On Oct. 20, Niall Horan released his debut album “Flicker.” With a track list of 13 songs and a whole lot to live up to, the release of “Flicker” would be the make or break of Horan’s solo career.
Growing up in Mullingar, Ireland, Horan formed one-fifth of the band formally known as One Direction. The band enjoyed five full years of major success before deciding to go on hiatus. Each member has since started a solo career, Horan being the second member to release a full album.
“Flicker” has been out only for a little over a week and it’s already heading to the number one spot on the Billboard 200 list. Debuting at #1 in over 40 countries, the album immediately drew attention for its folk/pop vibes and the sweet and silky sounds of Horan’s voice.
There is undeniably an art to listening to an album for the first time. Everyone has their spot where they like to sit down and listen, or maybe that jogging trail where the new music really gets their adrenaline going. For me, sitting down in a dimly lit room, headphones in and no distractions is the only way I can listen to a new album. Being able to really get into the mindset to focus on the lyrics, rhythms and melodies of an album is crucial to understanding your relationship to the work.
The three singles off the album, the first of which was released as early as September 2016, allowed listeners a sneak peek at what the rest of “Flicker” would sound like, and oh boy, were fans not disappointed.
Always the more introverted when it came to performing on stage, Horan preferred to keep his head down and focused on his guitar, unlike his more rowdier mates like Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson. So it was no surprise when the first single, “This Town,” debuted as a soft acoustic, the sounds of the guitar feeling like melted butter.
“Slow Hands” was the second release, a stark difference to the first acoustic ballad instead heading over to the pop side of the industry. This song was a huge factor in deciding what category of music Horan was going to fall under. The mix of “This Town” and “Slow Hands” created a folksy-pop feel. “Too Much To Ask” sealed the deal, confirming Horan’s style with its feel of distant longing paired with a catchy melody.
The album features a fall weather, bruise crooner acoustic vibe. Songs called “On the Loose” and “Since We’re Alone” create a Fleetwood Mac, 1980s feel. This would make sense as Horan has said before that Fleetwood Mac was a massive inspiration for him while working on the album. “On My Own” echoes as a true Irish classic; I had the urge to get up off the couch and start dancing! “Flicker” and “Fire Away” transported me to my windowsill at home on Christmas Eve, looking out at the snow piling up with the smell of cookies wafting up the stairs to my bedroom.
The simple but effective songwriting throughout the album allows listeners to relate, with lyrics like “You keep saying that you’re all right / But I can see it through the fake smile, you’re not.” There’s no doubt the college student demographic will also be able to relate to the all too familiar set of events in “On My Own”: “I’ll drink ‘til it’s empty / Stay out ‘til it’s dead / I’ll wake up at midday / And marry my bed!”
Overall, Horan’s album has feel-good vibes with some sensitive smooth tones: very reminiscent of John Mayer. With “Flicker,” Horan has shown that he can play in the big leagues, surpassing the expectations fans of One Direction no doubt placed on him.
If you’re looking to hear the album for yourself, it’s currently on iTunes for only $11.99. Go get it!
Hannah Tollen is a fourth-year student majoring in English with a minor in journalism. She can be reached at HT823371@wcupa.edu.