‘Fine Line’ is fine art
Harry Styles brings energy, intimacy to second studio album
Album: “Fine Line”
Artist: Harry Styles
Label: Columbia Records/Erskine Records
Release Date: Dec. 13
After three single releases and one conspiracy theory, Harry Styles finally released his second studio album, “Fine Line,” Friday.
Before the release and between the releases of lead single “Lights Up” and promotional single “Watermelon Sugar,” a tourism Twitter began gaining attention for marketing the island of Eroda. The account even went so far as to interact with Styles’ fans, all while dropping hints about the record’s tracklist.
Eroda was met with confusion and skepticism at first. Fans even accused it of being a Scottish cult at points, until Styles released the trailer for his single “Adore You.”
The music video focuses on Styles’ life in the fictional island, where he was an extraordinary boy in a world full of sadness. The other islanders distanced themselves from him, forcing him into a life of loneliness. After walking into the sea, he becomes inseparable with a fish who feels the same way, until the fish grows and must be released back into the sea. The same citizens who ignored Styles all his life helped him release the fish, breaking the curse of Eroda.
The cinematic thought and care that went into “Adore You” was felt at every stage of “Fine Line,” giving it a personal touch
The album is a journey throughout, from the bright and fun opener “Golden,” to the final title track “Fine Line,” which begins as one of the record’s most mellow cuts.
Styles incorporates a range of emotions and depth in the project with lyrics from “Feeling good in my skin / I just keep on dancing” to “What am I now, what am I now / What if I’m someone I don’t want around.” “Fine Line” consists of some of his most honest and vulnerable songs yet, which is illustrated in the album’s vinyl design, showing Styles naked in an artificial heart.
The album heavily emphasizes heartbreak, which is most evident in songs like “Cherry,” “To Be So Lonely” and “Falling.” Styles himself said the album is “all about sex and feeling sad,” as it comes after his breakup with Victoria’s Secret model Camille Rowe, and leads to several potential references to her. "Cherry" has the most explicit reference, ending with a recording of Rowe speaking French.
Still, the album brings an airy feeling to even the saddest lyrics, largely through strong backing music. While both of his albums have a necessary focus on Styles’ vocals, “Fine Line” has a more explosive pop sound. The dynamic instrumentals and effects on “Fine Line” walk the line between complementary and overpowering perfectly, creating an impossible-to-ignore divergence from his self-titled debut.
The most dramatic, and most hopeful, track by far is “Treat People With Kindness.” Styles, in true “Jesus is King” fashion, incorporates a choir into the track, turning the motto of his solo career into a celebration. “Treat People With Kindness” is unmatched, providing the reassurance that even on a record filled with heartbreak, things can and will be okay.
“Falling” is the exact opposite, however. It’s an outlier due to its minimalistic instrumental, but still fits into the album perfectly, acting as an essential balance to easygoing tracks. Raw lyrics perfectly coincide with Styles’ reliance on vocals and allow “Falling” to showcase Styles’ abilities more than the rest of the album.
While his boyband days are over (at least for now), “Fine Line” feels more similar to One Direction than “Harry Styles” did. His solo career has undeniable differences, including self-proclaimed drug use during the creative process and more outspoken references to sex, but the pop-leaning songs are reminiscent of later One Direction albums.
“Fine Line” is nothing short of vibrant, proving Styles’ talent in yet another direction. With distinctive elements on every song, each feels like a separate experience, all while maintaining a beautifully cohesive sound.
Lauryn King is the assistant managing editor and can be reached at Lauryn.King@ubspectrum.com and on Twitter @LaurynSKing.