Chances are, if you’re a former One Direction member, the world already knows who you are. But for our purpose, we’re reintroducing Niall Horan as he re-fashions himself as singer-songwriter on his debut solo album “Flicker.”
There’s neither rockstar reinvention here a’la Harry Styles, nor electro R&B flash like that of Zayn Malik’s. Instead, Horan embraces his sensitive songwriter/troubadour persona. Come to think of it, it’s right repackage as he’s the ex-member with the most song contribution to 1D albums.
Horan’s solo effort kicks off with “This Town.” The sweet mellow number shows off his folk-pop leanings with those finger-picked progressions.
Actually, the acoustic guitar takes centerstage in most of the tunes on this set. The country-styled ballad “Seeing Blind” (featuring country singer Maren Morris) is consistent with Horan’s instrument of choice and so far, we like what we’re hearing.
Color us impressed with the funky, mid-tempo thump of “Slow Hands.” It’s first real proof that Horan is no dud. If it wasn’t for his name on the credits, we wouldn’t think this longing piece, which starts off with the sexy come on “We should take this back to my place/ that’s what she said right to my face,” comes from the most unassuming member of 1D.
This, surprisingly, is the point of Horan’s solo effort. There’s maturity here that belies his young age (he’s only 23) and most importantly, his boyband pop leanings. That’s why sensitive piano-decked ballads like the yearning ache of “Too Much” seem believable as he intones “My shadow’s dancing without you for the first time /my heart is hoping you’ll walk right in tonight.” And later punctuates it with “Don’t you feel f****d up we’re not in love?”
Horan’s themes revolve around pining for a love that never was. It’s that or a “house of broken hearts,” and “love out of stack of cards,” such as those he sings about in the ballad “Paper Houses.”
It’s an evenly paced set made up mostly of ballads alternating with the occasional mid-tempo fare (“Since We’re Alone,” “On The Loose,” and John Mayer-esque “You And Me”). But the emphasis sits on tuneful ballads such as glimmering love song “Flicker” and the beautiful, Paolo Nutini-sounding “Fire Away.”
“Flicker” is a revelation. Who knew someone from that old boyband held this much songwriting talent? Ask us who has the best solo album so far, and we’ll say our money’s on Niall Horan.
Tags: Audio Junkie, debut solo album, Flicker, Ladies and gentlemen Niall Horan, Manila Bulletin, Manila Bulletin Entertainment, Maren Morris, mb.com.ph, Niall Horan, One Direction member, singer-songwriter
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