“We’ll Be Alright:” How Fine Line Got Me Through the Year

I’d never listened to Harry Styles before, but a year ago I decided to give his new album, Fine Line, a listen. The pandemic had just hit at the time, and I had nothing better to do. I didn’t know then that he would quickly become one of my favorite artists, and that his latest album would be where I turned to for comfort. In fact, the only memories I have tied to the album are, more or less, me sitting alone in my room or on my porch just listening. 

The opening song in Fine Line is classic pop. It’s upbeat, cheery, and bright. “Golden” is the perfect boost of serotonin that not only starts the album on a high, but also greets me with a smile everytime I turn back to this familiar favorite. It’s a single that seems to say, “hello again! I’m so excited to see you.” This sort of zippy pop is also what I first heard from Styles. Like most, the first songs I heard from the album were the ones played on the radio, like “Watermelon Sugar.” Because the album starts on these notes, it makes these pop standbys feel like they’re greeting me instead of just pulling me in with a catchy tune. 

What I love most about Fine Line, however, is that it doesn’t reflect just one mood. Instead of staying in the realm of pop, it seamlessly glides between love songs, effervescent bops, and introspective pieces. Over the last year, life has had its high points and low points. I didn’t want to give into the darkness that seemed to be encroaching on everyone’s lives. But I also didn’t want to sit and listen to mindless bubblegum pop that would have felt particularly superficial. I wanted to be happy and sad at once, which is a difficult feeling to capture in music outside of musical theatre. But I found it in Fine Line

I think Fine Line succeeds in subverting our expectations. Many times, the song with the most unassuming title has the most poignant lyrics. And the song that seems like it’ll have a dark and wallowing melody turns out to be wistful and child-like. These are songs like “Cherry,” “To Be So Lonely,” and “Falling.” These songs are nostalgic, yearning for something that is now lost. I couldn’t help but see myself in these songs despite not having lost a romantic relationship. I saw memories of my friendships unfolding before me. While I was grateful for the memories, I was disappointed that it would be many months before I could make new ones. And by the time life went back to normal, how many of my friendships would have faded? Even though Styles is writing about former romantic flames, really great music has the ability to capture something beyond the situation at hand. 

In these songs alone, joy and melancholy are so perfectly muddled that I leave these tracks feeling as though someone has reached their hand out to me. In “Falling,” a particular favorite of mine, Styles takes the language of falling in love and twists it into an emotional spiral. As someone with anxiety, that’s something I tend to do often. I constantly worry if I’ve upset people, if my friends don’t like me anymore, if I don’t like me. In these moments, even when they’re brief, I feel very lost. But I don’t feel lost or alone when listening to “Falling.” The transition from wondering if “I’m someone you don’t want around” to “what if I’m someone I don’t want around” is tragic but also beautifully relatable. If I listened to an album full of songs like this, I might sink into a deep state of despair. But, because it’s woven with songs about love and the giddiness of meeting someone new, I’m not forced to experience just one emotion. 

Even a song like “Treat People with Kindness” capitalizes on this dichotomy. The song is so charming and upbeat, with a seemingly simple message: be nice. Yet, there is more. I’ve listened to all of these songs countless times. Beyond the 60’s sheen of TPWK is a more sobering thread, one that would be missed by a casual listener: Yes, treat people with kindness, but everything will be ok even if our friends all pass away. There is darkness, but everything will be okay in the end.

The album culminates in “Fine Line,” which leaves the listener with the very message, “we’ll be alright.” The music swells, and for one wonderful moment, I believe it. People will come and go for different reasons, but it will all end in some sort of beautiful, orchestral chord.

This album alone got me in the top 1% of Harry Styles Spotify listeners. One year has passed since I first listened to it, and I still find it as relatable and lovely as I did the first time. When I listen to it, I don’t feel bad or guilty for being happy. Instead, I can be both, and leave my Spotify session feeling just a little stronger. After all, the line between happiness and sadness is finer than most of us think.