Harry Styles Walks a “Fine Line” Between Sensual and Sad in His Sophomore Album

Camille Orquera/Contributing Writer

Harry Styles makes his breakup sexy and psychedelic in the follow-up to his debut album, which was released Dec. 13. 

Styles’ sophomore album, “Fine Line”, comes nearly two years after his self-titled debut and three years since his boyband One Direction went on an indefinite hiatus.

While his debut album seemed to give us brief glimpses into the trials and tribulations across his multiple love interests, “Fine Line” is an uncensored view into a singular painful breakup that left him raw. In baring his soul, he reveals his recklessness, his ability to be quite selfish, and the simple fact that he seemingly loved her more than she loved him. The twelve-track album captures Styles’ full emotional journey from his relationship and eventual breakup from French model Camille Rowe

With the help of producers Jeff Bhasker, Kid Harpoon, Tyler Johnson, Greg Kurstin, Mitch Rowland and Sammy Witte, Styles creates what is ultimately a heavily 70’s rock-inspired album dedicated to the one he loved. 

The initial four songs give us a taste as to what the honeymoon parts of the relationship were like. “Golden” opens the album with Styles noting the fear of jumping into a relationship but assuring his girlfriend that loving her is best and “golden”. 

This segues into the sexually charged single “Watermelon Sugar”, and while ultimately dedicated to oral pleasures, it is one of the album’s more radio-friendly songs. With its mid-tempo arrangement of lush guitar melodies, trumpets and trombones, it is one of the album’s catchiest tracks. 

Followed by “Adore You”, a delightful pop track reminiscent of his One Direction days, he reminds his lover that he’d “walk through fire for you, just let me adore you”. 

Up until “Lights Up”, Harry has been recounting the sex, love, and what will soon become bittersweet memories of the woman he deeply loved. 

The tracks that follow are a deep dive into the pain and sadness he will experience as a result of their split.  

“Cherry” marks their breakup and his ex has moved on to a new man. The track’s soft acoustic intro is reminiscent of the opening chords of Fleetwood Mac’s “Never Going Back Again”. Even though his jealousy is center stage during this song, he is just resentful of the fact that she has moved on and he still misses her. So much so that it ends with an actual voicemail Rowe left him in French

“Fine Line” is not only about his breakup. It marks an era of artistic and personal freedom for Styles. Styles’ cites the late 60’s and 70’s as the main source of artistic inspiration. 

Hints of his bell-bottomed era inspiration are woven throughout the album. The tracks “Cherry”, “To Be So Lonely”, “Canyon Moon”, “She” and “Sunflower Vol. 6” are perfectly executed in their wonderfully crafted psychedelia. “Canyon Moon” reminds one of the delightful melodies of Paul Simon while the use of electric sitar in “Sunflower Vol.6” resembles that of George Harrison’s use of sitar in Beatles’ songs such as “Tomorrow Never Knows” and “Across the Universe”. 

But the one thing that falls somewhat flat in this near-perfect follow up is the lack of depth in Styles’ lyrics. Compared to his first album in which his longing, lust, and heartbreak are mirrored through his melancholic words, “Fine Line” seems to hold back on his strong abilities as a lyricist. To a certain extent, it lacks the strength in creating a vivid image of his relationship with Rowe. 

Even so, Styles gives off just the right amount of pain to explain his emotional strife. “Fine Line” is a means of catharsis for him. 

The album concludes with the title track “Fine Line” in which he has finally moved on enough to understand that their relationship was not meant to last. The lyric “We’ll be a fine line” serves as a reminder to Styles that he and Rowe will always exist on the fine line of being friends or ex-lovers. While slightly somber, the song ends on a hopeful note that “we’ll be alright” and concludes that he will surely be fine as time passes.

“Fine Line” is a matured and evolved version of the artist Styles’ presented to the world all those years ago. It is representative of the man Styles is and wants to be. 

Rating: 8/10

 

 

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