Styles’ ‘Fine Line’ delivers highs, lows


Caroline Ragland

The slogan for Harry Styles’ upcoming tour is “Treat people with kindness,” a message that has been featured on several items of merchandise.

Ten years after the formation of Styles’ former band, One Direction, British singer-songwriter, Harry Styles, released his second studio solo album, “Fine Line,” Friday, Dec. 13, 2019.

Some in the music business say an artist’s sophomore album is a determining factor of musical talent. But, for Harry Styles, it can be hard to use his second album, “Fine Line,” as a definition of what listeners could expect from the British singer-songwriter in the coming years. Styles has about 10 years of boy band experience to compare to his solo career. In addition, his self-titled debut solo album has a completely different vibe from the newest addition to his catalog. As a result, the listeners of “Fine Line” are greeted by a unique and purposely timeless experience much different from both Styles solo and band work.

The actual music on the album is flawless, much like his first album and, thankfully, very different from his work with One Direction, but the lyrics can be a hit or miss. The overall feeling captured from the collection of songs is sadness with a touch of anger and regret masked by the happy, and at some points psychedelic, sounds of yesteryear. All of this is created to give the listener a small glimpse into three distinct stages of Styles’ failed relationship, presumably with Camille Rowe.

Further in, the album takes a sharp turn into post-breakup despair.

— Caroline Ragland, 11

The album opens with the very summery song “Golden,” reflecting a happier stage of Styles’ doomed relationship. It sets up the listener with a blast of nostalgia, kind of like the feeling one gets on the last day of school right before the final bell rings, signaling three months of freedom from learning. This section breathes optimism. It reads as confidence that something good is about to happen and that Styles, along with the listener, is here for the ride.

Further in, the album takes a sharp turn into post-breakup despair. This section starts off with “Cherry,” a sad, but lyrically beautiful song. This portion of the album continues with titles like “Falling,” “To Be So Lonely,” and “She.” This part of the album is most similar to Styles’ first solo work, both in music and lyrics. It features heavy acoustic guitar and great one liners. The difference between this section of “Fine Line” and “Harry Styles,” his first album, is the songs located here are honest and self-aware, showing how Styles’ has grown as both a musician and a person. This growth leaves the listener with a deeper connection to the songs.

After “She,” the album transitions to a section about relief after a difficult split from a struggling relationship. After the sadness and pain comes the ease and contentment of an experience, however, this third section of the album fails to convey such emotion. With the first two sections, the listener can sink into the happiness or emptiness Styles is singing out, but the relief Styles pushes in his final section comes off as too deliberate. While this is the best section musically, the lyrics tell little emotional story. “Sunflower Vol. 6” is unmemorable.

While this is the best section musically, the lyrics tell little emotional story.

— Caroline Ragland, 11

The album’s namesake “Fine Line” is beautifully composed, with key entrances and breathtaking chords, but the actual lyrics of the song spiral into repeating “We’ll be a fine line” 18 different times. And while “Treat People with Kindness” has a good message, it features little vocal from the actual singer and relies too heavily on other voices on the track as it tries to be too vintage. While this album oozes a yearning for a different time, “Treat People With Kindness” is just too much. From the awkward sound of gospel choir in background to the campy overt preaching to be nice to one another, the song has nothing going for it on an album in which even the weaker songs have great characteristics. The one saving grace of this section is “Canyon Moon,” which brings us back to the beginning of the album and lets us relive the happy-go-lucky moments of summer earlier in the collection.

Overall, “Fine Line” delivers a compelling call for simpler times. Who knows what is to come of Harry Styles’ career, but one thing is for certain–his sophomore album reflects his diverse musical tastes and a strong sentiment to some musical greats. In an era where the majority of pop music is a manufactured formula where many of its songs sound very similar, Styles’ second album delivers a fine line of nostalgia and true musicianship.