Niall Horan puts on a show with ‘The Show’


Horan’s ‘The Show’ was released on June 9, 2023

Pravar Mukkala, Co-Editor-in-Chief

We were all around for One Direction’s heyday in the early 2010s. Generic-sounding pop songs were everywhere; they weren’t necessarily bad (I listen to them for the nostalgia factor), but they were mostly lighthearted and fun. However, after the boy band’s breakup in 2016, each of the original five members went their own separate ways—one of them being Niall Horan, who has released three albums since then, the most recent of them The Show.

Released on June 9, 2023, The Show embraces One Direction’s pop sound, while flipping 180 degrees in the opposite direction theme-wise. The album is more introspective than 1D ever was, with every track crediting Horan as a writer (something that seldom happened with 1D’s often outsourced songs). Lasting only 30 minutes with 10 short songs, The Show takes us on a journey through Horan’s own insecurities but also his joys.

Starting off with the lead single, “Heaven”, the album begins on a note of infatuation. With an insanely catchy hook, the song explores falling in love and staying there: “Strange light revolves around you, you float across the room/Your touch is made of something heaven can’t hold a candle to”. “Heaven” starts off the album wonderfully, preparing us for a string of classic pop-rock tinged tracks.

Perhaps the best song on the album, after a mere six or seven listens, is “Save My Life”. It’s not so much the lyrics that drew me in, but the energetic opening and the production that evokes a feeling of just lifting off the ground and floating away. Halfway through the runtime, the song is cut into by a saxophone solo, a startling but absolutely welcome addition. “Save My Life”, which is the seventh track, is a perfectly-placed, The 1975-flavored hit of serotonin on The Show (The 1975 is a band that released an album in October 2022 that is somewhat sonically similar to The Show).

Following immediately after is “On A Night Like Tonight”, an R&B-tinged track where Horan uses what seems to be his falsetto in the backing vocals. An abrupt slowdown from “Save My Life”, the song’s production throws you into a groovy, bass-heavy production with lyrics you want to sing but your voice really can’t reach. Utilizing layered vocals to harmonize with himself, Horan really puts forth his best in this song, singing emotional lines like “Tell me anything you like, except for goodbye”.

On the slower side of things is the album’s title track, “The Show”. As a piano-driven ballad, it deviates completely from Horan’s slower songs in a refreshing way. Although albums Flicker (2017) and Heartbreak Weather (2020) had slow tracks, they were atmospheric and electronic, not shaped by piano, strings, and drums. The strings in “The Show” lift the song up, soaring above but unfortunately staying under the percussion. Although the song reaches a crescendo, Horan’s voice doesn’t suit the style.

One of the album’s pitfalls, or perhaps one of its lost opportunities, is “You Could Start A Cult”. With an unusual title, I expected it to be either one of the best or one of the worst songs on the album; unfortunately, it fell short for me. One of the only stripped-back songs on the album, the acoustic guitar-shaped track offers a break between the heavily-produced halves of the record. However, it felt disjointed, with an interesting but out-of-place harmonica interlude and piano outro.

Ultimately, with The Show, Horan has succeeded in differentiating himself from his 1D roots; they are still apparent and shape his music, but aren’t overt and don’t take over his style. The album combines elements from Horan’s first two albums, and is a reasonable direction for him to go in (although a rock album from him would, in my opinion, be gold). Still, “Save My Life” and “On A Night Like Tonight” will join Horan’s classics like “Slow Hands”, “This Town” (2017), “Black And White”, “Still”, and “Dear Patience” (2020).

For albums similar to The Show, I would recommend, naturally, music from the other 1D members (Fine Line by Harry Styles comes to mind) and any of 5 Seconds of Summer’s albums. Other albums I would suggest are Bloom by Troye Sivan for a similar introspective-lyrics-over-synths theme, and Badlands by Halsey for a grittier pop feel.