Niall Horan, of the renowned One Direction, is the third member of the band to release a solo album. Following Zayn Malik’s “Mind of Mine” and Harry Styles self-titled album, Horan’s “Flicker” debuted on Oct. 20 at number one on the Billboard 200 Albums Chart. This accomplishment matches One Direction to the Beatles, who also had three members debut at number one. Horan’s 10-tracker is the perfect album for the autumn season, and the two deluxe versions of it come with additional songs that only get better. As Horan takes his first big step away from the band life, he enters the solo world with a downright soulful, acoustic approach.
One Direction was a band comprised of five members with versatile and articulate voices. Often times, Horan’s earnest voice was easily stifled in all the commotion. With “Flicker,” it’s abundantly clear what a shame that was. With a sound reminiscent of bands like Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles — and more modernly The Lumineers and Mumford and Sons — Horan shows that he knows exactly who he wants to be as a solo artist. His sound does pay homage to the bands he’s grown up listening to, but it also gives us a peek at the artist he is outside of the pop background we’ve associated him with in the past.
Most of the tracks on the album, although each unique to its own accord, are characterized with dreamy, delicate guitar tunes. This is all well and good, for the strong feat of the album is embedded within meaningful lyrics. From his heartfelt singles “This Town” and “Too Much to Ask”, to the heartbreaking “Paper Houses” and the song “Flicker,” each song on Horan’s album shows that he isn’t afraid of revealing the not-so-pretty side of a relationship. He shows that it’s okay to be vulnerable and admit it. His lyrics, much like Horan himself, are dutifully honest and listeners are sure to find a unique connection to at least one of his songs.
Although he’s not much for pizazz, this album doesn’t necessarily demand it. Currently, on his “Flicker Sessions” tour, Horan’s fans have captured numerous videos and pictures of what can only be described as an intimate experience. It’s much like Horan has invited the fans into his living room and then proceeds to serenade them for an hour or so. Horan started the tour before he released the album, and since then has told interviewers in more words or less that he wants people to interpret his songs in their own way. In his recent Vevo original video, Horan said he’s sliding the album across the table to the fans — “It’s yours now.”
Horan is not fully abandoning his pop background, though. His single “Slow Hands” rocked the charts for weeks and showed his playful side that was ever-present during One Direction is still there. “On the Loose,” the album opener automatically inclines listeners to tap their feet. The lush melodies of “Seeing Blind,” the album’s only collaboration with Grammy award-winning Maren Morris, echoes a country, rustic sound. Don’t be mistaken, it’s not simply a depressing breakup album. “On My Own” is an anthem for all those happily single people out there, as well as an ode to Horan’s Irish roots.
Best put, “Flicker” is the album that you play on repeat while driving up the canyon during autumn. The album you listen to when you aren’t quite sure how to articulate what you’re feeling. It’s an album that shows what has been in this Irish man’s heart for quite some time. Most of all, it’s an album that showcases a man with a guitar making music and writing honest songs that ask you to open up. That is exactly what Horan does with his remarkable solo debut.