Track-by-track album reviews
January 9, 2020
Walking a ‘Fine Line’
Harry Styles releases new, personal album
Last Friday at 11 p.m., former One Direction member Harry Styles dropped his sophomore album “Fine Line.” I took it upon myself as a fan to stay up all night, listen to the entire album and do a track-by-track review. Of course I was going to take up the opportunity to write my unfiltered opinions about the music. This fresh sound and era of music for Styles is like no other. With each track having its own style, “Fine Line” is what one might call a musical masterpiece, but does Styles get too lost in the music and lose sight of the overall message he’s trying to convey with his lyrics?
Unpacking each song one by one helped me reach an overall conclusion and come to terms with the fact that this might be his best (and worst) album yet.
Track no. 1: Golden
A soft and airy bop is the way to go with opening tracks. “Golden” manages to capture your attention within the first few seconds with catchy harmonies and a gentle beat that will make you tap your foot and bob your head. Although the music makes ears perk up, the message isn’t really one to boast about. Generic phrases and a repetitive chorus left me unsatisfied in terms lyrics. I know Styles has much more in him, with plenty of emotion to explain. Perhaps he was just trying to start his audience off on a basic, happy note before diving into much deeper topics.
Track no. 2: Watermelon Sugar
As Styles’ second single, this track is one to remember. The song starts with an electric guitar, and it soon introduces a soft beat. By the second chorus, though, listeners are caught by surprise when several brass instruments make an appearance. This adds a bit of a ‘70s vibe to the song, making it one that could age well with time and remain a hit years from now. “Watermelon Sugar” also has an odd metaphor (Styles sings about his lover giving him a “watermelon sugar high”) which makes it hard to dig for the deeper meaning. I guess every album needs that one song that’s there solely for dancing purposes.
Track no. 3: Adore You
This track was also a single, which was a power move for Styles, considering it sounds very similar to “Watermelon Sugar.” Almost too similar to enjoy it. The fact that they’re also right next to each other makes for a weird listening experience (that is, if you’re listening to the album in order). On a good note, though, this song is the first on the album to have deeper lyrics that connect him with his fans. The airy harmonies that rattle your soul in the chorus and the well-produced guitar riffs that play after the bridge are some of the most satisfying things this track has to offer.
Track no. 4: Lights Up
After Styles released this eccentric track as his lead single, nobody knew what to do with their lives. It was unlike any of his previous songs. It’s one of those tracks that leaves listeners on edge, waiting for more. It perfectly sets up the tone for the album and overall gives fans an insight to Styles’ more mature writing style. The lyrics will resonate with you and make your heart warm. Perfect for driving the roads at night, “Lights Up” features spine-chilling melodies and harmonies that will make you eager to hear what’s to come.
Track no. 5: Cherry
Contrary to how the instrumental may sound, this track is actually one of the sadder ones on the album. Styles writes about an ex and the longing he feels for them while including bits of lyrics that could almost make this song a love letter, rather than an “I’m Sad” ballad. The song never really picks up, though, leaving listeners at the same level of emotion the entire time, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The word “cherry” is ironically never mentioned in any of the lyrics, making it one of those songs that leaves fans to debunk the deeper meaning. Although I haven’t quite figured it out myself, I will say this song is one of my favorites. From the relaxing acoustic guitar to the romantic French spoken at the end, “Cherry” is definitely a song to get your in your feels.
Track no. 6: Falling
Speaking of feels, this piano ballad crosses a line in terms of sadness. “Falling” is that one sad song I never knew I needed until I heard it. The instrumentals are the last thing you are paying attention to when listening to this song because Styles pulls your attention toward the melancholy lyrics. A really unique thing I noticed is that the term “falling” is used in two different ways. Almost like the song is split into two separate parts of a story: one where he is falling and spiraling out of control and the other where he is falling for someone he can’t have once again. Beware, it can make feelings you didn’t realize you had resurface and make you miss your significant other even if you don’t have one.
Track no. 7: To Be So Lonely
This upbeat track, which has quite a different vibe compared to the song it follows, starts with a unique acoustic guitar riff that reminds me of something I’d hear getting off a cruise ship in Mexico. In terms of music, it’s very laid back, which is nice to hear after listening to several tracks before it that leave you shook to the core with their in-your-face instrumentals. This is another one of my favorites because although the lyrics might not be to most moving, the vocals and harmonies tie it all together and add an extra flare. Styles could’ve easily made this a boring track, one that fans just skip over, but instead delivered a refreshing tune that keeps listeners dancing along.
