Niall Horan marks a significant milestone in his performing career with the release of his debut solo album “Flicker,” which bows at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 this week.
After the chart-topping triumphs of Zayn Malik’s “Mind of Mine” and Harry Styles’ eponymously titled solo effort, the boyish-looking Irish singer is the third former member of the defunct boy band One Direction to seize the album chart’s coveted top spot—with good reason.
The 24-year-old singer shuttles from self-penned pop ballads (“This Town,” “Paper Horses,” “Too Much to Ask,” “Flicker”) to catchy rock (“On My Own,” “Slow Hands”) and country tracks (“Seeing Blind,” with songstress Maren Morris) with proficient ease, as he mulls over heartbreak, career upheavals and missed opportunities.
The album’s inventively diverse tunes cover familiar thematic ground, but they’re nevertheless accessible songs that are made more disarming by irrepressible riffs and earnestly rendered melodies that are easy on the ear—like the relentlessly groovesome and hot-to-trot dance track, “On the Loose,” about an irresistible temptress who’s bound to break Niall’s heart.
But, Niall’s songs aren’t just about radio-ready hooks and alluring melodies; they also convey emotions that aren’t just skin-deep: “Seeing Blind” sees the experience of falling in love from a refreshing perspective, and likens it to “finding a missing piece” in the singer’s life.
And in “Since We’re Alone,” as he sings about his growing affection for someone who has yet to move on from a botched but once-promising romance, Niall evocatively compares a girl to “rain on a sunny day”: There’s a shadow behind your face/ Tell me what you’re running [away] from.
The guy is perceptively sensitive, isn’t he?