Harry Styles Finds the Fine Line Between Psychedelics and Music

Harry Styles’ much-anticipated sophomore venture, Fine Line, started with mysterious billboards popping up in major cities, asking ‘Do You Know Who You Are?” Styles certainly does: he’s a dimpled ex-boyband member turned rock star, who doesn’t shy away from exploring femininity and mushrooms. His sharp departure from pop to rock on his debut and his adamant love for his millions of teenaged fans have coupled together to make him today’s Mick Jagger. Styles’ Fine Line cements his position firmly in rock and roll territory, setting him in the opposite direction of the worldwide phenomenon that was (is?) One Direction. 

Styles has produced a hauntingly groovy record overflowing with sex and emotions. The album’s structure is cohesive and his track-listing is linear, perhaps deliberately. Side A consisting of “Golden,” “Watermelon Sugar,” “Adore You,” and “Lights Up” is wholly about falling in love. Side B, “Cherry,” “Falling,” “To Be So Lonely,” and “She” are melancholic and about the heartbreak that follows. Side C features “Sunflower, Vol.6,” “Canyon Moon,” and “Treat People With Kindness” (which is also Styles’ branding and motto) as self-reflection and healing. Side D is the singular title track, “Fine Line” and it exudes acceptance. The entire album doesn’t stick to one genre musically - and that is what makes it so brilliant. “Golden,” the first track, sticks to drums and heavy base but the last track, “Fine Line” is a mellow repetitive outro with acoustics, but with a fascinating orchestra ending. “Canyon Moon,” “Treat People With Kindness,” and “Sunflower Vol.6” are upbeat and reminiscent of the hippie era versus “Cherry” and “Falling” that are much softer, with the latter being a ballad. Of course, his lead singles “Lights Up” and “Adore You” rely on pop-rock, making the two songs the most appealing for radio airtime. 

“Cherry” is arguably one of the best songs on the album: it is specific with its’ lyrics and even features a jarring voicemail from Styles’ ex-girlfriend, Camille Rowe. Almost Beatles-esque, the song hints at jealousy and alludes to his past relationship with Rowe. Listening to the song almost feels intrusive, as if we’ve walked into an intimate moment. Styles is at his most authentic here; he is vulnerable and painfully admits his mistakes - something he also does in “To Be So Lonely.” Daydreaming about the past seems to be a theme across the album. In “She,” he acknowledges that his ideal lover exists only as a figment of imagination, and the song’s electric guitar is a nod to the song “Two Ghosts” from his debut album. “Falling” is a personal favorite. The song is quiet with a piano background with Styles lamenting the loss of love, but also the loss of his own identity. Overall, Styles weaves together an enjoyable ride on the rollercoaster of emotions that come with falling in and out of love. 

Fine Line has its crowning moments, but what it lacks ironically, is Styles’ voice. Unlike his first album, Styles doesn’t use the power of his voice on his second, choosing to stick to speaking tones. The album is a testament to how far he is willing to go with his musical direction but his trademark falsettos are mostly missing - nothing even comes close to the end of his first single, “Sign of the Times.” However, he makes up for it with his refined lyricism. “Falling” and “Fine Line” are the pinnacles of his songwriting. His songs are particular and personal, painting an image of heartbreak that is universally relatable. Styles doesn’t forget to have fun though. The album has enough feel-good songs to counterbalance the emotional weight. Songs like “Treat People With Kindness” feel out of place with their electricity and but that is why Styles is as successful as he is: he makes it work and builds off of them. 

Styles has masterfully created a second album that lives up to his first, even with its’ shortcomings. Styles is distinctive in both the music and his lines, reminding us of the reasons why he doesn’t give into mainstream sound. Styles has delivered his resounding truth: “We’ll be alright.” 

TOP 5: “Fine Line”, “Golden”, “Cherry”, “Falling”, “Treat People With Kindness”