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  • Kaiana Lee

Album Review: "The Show" - Niall Horan



Niall Horan is the Irish Born virtuoso we all know and love from One Direction. His blond hair and silky, smooth vocals stole our hearts in 2011 and he continues to captivate audiences in 2023. With his third studio album, released in June, he enters a new stage in his career. With the rawest songs we have heard from the songwriter and breathtaking production, Niall presents his heart on his sleeve with each track. He explores love, loss, and desperation on his much-anticipated album, The Show.



After six years with one of the biggest boy bands in the world, Niall Horan took his talents solo. His warmth and creativity transferred beautifully to his first solo project, Flicker, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Top 200 album chart. Niall hit the ground running and has dropped nothing but instrumentally complex work with heartwarming lyricism and charisma dripping from each track. If Niall was your favorite of the boys in One Direction, you knew he would be great but many doubted him. Niall has shown time and time again he is a force in the music industry and will continue to climb the charts and steal hearts.


Heaven

The first single released by Horan is a standout track filled with romantic lyrics and a robust instrumental that grows from subdued to downright paradisiacal. Heaven was the first single released before the album dropped. Heaven is the definition of being obsessed with your partner. The first moments where you realize you're in love and there's nothing you can do to stop it. Those intense feelings of admiration and desire are gifts wrapped in surreal harmonies.


If You Leave Me

The album makes a slight tonal shift in ‘If You Leave Me’. The track features a similar heavenly soundscape by Horan's silky tenor register. This track however, features a lot more oomph in its instrumental. A slick bassline and accompanying rhythm guitar back the flirtatious track. The vibe of the record may come off as funky and fun but the lyrics are filled with desperation. Horan details his need for his partner to stay with him. Connecting back to the obsessive admiration of ‘Heaven’ the second track ‘If You Leave Me’ showcases the outcome of this sort of intensity. Horan needs his partner and isn’t ashamed to admit it for better or worse.


Meltdown

Keeping up with the same energy from ‘If You Leave Me’ Horan brings us to the high-speed rhythmic anthem 'Meltdown'. 'Meltdown' has a similar feel sonically to the previous song but we’ve stepped on the gas a bit more. Leaving behind the dreamy aspects of the first two songs and adding more percussion and rhythm with an 80s inspired synth buried in the background. These elements add a whole new level of intrigue and excitement to the track. ‘Meltdown’ instrumental is purposeful as it connects to the frenzied feeling of anxiety. The song isn’t about giving up because of anxiety; it's a triumphant tale of overcoming the anxiety that makes you want to give it. At the end of it all everything will work out.

Photo Credit: Zachery Michael


Never Grow Up

One of the more beautiful songs on the record ‘Never Grow Up’ paints the image of wanting to grow old with the one you love but still holding onto the youth that seemingly brought you together. Horan sounded his best on the intimate tune. The way his vocals dance atop the piano during the verses is captivating. ‘Never Grow Up’ is a relatable track that speaks volumes to the anxiety of losing your youth and what that means for your relationship. Hoping everything will stay the same as we get older but deep down understand things will never be the same as they were.


The Show

Following up the bittersweet romanticism of 'Never Grow Up’ comes the title track ‘The Show'. The track sits right in Horan's comfort zone. Ballad-style songwriting and instrumentals are where Niall shines. His voice thrives in this atmosphere and his pen writes some of his best lyrics for it. The track features a haunting piano that creeps into a grander scape with strings and percussion as the track moves forward. The Show cuts deep into how Horan breaks down the pain of pretending to be ok. How hard life can get even when you have to fake a smile and power through.



You could start a cult

Niall Horan is a true instrumentalist. In this track, he takes clear influences from the likes of Bob Dylan as he strums and plucks at his guitar and softly sings a loving tribute to his beloved. The person who is so beautiful and the muse for the track is described to be able to start any form of destruction due to their personality and beauty alone. Niall Horan is more than in love at this point in the album. His admiration has grown beyond that and he is simply in awe of this person and all they can do in his eyes. The track builds on itself as it progresses adding harmonica, percussion, and piano to the mix but Horan’s voice shines through and delivers an astounding performance.


Save my life

Another one of my absolute favorites ‘Save My Life’ picks the album back up with an 80s-inspired pop track that is full of energy and love. The track features a new attitude and a few new instruments. ‘Save My Life’ has a more positive outlook on life around Horan. The use of a lively saxophone solo catapults this track to the top of my list undoubtedly.


On a Night Like Tonight

He carries this same mood into the following track “On a Night Like Tonight’ which is the first track to remind me of his previous work. This track is similar sonically to his previous album Heartbreak Weather. The difference in my eyes is the difference in character. This track feels cleaner and more thought out. ‘On a Night Like Tonight’ showcases a flirtatious but heavily in love Horan in a way Heartbreak Weather just couldn’t manage.


Photo Credit: Zachery Michael


Science

‘Science’ is sonically similar to the rest of the slower tracks. Horan shows off his songwriting skills with each ballad he has written on the album. However, ‘Science' isn't quite a love song. The track is sentimental in its way as Horan reaches out to a person struggling with depression. Though the subject of depression is a tough one Niall was able to add a slight hopeful tinge to the track. As he reaches out to the subject of the song he expresses that these feelings are a natural part of life just like everything else. The track is uplifting and anthemic as we approach the climax. ‘Science’ is a song for those of us who all need a little hope.


Must be love

Finally, we reach the closing track. ‘Must Be Love’ is where Horan does some self-reflection. He begins to realize his true desire is to escape himself and run toward love. Love may not answer all of his questions but it will give him solace from his self-imposed prison, something the singer is desperate for. He knows the road to falling in love is rocky and he's terrified of what that means but ‘Must Be Love’ shows he is willing to leap. This is the perfect song to close out the album because The Show at its core is an album dedicated to love and self-discovery during a relationship. Every track leads us to this point in Niall’s journey. Horan comes to terms with his insecurities and faces his desire for love head-on in this beautifully poignant track.


Final Thoughts

Niall took some pretty big risks when making this album. His choice to make his personal emotions and struggle with love could have been underwhelming. He managed to bring to life each song with his impressive lyricism and instrumentation.


Many have made the mistake of loading the top half of their album with singles to captivate the listener with familiarity only to fall short on the B side. Though ‘The Show’ is loaded up with its singles at the beginning of the record the album doesn't lose steam once the familiarity fades. The enchantment of the tracks grew stronger as the new songs faded in and out. It almost became a reflex to press replay as the album cycled to its closing song. The album is a theatrical experience. With each track, we are led deeper and deeper into Niall Horan’s understanding of love and himself. The album tells the tale of love and acceptance in an incredibly concise way. 'The Show' shows incredible growth in Niall’s songwriting abilities and his confidence in his music. From start to finish it is a treat and truly my favorite album he has put out thus far.



Written By Kaiana Lee



*copyright not intended. Fair use act, section 107.

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