tue 02/03/2021

CD: Niall Horan - Flicker | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Niall Horan - Flicker

CD: Niall Horan - Flicker

Despite the fact that the 'li' in his album title looks a bit like a 'u', there is no foul play here

I have a confession to make. The first time I heard "This Town" – the debut release for Niall Horan's new album – I thought it was Ed Sheeran.

Which gives an indication of the general level of acceptability of Niall’s first solo foray outside of 1D – "This Town" is sure to stick around the airwaves for a while. Overall, Flicker is pretty mainstream in comparison to his fellow Directioners, who’ve opted for stylistic gimmickery (Zayne Malik), faux-rock-kitsch (Harry Styles), or impregnating super-famous celebs (that other one)… Niall has opted for a stalwart’s strategy, capitalising on his baby-faced, boy-next-door image.

It’s a decently crafted album of soft pop, sweet songs and tracks perfect for passive radio play. Mareen Morris brings a bit of gravitas to the Nashville-friendly “Seeing Blind” and “Paper House” has some hummy-strummy nu-folk niceness.“Flicker” is contemplative, flowing and actually quite lovely, the kind of song that carries the album and convinces it has legs. But there’s bad with the good. “She's on the Loose” is a forgettable Eighties pop-bop and “Since We’re Alone” smacks of B-side Jason Donovan on vinyl. “Too Much to Ask” is a snorey ballad you'd expect of a former X-Factor star, although perhaps not one who went on to be part of one of the most successful boybands of all time. “Slow Hands” steps the interest up with a bit of original rhythm and cadence, a strong drum beat underpinning a decent tune - until I realise the lyrics are "sweat dripping down our dirty laundry". Confused pause.

Credit where it's due though, Niall did co-write all of the songs on Flicker – which for the most part are well strung together. It didn't go unnoticed that he was the most musically coherent of all the Directionals, and now he's proving himself to be the true Gary Barlow of his group, only replacing the piano with a guitar.

In a world of gimmicky stylistics or flash in the pan insta-reactives aiming for a quick fix and a rush to download, marketing his easy listening run-of-the-mill appeal to the basic masses is a long-term recipe for success.

Overleaf: watch the video for Niall Horan's "This Town"

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