Track no. 8: She
After hearing the first seven tracks on this album, “She” is not what I was expecting. This is the best example of how Styles managed to give each song their own individual story and feeling through mature lyrics and a soul-hitting sound. The song is centered around a man who goes through his daily life while day-dreaming of “she,” though it is unclear to listeners exactly who or what “she” is. Lyrical interpretation is one of the best qualities this track features, and a track that lets you just sit back and enjoy the music is the type of song I personally vibe with. This six minute rock track takes on an entire new sound that shows just how creative artists are these days. I mean, literally the last two minutes of the song is a guitar solo that builds up emotion and takes the listener on a journey with the writers and musicians. Sadly, I found it very similar to a few of the tracks off his previous album, making it one that I may enjoy, but don’t prefer.
Track no. 9: Sunflower, Vol. 6
Taking a turn toward the happier side of the album, “Sunflower, Vol. 6” is a song that takes the listener’s mind off anything important and lets them vibe with the music and harmonies. It contains so much personality compared to other songs that it almost feels like the most intimate track. Fans get a taste of Styles’ goofy aura through his light-hearted lyrics and funky sound effects. It’s the type of song that makes you want to go for a drive along the beach with friends and just bask in the sun. Not to mention it’s probably the most fun and unique song ever released by Styles and one that will forever have me bopping along.
Track no. 10: Canyon Moon
Going back to acoustic roots, this upbeat track features a classic indie-pop vibe with lyrics that are easy to sing along to. It may be repetitive, which takes away from any deeper meaning, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a fan favorite. The album features many harmonies, but “Canyon Moon” takes the cake. It’s boppy chorus has beautiful vocals that can make anyone smile. Yes, like I said above repetition in songs can get boring, but when Styles repeats the line “I’m going home” in such a happy and inspirational way, you can’t help but get a warm, fuzzy feeling inside.
Track no. 11: Treat People With Kindness
The title of this song has been a slogan Styles’ used for almost the entirety of his solo career, so I was very excited to hear what this song had in store. First, I was surprised to hear that the track doesn’t even start with Styles singing, but rather the angelic voices of his back-up vocalists and his pianists repeating the well-known phrase in a pretty melody. This song is eclectic, to say the least, and I didn’t like it at first. It’s one of those tunes that takes a while to get used to, but once it grows on you, you find yourself jamming and clapping along while singing the uplifting lyrics. Not to mention how refreshing it is to hear a few female voices here and there.
Track no. 12: Fine Line
In terms of a closing track, Styles absolutely nailed wrapping the album together using this song. It starts out slow, with an echoy effect of his voice transporting you into a vulnerable headspace. Once the first chorus hits and a strong piano is added alongside soft trumpets, chills begin to rise. As the song builds, more harmonies and instruments are added, but thankfully never overload the heavenly mood. You almost don’t even need music in this track, for Styles’ vocals convey so much emotion themselves. By the time a drumline is introduced, it’s almost obvious to tell that emotions are about to hit full force. In the end, the song explodes with a variety of instruments, vocals and harmonies that leave you shocked in your seat. This is, in my opinion, THE best song off of this album, so it makes total sense that it is also the title track. Ending not with the line “we’ll be alright” leaves listeners shook to their core and rung with an overwhelming amount of emotion.
I was left sitting on my bed in tears. Who could blame me? “Fine Line” takes fans on an emotional journey throughout this timeline of an album and wraps it all up with a beautiful and heart-felt bow at the end, giving listeners an experience like no other. Despite the annoying repetition, making this album not as lyrically impressive as I would’ve thought, the music made up for it.
Styles incorporated a new and refreshing sound with musical elements I never expected to hear from him. I can tell just by listening it must be a very fun album to play and perform live, for the amount of creativity that went into it adds a little extra spunk and personality to the vibe. Of course, an album wouldn’t be complete without its basic dance bops, so I applaud Styles and his band for managing to make it still have that extra pizazz without straying too far from the album’s overall message.
A ‘Lover’ like no other
Taylor Swift comes back with refreshing new album
This past Friday, Taylor Swift released her seventh album, “Lover”, a romantic and mystical collection of songs about relationships, family and self-love. As a die hard Taylor fan, I made sure I stayed up till midnight on Thursday to be one of the first people to hear the album. While on the phone with a friend, we both listened to the 18-track album, without stopping or falling asleep, and dove head first into the meaning behind every word.
Here’s the rundown of every song from start to finish and the captivating messages behind them.
Track 1: I Forgot That You Existed
As an opening track, this song perfectly captures the new sound Taylor is going for with an upbeat and pop-driven chorus, along with classic song-writing techniques that effortlessly describe a past relationship/friendship that didn’t seem to end well. The song features a giggles and vocal inflections that add a flare of personality, which can be hard to find in pop songs nowadays. Considering it was the first song I heard, not including past singles that were dropped before the albums release, I wasn’t surprised that I became fully intrigued and was left hopeful to what I was going to hear next.
