Album Review: Niall Horan – Heartbreak Weather (2020)



Cookie FM Rating – 5/5

Niall Horan released his sophomore album on Friday 13th, which is obviously my favourite date of any month. But this particular Friday 13th in March was also the day that changed life for a lot of people around the world. Why? Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we were suddenly in lockdown, we had to work from home, many people were then laid off including myself, and life was rather in the unknown. And for me, music has always been a major comfort during such hard times.

Following on from his debut album Flicker (2017), the three year gap doesn’t even seem that long ago, and I saw Nialler in concert in Dublin back in March 2018. As his debut solo album, Niall delivered heartfelt ballads, smooth pop as well as tracks with slight sexy notes, notably Slow Hands, On the Loose, Flicker, This Town, Mirrors, Since We’re Alone and Seeing Blind with Maren Morris. A huge hit on the charts and streaming platforms, Niall also won a number of awards for this debut effort: iHeart Radio Music Award 2018 as Best New Pop Artist, Teen Choice Award 2017 as Choice Song Male Artist for Slow Hands, and a whopping seven BMI London Awards from 2016-2019!

And now he’s back with Heartbreak Weather (2020) and a truly brilliant and well-rounded sound full of emotion and millenial anthems. Every track has been penned by Niall, with only a handful of co-writers. It opens with the second single, and title track Heartbreak Weather that has a brilliant sound, with an old school type of pop-rock vibe. A feel-good type of anthem, I do feel it really reflects the current climate very well. Next is Black And White, which is easily one of the best tracks on the album. It has that progressive anthem sound to it with heartfelt lyrics, and is a personal favourite of Niall’s too. The lyrics reflect that of a couple going through the motions of their relationship right up to their wedding vows and beyond. It’s been compared to Ed Sheeran’s music, but in my opinion this is a better version of that kind of ballad.

Dear Patience is another example of Niall’s songwriting skills and ability to produce a beautiful ballad. The production isn’t overdone, the instruments aren’t overpowering, but instead blend perfectly with the lyrics and vocals. The question I do have is whether ‘patience’ is a person or indeed the ability to have that quiet and steady perseverance we all know but often lack. And the end of this track is pure charming, with its traditional Irish sound. Bend The Rules follows on impeccably, with its softer sound and romanticism, that builds to a crescendo before fading out. Storytelling is definitely a forte of Niall’s, as these lyrics depict the story of a relationship full of questions and emotional confusion.

With the fifth track on the album, Small Talk, Niall delivers a sexier sound that’s reminiscent of Slow Hands from his debut album. The verses have a softer pop rock style arrangement, while the chorus picks up and gets that bit more heavy with suggestive lyrics that us millenials can certainly relate to. Cheekily, this is one of my favourite tracks from Heartbreak Weather.

“Tell me what you want because you know I want it too. Let’s skip all the small talk and go straight up to your room. I’ve been thinking what I’d do when I’m alone with you Just say nothing, small talk only gets in the way.” – Small Talk, Niall Horan (2020)

Everyone has surely heard the first single from Heartbreak Weather, Nice To Meet Ya, which is, in short, an absolute banger! From the rock vibes to the vocal arrangement and instrumentation, this track is one of Niall’s best all around. Not only is it an excellent track to play loud, but I can imagine that on stage when he goes back on tour, it’ll be quite the spectacle.

As I said from the start, this album has everything. Put a Little Love On Me is so heartfelt and emotional, I can’t help but stop and just listen to it everytime it plays. His vocals are on point here as lyrically he paints the picture of pure, almost raw love that still exists even when a couple who are no longer together. A classic ballad and perhaps even an anthem of heartbreak, I’ll admit that I may have shed a tear listening to this. Niall has also explained that this album wouldn’t really be his album “if it didn’t have a sad, sad, sad ballad on it.” Well, I’m really glad it does have this song, and like Niall who also said it “could potentially be my favorite song I’ve ever written”, it’s one of mine.

“Are you all dressed up but with nowhere to go, Are your tears falling down when the lights are low, Another Friday night tryna put on a show. Do you hate the weekend Cos nobody’s calling. I’ve still got so much love hidden beneath this skin…I look around as my heart is collapsing, Cos you’re the only one I need, To put a little love on me.” – Put A Little Love On Me, Niall Horan (2020)

The story of the above track seems to blend on both Arms of a Stranger and Everywhere, with a post-breakup confession that is slightly more sour, and trying to move on from a relationship where the other has a hold on you – a feeling I’m sure we’ve all experienced at least once. Both tracks have that pop rock sound Niall has become associated with, and for good reason. The upbeat chorus with the slowed down verses and the crescendo before the outro sure is a good formula.

Cross Your Mind has a similar sound that Small Talk and Nice to Meet Ya also have. The more upbeat instrumentation and vocals almost cloak the ‘I’ve been hurt’ type of lyrics, that also reflect the previous few tracks. New Angel moves into a more pop meets R&B venture, whilst keeping to his signature sound, and again depicts that “moving on” story. Either someone really hurt Niall in love, or he’s very good at feeling the same emotions as us.

No Judgement has a great sound, and rather reminds me of his opening track On The Loose from Flicker. It’s a cool, chilled out track with excellent arrangement and easy lyrics. The penultimate track, San Francisco, depicts the story about a relationship gone awry, one that he wants to amend with a big gesture and hope for that second chance. Lyrically it’s almost simple but musically it’s rather beautiful.

Still is another example of Niall’s skills in writing a delicate ballad, with those emotive lyrics that convey almost everlasting love, the alluring acoustic guitar and string arrangement. Very like Put A Little Love On Me, it gets me every time. It even ends with a whistle… Beautiful is an understatement.

Overall this is one of my all-time favourite albums, and that really is saying something. I just don’t tire from listening to it start to finish. His sound has perfectly meshed from track to track, his lyrics always real and heartfelt, and most importantly it’s a relatable album. His tour, for which I got tickets, has unfortunately been cancelled and postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic – but when he can again, I’ll be front and centre to sing every word and shed a few tears.

IF YOU HAVEN’T HEARD Heartbreak Weather YET, buy/stream the album now on Tidal or other platforms today!

Tracklisting

  1. Heartbreak Weather
  2. Black And White
  3. Dear Patience
  4. Bend The Rules
  5. Small Talk
  6. Nice To Meet Ya
  7. Put A Little Love On Me
  8. Arms of a Stranger
  9. Everywhere
  10. Cross Your Mind
  11. New Angel
  12. No Judgement
  13. San Francisco
  14. Still

CLICK TO LISTEN TO Heartbreak Weather by Niall Horan ON TIDAL

NIRINA XX

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Image © Niall Horan, Capitol

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