Fine Line by Harry Styles: The Review

Sanaya Varma and Ria Mitra

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On December 13th, boy band member turned pop-rock sensation Harry Styles dropped his much anticipated sophomore album, Fine Line. After the immense success of his first album despite its unorthodox rock sound, it was difficult to believe Styles could live up to that, yet he did. In Fine Line, he takes all the bold steps he may have been too fearful to take in the first album, with a now consolidated confidence in his unique sound and style. The lyrics are more personal and raw, and the album overall is a mature and intimate glimpse into the beautiful mind of Harry Styles.  

 

We have taken the liberty of listening to Styles’ album and providing a review of each track.

GOLDEN: Sanaya

The opening track of the album, much like its title, feels like the perfect summer driving song. In the first few seconds, one can easily picture the moment at a concert where everything goes dark, fans scream at ear-splitting pitch, and Harry walks onto stage. It’s the perfect opening song to both the album and each show on Harry’s 2020 world tour. The guitars in the background mixed with Harry’s fun ad libs create the perfect upbeat intro conveying the excitement he found in the inception of this relationship. It sets the tone for what will follow, alluding to the chaos through lyrics like “Hearts get broken”. With its beachy, Malibu vibe, Golden is one of the more upbeat songs on the album, painting a clear image of one of the highs of the relationship Harry so intricately explores.

WATERMELON SUGAR: Ria

If you’re a fan of Harry’s previous work, then you’ll know exactly what he meant when he said, “Kiwi walked so Watermelon Sugar could run.” Lustful and racy, this track is the injection of lightheartedness needed to complete to the album. The cheerful lyrics showcase Harry’s love for fruit-themed analogies, the summery references complementing the overall bright sound of the song. With all the sadness and melancholy in the album, Watermelon Sugar reflects the other, more carefree side of Styles’ personality. It’s not hard to picture him flailing wildly on stage as the audience echoes the catchy chorus of this summer anthem, which for a few minutes is sure to make anyone forget their troubles and just want to sing. The memorable, strong melody is heightened by the horns that can be heard throughout the chorus, unapologetically stating Harry’s deepest desires.

ADORE YOU: Sanaya

Adore You is the most pop-like song on the album; it’s fun and upbeat. The promotion for this song was nothing short of madness. Harry and his team created a fictional island called Eroda (adore spelled backwards–clever) which fans were seeing in advertisements before movies, listed under places to order at Burger King, and the list goes on. There’s a detailed website, in fact, with all the information on Eroda (visiteroda.com). They went to great lengths to make this island as real as possible. Then, when the single and music video dropped a week before the release of the album, it was revealed that Eroda was the island on which the music video took place. It’s symbolic of several things which Harry refuses to reveal, but there have been several interpretations. It was said that Eroda was a gloomy, superstitious island in which there was a boy whose smile nearly blinded everyone there. Harry Styles plays the boy in his music video and by the end, the town comes together to restore a giant fish to the ocean and then they can all smile. It sounds crazy, but it actually makes sense...kind of. Eroda seems to be a representation of Harry’s mind and emotions to some extent as well as symbolic of his loneliness which he overcame. This is a simplistic interpretation, of course there are many other nuances, but that’s not the point of this review. Adore You as a song, stands out from the album because it seems to be more ‘fun’, not as hard-hitting as the other songs. It represents, clearly, the fun in his relationship which he doesn’t want to ignore. The song is catchy and uplifting upon the first listen and only gets better with each time you listen to it again.

LIGHTS UP: Ria

In typical Harry Styles fashion, the lead single of this album is an introspective, soulful reflection on the freedom of being vulnerable. Styles asks his listeners if they know who they are, turning what could potentially be a light song about self-acceptance into something much more intense and melodramatic. Although some listeners view the song as Harry finally addressing his much-questioned sexuality, it seems to be more about resolving general internal struggles and embracing oneself regardless of what others say. Sonically, this track is a layered, soaring eruption of synthy beats and choral backup vocals. It somewhat steps away from the pure rock sounds of his previous album, towards something psychedelic yet serene. Undeniably, this song was the perfect choice for a lead single and is 3 minutes of incomprehensible emotion. And if the song itself wasn’t good enough, the accompanying music video takes it to another level, as Styles’ music videos so often do.

CHERRY: Sanaya

Cherry was one of the most anticipated songs on the album. It opens with a simple guitar melody and then Harry’s quiet vocals are added as well. This stripped sound persists throughout the track with a nostalgic, somewhat somber undertone. Towards the end drums are added as well with a few of Harry’s well known rockstaresque screams. The song fades away and picks up again with a similar guitar melody and a voice recording of Harry’s ex-girlfriend Camille Rowe speaking French on the phone to someone. Harry claimed that he was recording a guitar melody while she answered a call, so that was a real glimpse into the relationship he wrote this heart-breaking song about. It gives the listener the opportunity to reminisce about something they weren’t even a part of; we know exactly what Harry is going through despite not knowing any of the details. Cherry is one of those songs I’d listen to in the dark alone because it subjects you to so many emotions in such a simple song.

FALLING: Sanaya

This track is, in my opinion, the most heart-breaking and honest song on the album. Within the first 15 seconds, you can tell this song holds undeniable importance in the progression of the album, the moment where things truly begin to fall apart. The somber melody carried by a piano, in contrast to the usual guitar melodies, adds new weight to this track in comparison to the rest. Just the opening chords could bring one to tears. In the chorus, Harry belts “What am I now? What if I’m someone I don’t want around?” Listening to those lyrics and sheer pain in his voice invokes intense emotions from the listener. Harry sounds helpless, stuck in the body of someone he doesn’t want to be. It’s an epiphany that there needs to be change. Before this song, Harry may have been in denial about what can now be seen as the inevitable downfall of his relationship, but in this track he accepts that there is nothing that can be done–he is falling and there’s no one to catch him but himself. This song may be one of my favorites on the album because it is when he is most vulnerable and open.