Track 2: Cruel Summer
In terms of pop music, Taylor slays the game yet again with this track. Boppy verses with a synthy beat builds into smooth and chirpy chorus that contains a catchy tune. After hearing the first track and then immediately turning over to this one, I was a little taken aback with the busy and overcrowded music. In the end, though, it definitely grew on me. “Cruel Summer” is the type of song you’d play while driving along the west coast with friends during spring break. Not necessarily a party song, but rather something that would make even shy people sing along to.
Track 3: Lover
This was the third single Swift released just a week before her album dropped. Not only is it the title track, but it’s also a song that perfectly depicts just how much the theme of love is present in this album. It’s the song my parents listen to the most on repeat, and it’s one I’m sure couples wouldn’t mind dancing to at their weddings. The echoey effect on her voice makes it feel as if she is singing to an empty arena and leaves me with chills, despite having heard it a million times. “Lover” is definitely one of THE best love songs I think Taylor has ever written, and continues to make me smile everytime it plays.
Track 4: The Man
The experimental synth-driven sound that was executed in Taylor’s last album, “reputation” is brought back yet again, this time with an even stronger message. Personally, I didn’t enjoy the music of this track as much as I did the others, but the lyrics and underlying connotation makes up for it. She sings about gender equality in the music industry and how her life as a pop star might’ve ended a lot differently if she were to be a man rather than a woman. The bridge is probably this song’s best feature, consisting of a catchy tune and some lyrics that will make your jaw drop.
Track 5: The Archer
Swift released this song a few weeks before the album came out not as a single, but rather as a gift to her fans. It’s common for her to include some of her most passionate and emotional songs as track 5 in her albums, and after her two upbeat singles were released, Taylor decided she wanted to present this song as well to show the “other side of the album”. This song is a personal dive into relationship anxiety and fears about growing up and failing the people she loves. An airy beat and synth piano that continuously plays in the background leaves listeners refreshed, while also managing to make a few tears drop every now and then.
Track 6: I Think He Knows
Similarly to “I Forgot That You Existed”, this song contains an upbeat and pop sound that can make anyone start dancing in their seat and vocal inflections that add unique personality. It’s also one of the few songs on the album that comes across as mature, in the sense that Taylor sings about making someone fall in love with her while also falling herself. She takes listeners through the feelings you get when a relationship is full of fun and laughter. One of the features I enjoyed the most was the snaps that play on beat. Surely it could make you snap along too and turn any bad mood into a good one.
Track 7: Miss Americana & The Heartbreak Prince
This song is one of my personal favorites off the album, with a mysterious vibe and mystical chord progression. The entire song is written as one giant metaphor, comparing her fears about a relationship to a highschool experience. One of the most interesting elements in this song was pointed out to me by my friend, which is the samples of cheerleaders screaming the words “go”, “fight” and “win” during the bridge and ending chorus. Swift writes a message around those words, which just adds to the metaphorical highschool football game she is playing. Along with the ominous feeling listeners get when first hearing the music, the spine-chilling message Taylor manages to write also leaves a substantial impact.
Track 8: Paper Rings
The first verse of things song IMMEDIATELY pulls listeners in with a distorted effect on Swift’s vocals and deep bass that give it almost a retro vibe. That shifts into a more fairytale feeling when the chorus rolls around. This is one of the best tracks on here, becoming the ultimate romance song for anybody who feels head-over-heels in love with their significant other. She sings about being so infatuated with someone that she’d “marry them with paper rings,” which is one of the cutest lyrics I’ve ever heard. It’s the type of song that can make someone feel in love even if they aren’t even in a relationship. 10/10 recommend. Would listen again.
Track 9: Cornelia Street
At first, this song seemed like it was going to be on the sadder side of love, but I quickly realized that’s not at all what Swift had in mind when producing this track. This 5-minute long romantic, soft pop ballad goes in detail about the ups and downs experienced through a long-term relationship and how in the end, it all ends well. By the time the second verse hits, she’s already pulled you in with loving lyrics that makes it feel as if you’re dancing under the stars with your soulmate. In fact, this is one of the songs Taylor said she was most excited for people to hear when doing interviews before the albums release, and now I can totally understand why.
Track 10: Death By A Thousand Cuts
At first glance, the title made me think this was going to be a darker and more fierce song with back-stabbing messages, but just like “Cornelia Street”, I was surprised. The song starts with layered angelic harmonies, which were nothing like I was expecting. Not only that, but the chorus of this remenisant track has a heavenly piano sample and an electric guitar riff that takes me back to early 2000’s music. Taylor shows off her song-writing skills yet again by comparing the heartbreak of missing a partner to the feeling of “death by a thousand cuts”, a metaphor that highlights just how much pain she feels. I mean, distance is said to make the heart grow stronger, right?
