still doubt that what I do can get me home.”
Another track that highlights Tomlinson’s way with words is “Holding Onto Heartache,” only available on the deluxe edition. “The nights, they change in seasons / Become the strangest days / I called you twice, but then regretted it / And changed my number / The questions that I’d ask you / “Where did it all go wrong?” / There’s endless versions of the thing / That keeps me driftin’ back to darkness.”
The songs soars in the second chorus, truly making it one of the greater, more pop ballads on the album. It’s also indicative of how dynamically diverse the album is, without ever losing its cohesive feel. The various genres, tempo variations, and themes all come together in a Tomlinson-made musical tapestry. However, it’s because of the richer production on the album that the closing track feels a little unsatisfactory. “That’s The Way Love Goes” is a sweet, soothing moment meant to console a friend – but it feels a little out of place on an otherwise extremely strong album.
Without ever losing his humility or grounded lyrics, Tomlinson has produced a more confident and energetic album that feels truly his. No more navigating between his past and present, but eyes firmly on the horizon and what’s still to come. While only glancing sporadically in the rearview mirror for lessons learned, it’s now time to embrace Louis Tomlinson for what he truly is: an iconic ‘20s Britpop revivalist forging his own path.