If there’s one thing that I was sure about while listening to Niall Horan’s latest album, The Show, it’s that the album is all about love.
For the last few months, Horan has been teasing the release of this album by sending out candles and care-packages to fans as well as posting snippets of songs to his TikTok page and singing a few choruses on various live streams.
I viewed Heartbreak Weather as a near-perfect album when it came out because I could clearly hear how Horan was honing in on his sound post-One Direction. He produced a multi-genre album, leaning towards pop, which was also a contrast from his folk-sounding first album, Flicker.
However, the hype around Heartbreak Weather soon died down because of its unfortunate release timing. Horan’s sophomore album was released on March 13, 2020, which many regard as the “day the world shut down” due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Show’s release is also a vessel for the excitement around Heartbreak Weather that was shut down too soon because this new album promises a new tour, hopefully, one as long as an Eras Tour set since Horan now has two albums to perform.
Similar to Heartbreak Weather, The Show is an album that transcends beyond a single genre, with pop anthems like “Heaven” to the funky saxophone solo in “Save My Life” to the folk-esque sound in “Science.” Each song displays Horan’s versatility and musicality in different ways.
Tracks 1 and 3, “Heaven” and “Meltdown,” were the two singles released from the album. “Heaven” was released on Feb. 17 and sits as a perfect opener for the album. Combining its driving bass and drum line, easy-to-sing-along-with chorus, angelic harmonies and background vocals, the song really makes you feel like you’re in heaven. The song’s lyrics explain a love so strong that it could change heaven as well as criticizing outside pressures and perceived relationship timelines.
“Meltdown” is one of my favorites off the new album because of its message and I felt like it came out at a time when I needed it most. It paints an image of someone feeling anxious and spiraling out of control, but Horan reassures the listener in the chorus that “when it all melts down, I’ll be there.”
“I know a lot of my fans and friends struggle with mental health issues,” Horan wrote in a handwritten letter he posted to Twitter the day “Meltdown” was released. “I’ve always made a point of writing to those people through my songs. I want to let them know that they’re not alone and we can feel those feelings in our own way.”
Along with the multi-genre sound of the album, I can hear multiple other musical influences in certain songs. “Save My Life,” for example, sounds like it could easily be a song by The 1975. “The Show,” as well, sounds like Taylor Swift could have co-written it in her folklore era because of the song’s uncanny resemblance to “cardigan.” Similarly, “Never Grow Up,” especially the first few seconds with the unintelligible vocalizations, reminds me of a Harry Styles song.
“The Show,” “You Could Start A Cult” and “Science” are the slower songs of the album.
“You Could Start A Cult” is a song with an at-first questionable name and a message about someone so deeply in love that they’re blinded by it. With the first lines of the song, “Darlin’, I will give up everything/ Who I’ll be and who I am/ You can have it all/ Baby, you could start a cult, you see,” Horan establishes an unwavering devotion to someone else. He then continues that message in the chorus by repeating, “I’ll follow you till there’s no tomorrow.” Horan admitted in a handwritten letter that he thinks that this track has become his “favorite song on the record” because he “love[s] the concept.”
“Science,” despite being significantly slower with a more somber sound, reminds me of “Meltdown” because of the lyrics. As the second to last song on the album, it reminds the listeners of the same message that “Meltdown” established in the beginning with someone feeling hopeless and numb; however, it also reiterates the importance of not letting those overwhelming negative emotions break us down. The song almost trivializes those emotions by chalking it up to “just science” without invalidating the feelings.
The final song on the album is “Must Be Love” and it serves as a perfect ending by returning to a more upbeat tempo and the vibey instrumentals that “Heaven” established. In the song, Horan reflects on his position in love and takes elements from the themes of the songs before to land on the fact that “if it feels like love,” then “it must be love.”
The best way that I can describe The Show is as a love letter. A love letter to Horan’s partner, his past partners, his friends, his family and his fans. This album does a deep dive into how powerful and all-consuming love is and how important it is to have love in your life.