TO BE SO LONELY: Ria

This track is one of the most heart wrenching on the album, while still being simplistic and unencumbered in its production. Harry’s vocals are raw and emotive, as he asks for forgiveness for his childishness in a past relationship and admits to his jealousy. With the words “don’t blame me for falling, I was just a little boy,” Styles confesses to his shortcomings and expresses his yearning for someone who he misses but knows they don’t want him back. A haunting refrain in the chorus sees him lamenting the miseries of being alone when there’s somebody you can’t forget. The song, backed only by a lone guitar for most of it, is inevitably going to bring a wave of sorrow to anyone who listens to it, but in the most beautiful way. The charm of the song grows on you, and soon you will welcome the wash of melancholy like an old friend.

SHE: Ria

Another personal favourite, “She” is a 6-minute expression of admiration and longing for someone only known as an abstract being, even Styles himself saying several times throughout the song, “I don’t know who she is.” This unidentified person lives not only in Harry’s daydreams but also in the minds of several other men mentioned in the song, taking over their lives simply with the thought of her. The drawling, captivating melody is supported by a slow and bluesy drum beat and poignant backing vocals. Lyrically and sonically, this track is powerful and resonates deep within, asserting itself as one of the best on either of Harry’s albums. The last 2 and a half minutes are a period of eclectic instrumentals, ending the song with an immersive musical experience to break up the intense emotions invoked by the lyrics. 

SUNFLOWER, VOL 6: Sanaya

After an intense six-minute ballad, Sunflower comes like a breath of fresh air with it’s light, playful tune. Despite the uplifting sound, the lyrics have a melancholy undertone. Harry explores the idea of the undeniable beauty of a sunflower which will inevitably shrivel and die. The lyrics “Sunflowers just died, keep it sweet in your memory” crash down on the listener. He has arrived at the acceptance stage, where he wants to maintain a positive memory of what was a beautiful period of his life instead of ruining it with the grief that ensued. The song comes to a close with Harry adding his signature ad libs which make fans giggle with the sheer stupidity of the sounds he makes. A heartwarming image is painted of Harry standing around in the studio and having fun, leaving fans content knowing that even through all the pain he expressed throughout the album, Harry still finds joy in his music.

CANYON MOON: Ria

Personally, I think this song is one of the best on the album. Similar to “Sweet Creature” from his previous album, Canyon Moon is an ode to home and the loved ones who reside there. The track opens with tropical sounding guitar, an upbeat cadence to set the mood for the rest of the song. This leads into the lilting, uplifting melody in which Harry describes the beautiful blue sky of the place he calls home. The lyrics quickly become bittersweet with Harry reminding himself that he has to leave, just as he always does. The song is undeniably personal, Harry addressing a certain someone as “you” throughout and even referencing people by name at points. A persistent feeling of nostalgia reverberates through the lyrics, each word Harry sings making the listener yearn for somewhere, or someone, they’ve never even been, contrasting the positively bubbly atmosphere of the song. The sound of whistling in the background of the chorus, as well as tranquil harmonies to amplify the simplistic instrumentals complete the song in a way that just exudes reminiscence and optimism.

TREAT PEOPLE WITH KINDNESS: Ria

This song is the ultimate feel-good anthem. The title echoes Harry’s longtime slogan and exemplifies the feelings of confidence and joy that he has always been a proponent of. The song immediately dives into a sonorous female chorus singing the refrain, inspiring a new and unexpected sound on this album but maintaining the message of kindness that Styles pushes in everything he does. Upbeat and undeniably happy, “Treat People With Kindness” is proof that songs can send messages of love and positivity while still being sincere and wholehearted. Every lyric vocalised is self-assured, even passing the point of cheerful into almost creepy territory with the line, “if all our friends pass away, it’s okay,” towards the end. Nevertheless, this track is a refreshing boost of delight, with a soaring melody that cannot possibly fail to lift your spirits.

FINE LINE: Sanaya

The six-minute closing song of the album starts with a melancholy tune, reminiscent of a Bon Iver song. A guitar strums in the background, gradually becoming louder as Harry begins to croon the first line: “Put a price on emotion” which already tells us the emotional weight this song is going to hold. Despite the emotion, the beginning of the song is strangely calming and reassuring, a catharsis of sorts. And as Harry begins to sing “We’ll be a fine line” repetitively, it makes sense why it’s the title of the album. It encapsulates the conflicting emotions ever-present throughout the album; the fine line between happiness and sadness, loneliness and contentment, love and hatred. Harry walks this fine line constantly as do all of us, and as the music begins to pick up with several brass instruments he switches to the lyrics “We’ll be alright”, leaving the listener with a strange sense of tranquility and reassurance despite the harsh emotions experienced throughout the album. The large production of the last part makes it the perfect song to close this masterpiece of an album as Harry’s voice telling us we’ll be alright fades away and the album comes to a close. 

Fine Line is undoubtedly one of the best albums of 2019, arguably surpassing his self-titled album. Evidently, each song has been carefully crafted and chosen to tell a personal story which we all somehow understand. Every emotion is effectively portrayed by his voice, the background vocals, instruments, and overall production. The two and a half year wait for this album was worth it because the music feels like something which has been thought through and made for Harry instead of for the charts. We hope you listen to the album and enjoy it as much as we do!