Review: Niall Horan Puts on an Emotional Performance in Third LP ‘The Show’

Niall Horan © Christian Tierney
Niall Horan © Christian Tierney
Niall Horan’s third album ‘The Show’ is wholly familiar sounding, while still possessing that invigorating sense of newness that proves utterly inspiring.
Stream: ‘The Show’ – Niall Horan

God only knows where this could go.” The short answer is straight to heaven, pun fully intended.

With a total of 10 songs, Irish singer and former One Direction member Niall Horan’s third solo studio album The Show comes to life – a vivid and balanced landscape of mellowed-out and dynamic tunes that draw from a variety of ‘60s and ‘80s influences.

The Show - Niall Horan
The Show – Niall Horan

Infectious in all its production and lyrics, we are thrust into “Heaven,” the first track of this collection of songs. The true beauty of this song is the ease with which he talks about life and love and the uncertainty of it all.

Here we see Horan express his contentment with the distress and discomfort that is brought on by the wildly mysterious ways the world often works. He reverts to the sentiment of, you can’t ruin a moment by worrying too much about it. Wise words to those in their youth who fret about the impending future.

Strange light revolves around you
You float across the room
Your touch is made of something
Heaven can’t hold a candle to
You’re made of somethin’ new
Let’s not get complicated
Let’s just enjoy the view
It’s hard to be a human
So much to put an answer to
But that’s just what we do
God only knows where this could go
And even if our love starts to grow outta control
and you and me go up in flames
Heaven won’t be the same

Niall Horan © Christian Tierney
Niall Horan © Christian Tierney

Following in the listing is “If You Leave Me,” a percussive daze that chronicles the fear you feel when you are scared of losing your significant other. Horan writes a repetitive plea for the significant other to not leave as he continues to chase them. This song perfectly depicts the vulnerability of dependency on another person, and the fear that develops when you’re scared of being without them.

Meltdown” on the other hand shows a different facet of Horan’s writing chops in its ability to speak towards a grander universal human experience, anxiety.

Nights when one broken glass
turns to total collapse
Just know this, too, shall pass
I’m tellin’ you now, tellin’ you now 

Through the use of ‘80s-inspired synths and stunning harmonies, Horan sheds light on how frantic and destructive something like anxiety can feel. He paints such a real picture of what seems like his own experience, while also stepping outside of himself to reassure listeners that he is there to comfort which is essentially the purpose of this song. To break it down, Horan shows what feeling lost and out of control in your own head can feel like, as he shows different scenarios of times when he had to try to talk himself down, Horan generates a truly cathartic sense of relief with this song as he assures listeners that “this, too, shall pass.”

Talkin’ to yourself
(Yeah) in the bathroom
Losin’ your mind in the mirror
like you have to, ooh
Screamin’ in your car
in the driveway
Spinnin’ out, think your life’s
goin’ sideways, ooh

Niall Horan © Christian Tierney
Niall Horan © Christian Tierney

Never Grow Up” is an innocently heartbreaking tune as it describes the hope of being able to grow old while still holding onto fragile fragments of child-like wonder and spirit. Though this song is wistful in the way that it enchants the ears it does allow for a more existential question of how long your youth, especially as a youthful lens goes through the bouts of a relationship can last.

Hope we still dance like we’re fallin’ in love
Hope we still drink like we’re back in the pub
Hope we grow old, but we never grow up, mm
Hope we still fight over bands that we love

We all wish we could live in the haze of youth forever, take Bob Dylan and Alphaville’s respective songs titled, “Forever Young,” Regardless, Horan’s exploration of this theme is in no way some hackneyed version, rather Horan has proved himself to be a wiz at inducing the ache of nostalgia in a way which feels like you could be transported straight to Neverland and fly loops with Peter Pan while daydreaming about a life’s long romance.

Fifth in the track-listing marking the midpoint of the album, comes the title track of the album, “The Show.” This tune is classic Niall Horan as it plays to his affinity for a good ballad led by a gentle, swaying piano that transitions cleanly into a more haunting percussive atmosphere with highlights of strings that bring this song to a new level of godliness. “The Show,” follows in suit with the rest of the album as it details the hardships of life, “Life is like a board game some of the time / Mistakes and heartbreaks are no crime.”

This album might be considered Horan’s version of a love letter, particularly “You Could Start a Cult,” which is by far become one of my personal favorites to be perfectly candid. With an acoustic guitar guiding the listener through various anecdotes about all the ways the subject of the song and Horan’s devoted could cause for absolute destruction, an interlude of a Dylan-esque harmonica solo, and lullaby-like close out featuring a piano rendition of the guitar that was played in the earlier part of the song, “You Could Start A Cult,” might just obtain its own cult of adoring fans.

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
Anywhere you go, I’ll be

Save My Life” and “On A Night Like Tonight” show a more completely positive outlook and celestial perspective of the power of love. “Save My Life” implements a clever use of horns that is reminiscent of The 1975’s combination of horns and explosive backing instrumentation that may be found in “Looking For Somebody To Love.”

Niall Horan © Christian Tierney
Niall Horan © Christian Tierney

On a Night Like Tonight,” is an otherworldly summertime jam that somehow contradicts the feel of nearly every other track on the album, while also sounding like it was meant to be exactly where it is on the album. What is standout on this track in particular is the sound of wedding-like bells that infiltrate the end of the track, perhaps this is a message that says a summer love can end up as more?

Returning to a moodier setting on the penultimate track, we have “Science,” which jumps back to “Meltdown” in the way of resting on the sentiment of not letting your anxieties get the most of you. This time Horan takes on the role of supreme comforter with the support of bewitching vocals, strings, and piano. It is anthemic in the softest, most intricately simple way.

Oh, when you feel you’re sinkin’
Overthinkin’, time is crashin’ down
Oh, if you need somebody
The world’s too heavy to shine
It’s not too late now

Closing out Niall Horan’s third studio album euphorically is “Must Be Love,” which has a draw in the repetition of its chorus that could be similar to The Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love” chant.

Niall Horan © Christian Tierney
Niall Horan © Christian Tierney

In retrospect, The Show is potentially Niall Horan’s most heartfelt and decisive album yet.

Each song has a clear motive and message with its lyrics that is superbly supported by the instrumentation and vocal delivery, all of which help cultivate an expert collection of songs that follow a thread of themes and entice the ears of any who choose to lend 31 minutes of their time.

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:: stream/purchase The Show here ::
:: connect with Niall Horan here ::

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The Show - Niall Horan

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