Photo Credit: Dean Martindale
The timing of this release is somewhat perfect, clocking at 10 years since Horan’s appearance on The X Factor UK. Little did any of us know that he would go on to be a part of one of the world’s biggest boy bands of the century. Now, with the blissful One Direction days behind him, Horan has attempted to make a mixture of equally heart-warming and heart-breaking songs on his sophomore album Heartbreak Weather. He attempts to lean on his influences of classic and soulful rock integrated into modern pop. After the band’s announcement of its indefinite hiatus in 2015, it has been a mixed bag for the musician. From moving to California to signing a deal with Capitol Records in 2016, Horan has been able to find his footing rather well akin to his “1D” team members Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, Louis Tomlinson, and Harry Styles.
The narrative of the album is a simple deconstruction of the memories of a recent break-up. Although, Niall’s vocal magic does create an atmosphere worth a listener’s intrigue, the lyrics accompanying that loosens the impact of the ambitious production by a wide margin. From a narrative standpoint, it has, sadly, nothing new to offer, relying on the archaic, outdated, and rather too formulaic-by-now traits of yearning. With the titular opener “Heartbreak Weather”, he takes on a rather controlled pop pacing, while specifically expressing his subtle skepticism through the lyrics. “Time to open up my eyes // And read the writings in the sky,” he sings, perceptively. Then again, the aspiring perception is numbed down after the introduction of ballads such as “Dear Patience” and “Bend the Rules.”
“Small Talk” seems to wander into a more mainstream route, which seems to go against the classic, poetic prowess of the singer-songwriter. Even though certain artistic adventures should be encouraged, this is one of those that doesn’t seem to work. “Nice to Meet Ya” makes us reminisce of Niall’s One Direction days, with marketable sounds catering to the youth. Similar glossy glimpses are felt in tracks like “Arms of a Stranger” and “Cross My Mind”, which lean more toward cringe-worthy aspects rather than the sad musings that suit the songwriter’s creative vision. However, there is no denying the fact that Horan is an incredible vocalist. He can make anything sound good at the very least, even though the lyrics sound something as dull-witted as: “Cause you move me when you’re moving” from his disco-inspired track “New Angel.”
“Still” offers a worthwhile ending to an album marred by lyrical shortcomings and atmospheric dullness. Going back to Horan’s roots of classic rock and blues, he produces a simple, melodic, romantic tell-all. It turns out to be surprisingly thoughtful with the words penned, and provides an optimistic vibe to end Heartbreak Weather on. The juggle between soulful vocals and sub-par lyrics accompanied with scrappy production doesn’t take away the fact that Niall Horan is a talented artist. Heartbreak Weather delves into the different stages of post-relationship mourning, where some moments offer more valuable payoffs than others. It is not any sort of massacre, but just leaves room for improvement if the artist intends to leave a solo legacy behind.