In the sweltering heat of 2013’s July, nearly 23,000 fans—mostly obsessive young girls—sandwiched into the Palace in Detroit to watch a worldwide phenomenon: the boy band One Direction.
Among the mass of sweaty, screeching girls was nine-year-old me with my heart swelling with love for every member. As a Directioner—a person in the One Direction fandom—my heart shattered when they decided to take a short break in 2015. My naive self believed they were going to take an eighteen-month hiatus as they promised. And yet, eighteen months passed with no end in sight. The boys all parted ways to pursue solo careers. Some decided to drop albums while others decided to wait.
The highly anticipated album by Louis Tomlinson dropped in January of 2020. He had released a few singles before but no albums. I was a little nervous to listen to his album, but when I finally gave in, I found an album that will stay etched in my heart until the end of time.
Tomlinson is, no doubt, a gifted musician. He has written many masterpieces in the past including the majority of Midnight Memories, a One Direction album. I never considered the fact that he could outshine himself with his solo work, but with his new album, Walls, I never should have doubted him.
He opens the album with the headbanger “Kill My Mind.” Tints of burgundy and saffron weave through the air with every bang of the drums. It almost tastes like cinnamon tea. It’s the sort of song that would be selected by Netflix to premiere in their predictable romantic movies targeted towards teenagers. It’s the music that allows my heart to soar as I glance out the window at the changing leaves while cruising through town. For the daydreamers—much like myself—“Kill My Mind” is the perfect song to lose yourself in a life that isn’t your own.
The third song in his album, “Two of Us,” is a heart-wrencher. The ballad is a tribute to Tomlinson’s mother who passed away in December 2016. I can’t sing the first verse without choking back tears. Swatches of navy and midnight blue peep out from behind stone gray as he recalls what his mother has taught him and proclaims to the world about how he will live the rest of his life for her; he will be her living memory.
In a world full of perfect models with dazzling smiles and hourglass figures, it’s difficult to feel beautiful, always striving to be more attractive, not realizing character outshines complexion. I don’t cause men to turn their heads each time I saunter into a room, and I don’t hear whispers of my unparalleled beauty from behind forced smiles. Instead, I hear hisses of the many voices inside my head, ridiculing me for not appearing a certain way or for not being worthy of love.
I find it impossible to love myself for what I look like despite the praise that I receive from those around me. I can’t seem to believe I’m pretty, but when I hear it from a man who isn’t aware of my existence in his song “Perfect Now,” it finally registers inside of me. He makes me feel beautiful—just the way I am. No change is necessary for my beauty to shine.
Whether I need to escape from the pressures of real life, need to feel thankful for what relationships I have in my life, or need to lift my self-worth, I now know that I can come to Louis Tomlinson and his music, and he will put me in my place.
If Tomlinson’s future music is like Walls, I can’t wait to see what he has to offer.