HomeMusicNiall Horan - 'The Show' album review

Niall Horan – ‘The Show’ album review

When One Direction announced their hiatus, it was pretty obvious that it would be Harry Styles that would go on to be the global solo star from the band. What wasn’t so clear, was who else from the band, if anyone, would go on to achieve any degree of solo success. Honestly, if I’d been putting money on it I’m not sure I would have backed Niall Horan. The Irish singer-songwriter was often overshadowed in One Direction and he certainly didn’t have the vocal chops of Styles, former band mate Zayn Malik or, dare I say it, Liam Payne. It’s with some degree of humble pie eating, that I can hold my hands up and say I was wrong. Horan has actually gone on to be one of the band’s most successful members with two Gold-certified albums under his belt and a position as a coach on ‘The Voice’ in the US.

6 years on from the release of his actually very good debut album ‘Flicker’, Horan today releases his third album ‘The Show’. Where ‘Flicker’ saw Horan very much exploring folk sounds, and even leaning into Americana, his 2020 follow-up ‘Heartbreak Weather’ covered a wider sonic palate. Where does he land on ‘The Show’? Somewhere in between. For the record, Horan has teamed up with producers Joel Little and John Ryan, and looking at the writing credits some of the same songwriters that he’s worked with since One Direction crop up including Jamie Scott and Julian Bunetta.

On ‘Meltdown’ Horan again appears to be channelling Styles. The song isn’t too dissimilar to Styles’ gargantuan hit ‘As It Was’; it has the same frenetic energy that song has albeit with a somewhat harder beat. On ‘Never Grow Up’, co-written with Nashville hitmaker Shane McAnally, Horan forges more of his own path. The song feels like a progression from ‘Flicker’ evolving his folk-leaning into a more mainstream pop-folk sound. That continues with album standout, and title track, ‘The Show’. Horan’s voice is able to shine away from the reverb that fills the first half of the record and it’s a simple, stripped-back song that showcases his talent.

In the second half of the album the interestingly named ‘You Could Start a Cult’ sees Horan in romantic mode as he tells a love interest he’d happily follow them anywhere over a gentle guitar rhythm, while ‘Save My Life’ jumps back into the 80s for a fists in the air pop anthem. ‘On a Night Like Tonight’ the reverb is back as Horan creates an atmospheric track that floats along in a perfectly nice, if not wholly memorable, way.

Horan brings the album to a close with the one-two punch of ‘Science’ and ‘Must Be Love’. ‘Science’ is the stronger of the two tracks with Horan singing accompanied by piano. It’s heartfelt and honestly, I prefer Horan when he lets his voice do the talking rather than the production wizardry that is layered on his vocals. On ‘Must Be Love’, the tempo switches back to up and it’s a suitable bookend that complements opening track ‘Heaven’.

‘The Show’ opens with ‘Heaven’, the lead single from the album, and it’s a beat-driven sing-a-long moment that channels his band-mate Harry Styles. With a lazy groove and a nod to the 70s, it’s a strong start to the record and a song that is perfect for the summer months. Things start to get a little more interesting on ‘If You Leave Me’, a song that draws from the 80s with Horan navigating a stompy groove with reverb-filled vocals. On the chorus Horan pushes into his falsetto and the song is a little different from anything we’ve heard from him before.

‘The Show’ is likely to continue Horan’s solo stardom and his fans will eat it up, and give him another number one in the process. At times the album is a little too similar to the kind of material Harry Styles has been putting out but that likely won’t bother his fanbase. What the record does highlight though is any hopes of a One Direction reunion seem to be getting dimmer. Horan is clearly freer than he ever was in the band and ‘The Show’ sounds like he’s having plenty of fun as a solo artist.

Track list: 1. Heaven 2. If You Leave Me 3. Meltdown 4. Never Grow Up 5. The Show 6. You Could Start a Cult 7. Save My Life 8. On a Night Like Tonight 9. Science 10. Must Be Love Record label: Capitol Release date: 9th June 2023 Buy ‘The Show’ now

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Pip Ellwood-Hughes
Pip Ellwood-Hughes
Pip is the Editor of Entertainment Focus and the Managing Director of agency Piñata Media.

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When One Direction announced their hiatus, it was pretty obvious that it would be Harry Styles that would go on to be the global solo star from the band. What wasn’t so clear, was who else from the band, if anyone, would go on...Niall Horan - 'The Show' album review