Track 11: London Boy
The attention of a listener is captured by two men with british accents speaking in the first 7 seconds of this track. No one knows exactly WHO the men speaking are, but Taylor doesn’t let you question that for long because she almost immediately comes in with a bass beat and killer vocals. This song is basically a 3-minute long, upbeat poem dedicated to her boasting about how in love she is with her “London boy”. It’s also a song that features more of Taylor’s giggly personality that leaves her audience smiling and fans dancing.
Track 12: Soon You’ll Get Better (feat. Dixie Chicks)
After hearing Taylor say in an interview that she can’t sing this song live yet because it still makes her too emotional, I wasn’t really looking forward to listening to it. Not that I thought it was going to be a bad song, but rather a song that was probably going to probably make me cry. In this acoustic, soft-spoken ballad, Taylor sings about the emotions and experiences she dealt with during her mom’s long battle with cancer. She is joined by the Dixie Chicks to make for a beautifully harmonized chorus that leaves chills. The lyrics of this song is probably what it makes it the saddest track on this album, so if you listen to it pay close attention. And make sure you have some tissues nearby.
Track 13: False God
After getting through the emotional frenzy the last song throws you in, Swift awards you with a mature and intimate track led by a steady bass and husky saxophone. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a Taylor Swift song with a saxophone in it, so it was refreshing and something I’d definitely want to hear again in the future. As another favorite of mine, “False God” is basically a song in which Taylor reminds herself and her fans that she’s not a little girl anymore and has experienced such strong feelings toward someone that she felt the need to compare it to religion. Afterall, she is the queen of metaphors in her songwriting, as we’ve witnessed earlier in the album.
Track 14: You Need To Calm Down
This was Taylor’s second single, so I listened to it beforehand instead of with the rest of the album. It has a boppy beat that is reminiscent of the 70’s and gives off a lot of hippie vibes. As most of us already know, this track is basically a massive gay anthem and a song people can sing to when they’re feeling down. It’s a song that I never want to skip whenever it comes on shuffle, or one that makes me want to change the station whenever it comes on the radio. Overall, it might forever be a classic Taylor Swift bop.
Track 15: Afterglow
A deep base starts off this track as Taylor’s romantic vocals intertwine with the beat and automatically makes a fan want to listen more. This might be the most underrated love song on this album, but that doesn’t mean it’s not one you don’t want to pay attention to. She sings in a pleading tone to her lover not to leave her and to stay despite their flaws. Considering it’s closer to the end, this track is a great example of the character development Taylor as an artist experiences throughout the album. It’s a bit on the longer side, but always seems to end too soon, with the mystical instrumentals drawing out time and making you wish you could listen to it for hours on end.
Track 16: ME! (feat. Brendon Urie of Panic! At the Disco)
As the first track to be released as a single, it was supposed to convey the sound Taylor was shriving for in this new era. I was a little disappointed with it when I heard it for the first time, but eventually it grew on me. Overall, it’s just a song to get people dancing and singing along, and every album needs one of those! Was it overproduced? Slightly, but I still don’t think the album would’ve felt complete without it.
Track 17: Nice To Have A Friend
Playing the highschool metaphor again, Swift writes this song in a unique pattern that eloquently tells the love story of two strangers throughout their childhood. Comparing it to the rest of the album, this song has a one-of-a-kind sound she’s never really experimented with, showing just how much her songwriting has evolved and how versatile she can be with her music. This song also has a fairytale feel to it, similar to “Paper Rings”, but with production like no other. It’s definitely one of my top three favorites.
Track 18: Daylight
Finally, we’ve reached the end of the album with this daydreamy closing song in which Swift sings about putting her past behind her and looking toward the future. It has a similar vibe to “Cornelia Street”, with more acoustic based sounds and a bigger focus on lyrics. It’s the perfect way to close an album, I think, with Swift managing to almost reinvent her songwriting in a way that’s never been done before. “Daylight” serves as the only song on the album anybody and everybody can take something away from. Revisiting her past and the lessons she’s learned, Swift leaves her listeners with a small, spoken letter in the last minute of the song, speaking out on things like love and remembrance.
If you were to take the first line she sings at the beginning of this album and compare it to the last line she says at the end, you would be able to fully comprehend the growth Taylor Swift has experienced as a singer-songwriter. This album goes through and manages to tell a complete story she’s experienced as a growing adult who lives in the spotlight, is known for her reputation and is totally and completely in love.