Niall Horan of One Direction fame released his first solo single over the weekend. It was dropped out of the blue, causing the band’s unsuspecting fandom to send their (large) corner of Twitter into a complete meltdown. One Direction have been on hiatus since March and the past few months have seen them do different things- Liam Payne signing with Capitol Records, Harry Styles filming the war film Dunkirk, Louis Tomlinson being a full-time dad and Niall setting up a golf management company with the band’s management team, Modest!– which is why this track drop was such a shock. Nevertherless it’s a welcome one.
The song is called ‘This Town’. It’s wistful and nostalgic, lamenting a once-upon-a-time relationship. As far as first songs go, it wasn’t the direction I’d expected him to take, nice as it is. It follows in the style of One Direction’s last two albums, which featured a lot of acoustic guitar. Which figures- as the band’s lone guitarist, he played guitar for the majority of their stage performances, and has been very vocal about his passion for it in the past. The song was released in a one mic, one take performance on his Vevo channel, so we get to listen to it without the tweaks. The voice shines through, somewhat out of place without the rest of the band. Like many others, I kept expecting Liam to join in on harmonies, Harry to take over the chorus and Louis to sing the bridge. But Niall comes into his own with the song. He’s always been the most confident when it’s just him and a guitar and I suppose from that perspective, it’s not hard to see why he chose to release an acoustic performance over a popped-out pop song.
‘This Town’ was written by Niall, Jamie Scott (who’s worked on many songs with One Direction), Mike Needle and Daniel Bryer. The heartbreak is very real. It’s got regret, a long time love and a promise that although the girl has moved on, he’s still in love with her. ‘Everything comes back to [her]’ no matter the circumstances. The sentiments are sweet and you can’t help but feel kinda sorry for him. The simplistic nature of the lyrics doesn’t take away from that boyband pop he’s come from. It’s not earth-shattering or life changing but it’s a theme that many people, especially the young adults in his fanbase can relate to.
Niall’s often cited classic rock as his favourite genre of music and biggest influence on his style, particularly The Eagles (which we definitely see in certain One Direction songs). It will be interesting to see how much of that influence will come into his own music. While ‘This Town’ is more ‘Little Things’ and less ‘Hotel California’, I’m very much looking forward to seeing what Niall’s solo career can develop into.
Unfortunately I can’t add the video to this post, but you can listen to the song here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hNBlfyYHu80