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Niall Horan – The Show

5

Niall Horan is in his lover era, which funnily enough is what he calls his beloved and dedicated fans. His highly anticipated third album, The Show, is out on June 9th and listeners will find it’s a refreshing change from his last album. Heartbreak Weather saw Horan navigating a breakup and the many ups and downs that come with losing someone. In The Show, Horan croons about new love and the way his perspective on life has changed now that he’s in his late 20s.

The album opens with the lead single “Heaven”, introducing a new era for Horan and setting the tone for the rest of the songs. With a catchy drum beat and harmonies, Horan sings, “God only knows where this could go / And even if our love starts to grow outta control / And you and me go up in flames / Heaven won’t be the same.”

Speaking on the track, Horan says, “There’s so much pressure for people to hit certain milestones by a certain age – you get married at this age, buy a house at that age, have kids at some other age. But I’ve never conformed to those ideas, and so I wanted to write about how we all should just focus on enjoying our lives and doing what feels right, instead of worrying about what might be expected of us.”

The Irish singer has also spoken about the lengthy process of incorporating harmonies throughout the album to get them perfect. This shows in three of the tracks — “Never Grow Up”, “On a Night Like Tonight”, and “Science”. In “Never Grow Up”, a track Horan thinks will be a fan-favorite, the harmonies start in the beginning, a hauntingly beautiful intro. It’s a poppy ballad with nostalgic elements to the melody and the lyrics. “Hope you still dance like you’re falling in love / Hope you still drink like we’re back in the pub / Hope we grow old but we never grow up.”

“On a Night Like Tonight” kicks it up a notch with a rock sound and the instrumentals are reminiscent of One Direction’s last three albums. The track is sexy, as Horan sings about wanting to be closer to his lover, yet subtle and direct without being overtly sexual. The harmonies come back in Horan’s ninth track, “Science,” which in my opinion, will also be a fan favorite as he touches on mental health. The piano and strings ballad talks about what it’s like to feel weighed down by personal struggles and dealing with anxiety and depression. It has an uplifting message to not allow those thoughts to take over your life and understand it’s all science and the chemicals in our brain. “So when you feel there’s nothing left / Oh, there’s still a heart beating in your chest / And when you’re running from the flood / Oh, you’ve got nowhere left to run / It’s just science / Don’t let it break you down.

Along with “Science,” “You Could Start a Cult” also showcases Horan’s strong vocal range. This acoustic love song is about following someone you love no matter where they take you. It’s the perfect song for a slow, summer day, and it’s all due to the softness of it from Horan’s vocals and the production of the song with the harmonica in the bridge and the outro piano melody. This is one of Horan’s personal favorites and one that took him the least amount of time to write.

A personal favorite is the second track of the album titled “If You Leave Me.” The catchy pop-rock melody, the execution of the drums, and the earworm chorus haven’t left me since I listened to it. It’s about meeting someone new and not wanting to let them go. Upbeat and fun, you will definitely dance along to this one. Similarly, “Save Me Life” is another romantic track with a fun pop sound. “Got me on the ceiling / When you say my name I like the way it sounds / I’m afraid to feel it / But I just gotta tell you now / Ever since you walked in / I’m seeing a new light / Ever since you walked in / Starting to feel like / You might save my life.”

The majority of this album was written during the height of the pandemic and Horan shared that he spent a lot of time at home and had time to process his life thus far. It was a scary time and there was so much uncertainty, which Horan writes about in his tracks “The Show” and “Meltdown”. “Meltdown” is the second single off the album and it has a chaotic and frantic tempo, which matches the lyrics about the feelings one gets when they’re overwhelmed and feeling like everything is falling apart. 

In “The Show,” which is a piano ballad, Horan is using the phrase “the show” to be a metaphor for life. The lyrics are, “If everything was easy, nothing ever broke / If everything was simple, how would we know? / How to fix your tears? How to fake a show? / How to paint a smilе? Yeah, how would we know? / How good we have it, though?” It’s a positive take on the difficulty and uncertainty we all faced during the pandemic with the reminder that we can all be grateful for what we do have.

The album closes with “Must Be Love,” which has a similar vibe to “Heaven” in sound and lyrics. It’s brilliant that he’s ending off on the same note he started, giving the album a cohesiveness to it. Lyrically, the track is a culmination of everything he spoke about in the last nine songs, so it’s a nod to what the album is all about. The lyrics are vulnerable and honest — “I’m a specialist in overthinking everything / I’ll tell you all about it if you have the time.” — “If I’m being honest I find it so hard / To just keep it simple and follow my heart.”

As a longtime fan of Horan’s music, it’s been incredible to watch his journey from Flicker to Heartbreak Weather and now The Show. As a musician, with each album he has tried and succeeded in growing as an artist and lyricist. With relatable lyrics and hooks that grip the listener from the get-go, this album will resonate with his devoted fanbase as well as new fans.