Niall Horan plays it pleasantly safe on debut
Niall Horan is the third of the One Direction guys to drop his debut solo album. The Irish singer and songwriter kicked off his solo career with the successful acoustic guitar pop single ‘This Town’. Follow up ‘Slow Hands’ showed off his more poppy and sexy side. The radiofriendly ballad ‘Too Much To Ask’ was up next and although it seemed a bit too beige to be the track to lead the album campaign, it does set the tone for Flicker; it’s on the safe side, a bit uneventful, but definitely pleasant.
Niall’s peers Zayn Malik and Harry Styles both moved away from the One Direction sound quite radically with their debut records. While Zayn clearly chose the R&B path, Harry was inspired by rock and Britpop. Niall and his radiofriendly singer-songwritery tunes stay closer to the sound that the boyband produced, which is not to say he does not have his own little style going on. A Niall Horan record turns out to be one that easily wins his teenage fans over with romantic lyrics and catchy choruses, while at the same time being mature enough to charm their mothers.
Flicker is off to a strong start with the straightforward and catchy guitar pop of ‘On The Loose’ and the endearing light country duet ‘Seeing Blind’ with Maren Morris. Both tracks could easily be pushed as singles if Niall and his team decide to stretch out the campaign. The same goes for ‘Mirrors’, a no-nonsense pop song with a suspenseful build up, a chorus that delivers and a heart warming story about a girl who is looking for love to ‘hold her closer in the night’.
Lyrically, most tracks deal with love in somewhat predictable wordings. It is never really original, but at the same not strikingly bad either. Niall’s voice sounds pleasant throughout the album, although a song like ‘Paper Houses’ did need more vocal power to really convince. At the same time, he sounds surprisingly warm on the easy listening calmth of ‘Fire Away’. On ‘On My Own’, which has big singalong chorus that seems to have been written with Irish pub nights in mind, Horan tries his best to sound more raw, both lyrically (he ensures us he is happy alone and does not need nobody) and vocally. It is a welcome change of pace in a by all means decent, but maybe a bit too mellow debut album.