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Niall Horan Album Review

WHY “FLICKER” IS WORTH YOUR TIME

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If you have ever skimmed a pop culture magazine, watched the VMA’s, or listened to your local radio station, the famous British-Irish group known as One Direction needs no introduction. When Syco Record’s pop boy band declared an “indefinite hiatus” in 2016, the four remaining group members separated, signed onto various record companies, and started pursuing their own musical stylings. Emerging recently as New Artist of the Year at the 2017 American Music Awards is 1D’s very own Niall Horan. The 24-year-old Irish singer recently released his first solo, “This Town,” on September 29th of last year. Next, in May 2017, Horan came out with his funk-pop hit “Slow Hands,” which debuted at No. 1 in forty-four countries, topping at #11 on the Billboard Hot 100. By the release of his pop ballad “Too Much to Ask” on September 15th, Horan announced his debut studio album, Flicker, released October 20th, 2017.

While the popularity of the album certainly comes from the global fanbase encompassing One Direction, it is apparent in Flicker that Horan steers clear of his pop rock past and embraces a folk pop and country blend true to his Irish upbringing. Such stylings contrast sharply with the genres of his competing soloist bandmates, whose works alternatively comprise of electropop, soft rock, R&B, and hip hop. Commercially successful classic rock groups, such as The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Jackson Browne, and Tom Petty, inspire Horan’s songwriting.  His own distinguished songwriting enables the album to bask in an aura of authenticity. Each song is carried on by way of the acoustic guitar; he odes the fingerpicking and chord choice to the classic rock groups that inspired him.

Thematically, Niall’s Flicker delves into the multifaceted world of romance. The lyrics of each track conveys the songwriter’ desires, experiences, and thoughts. Some even incorporate his imagination, such as “Mirrors.” In a 2017 interview with Fresh 102.7 in New York, Horan remarks that he wrote “Mirrors” after observing a girl in a café. He perceived the girl to be sad and depressed until a waiter came over and made her laugh. From this simple observation, Horan creates a life story of the girl in his head and it prompted him to write the song. In his tune, love heals insecurities. The arrangement of the thirteen tracks seemingly does not follow a storyline, but rather express the varying stages of love in the hearts of becoming adults. “Seeing Blind,” a folk-pop love song done with Nashville singer Maren Morris, shows how love can be unexpected, but nonetheless true and real between two partners. “Since We’re Alone” describes how committed relationships reveal a private pathway for the lovers to be open and honest, for such love is unconditional.  The title track “Flicker” reveals how little things pervade the heart and mind throughout relationships and generate conflict. However, the question of breaking up can be surpassed by a single thought, “a flicker of hope,” that can rekindle the romance. While the lyrics that comprise some songs are open to interpretation, none are as hard to follow as “On My Own.” Nonetheless, the vivacious and nostalgic tune refreshes listeners with a roadmap to uncovering self-love.       

All in all, Flicker is a pure reflection of Horan’s newfound musical maturity. While the lyrics may be simple, and some even extraneous, they reflect the genuine nature of the album. The songs are clearly crafted by Horan’s passions and inspirations. Flicker is a series of songs defined by an overall relaxed atmosphere that promotes personal solace in interpersonal relationships. The album resonates well with most any aged audiences but is especially well-suited for those wishing to pursue a road trip, those searching for positive vibes, or for those avid fans who are seeking hope in a One Direction reunion. Moreover, those who grew up listening to the classic rock that impacted Horan’s writing will appreciate his style. If you think Irish folk-pop is not your favorite genre, this album might just change your mind.

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