Harry Styles’ Fine Line blends the sounds of yesterday and today while providing a bright hope for the music of tomorrow


When Harry Styles’ self-titled solo debut came out in 2017, comparisons were easily drawn to the permissive, ‘70s feeling of music legends before him. Artists like Bowie, McArtney, and Fleetwood Mac seemed to permeate his sound; all ten of his songs seemed to draw inspiration from prominent predecessors. 

Classic rock roots aren’t what sets Styles apart from his boy band days, though. Unlike the other members of One Direction, Styles hasn’t committed to a genre yet. His four former collaborators have each settled into a niche type of music; be it R&B or pop, they each have chosen a path and stuck to it. Styles, on the other hand, hasn’t seemed to decide exactly what type of music he wants to put out yet, and honestly, I think it works in his favor to play the field. 

His newly released sophomore album, Fine Line, is stark proof of this. Less classic rock then his debut and more California cool, Fine Line is a trip. The eclectic group of twelve songs shows off not only Style’s vocal range but also his capability to tackle a broad array of tracks, each sounding different from the other. 

 The album has more pop tracks than its predecessor. Singles “Watermelon Sugar” and “Adore You” both have more of a radio sound to them. More upbeat and amplified with a beat you can dance to, these two songs branch away from the older sounds of his previous album. Yet, they both still have an underlying guitar and bass riffs similar to an older, funky sound, characterized by the rest of Fine Line.

But if we’re talking about the power of instrumentals, “She” steals the show, consisting of a six-minute-long slow burn about a man dreaming of a different life with an enigmatic woman. Styles’ voice is raw and wanting, the vocals build and build until finally, a long-awaited guitar wails to finish the song off. It seems to be a song of another time, though when that is can’t be specified. 

There are other tracks that have more direct callbacks to another age. I wasn’t alive in the ’70s and I’ve never done hallucinatory drugs, but I imagine the two of those factors can be encapsulated by listening to the second to last track “Treat People With Kindness.” With brass and background singers to support the melody, the song uplifts and inspires but in such a trippy way. It’s like a giggly outburst personified into music. 

“Canyon Moon” is straight from a Crosby, Stills & Nash album with a folk rock melody. It’s easily separated from the sounds of his other songs, yet there’s still a comfort to it. 

Something else that Styles improves upon from his last album is strength in lyrics and growth as a writer. The album features more self-aware phrases like “What if I’m someone I don’t want around” in the somber ballad “Falling” or the specific callouts like “Does he take you walking around his parent’s gallery/ Do you call him baby/ Do you call him what you used to call me” from the post-breakup Harry in “Cherry.”

Altogether, the songwriting feels more personal, more complete. It’s the answer, albeit a heartbreaking one, to some of the questions posed in Harry Styles.

This feels familiar in the sense that older musician’s impressions can be found. It’s a gateway for many of Styles’ younger listeners into older music. This older style is blended with new music, too. It has the reach of today’s music as well as provides a peek into the wonderful, new music of the future. And if anyone can deliver this genre fusion with the charm and grace it deserves, it’s Harry Styles.