Former One Direction member Niall Horan released his sophomore album, “Heartbreak Weather,” on March 13, pulling a “Taylor Swift” and going fully pop, instead of sticking to the country and folk elements of his first album, “Flicker.”
The album features several singles, including “Nice To Meet Ya,” a smug interaction of a bar hook-up, “Put a Little Love on Me,” a sweet ballad pleading for love after a breakup, and “No Judgement,” an upbeat love song speaking of the comfort that comes from being with someone who won’t judge.
Like I said, this album takes a break from the folky tones that Horan is known for. For example, in the days of One Direction a song like “Don’t Forget Where You Belong” from their 2013 album “Midnight Memories,” or many from his 2017 solo album “Flicker” like “Seeing Blind (ft. Maren Morris)” and the title track “Flicker” all highlighted Horan’s folk influence.
For me, it was a bit of a shock to see such a transition, since everything I’ve heard from Horan has been obviously pop, but more of a folk/rock type of pop, which I enjoyed. However, I do think it is a nice change from his previous album. Horan’s production value has also clearly increased since the last album: even listening to one song from each can show that. Horan said that his main idea for this album was to create a concept of the stages of a relationship, and eventual breakup, and listening to the tracks in order, I understand why he built the album how he did.
Starting with the title track, “Heartbreak Weather,” Horan opens with some ‘80s-esque guitar and a general lively beat that catches the listener’s ear right away. This song relates to being single and lonely, and not feeling like you’ll ever find the one. Horan’s lyrics also reveal the first parts of a relationship where it’s all fun and exciting, and knowing almost right away someone is different in a special way. Overall, I love this song. It’s a great opening track, and a wonderful concept that I think Horan brought to life in a magical way. 9/10
Next is “Black and White,” a beautiful declaration of love in which an infatuated man imagines the future with his partner. Horan fantasizes about his wedding day with his new lover, a step in a relationship that many don’t think of until much later down the road. However, those who fall fast may find themselves carried away daydreaming about marrying those who may feel right, although they might not turn out to be. I also love this song, and I think it is a beautiful song that is one of my all-time favorites from Horan. 9/10
The third song is “Dear Patience.” Horan really shows off his vocal ability in this song, an actual conversation with the concept of patience. Horan said in an interview with The Sun: “‘Take your time on this because you rush into stuff.’ That’s why it comes straight after Black and White because it’s kind of contradicting itself. It’s like, ‘don’t mess this one up, don’t rush in too hard.’” I think a lot of us have been in Horan’s position of not wanting to mess up a new relationship and needing to take a breath and slow yourself down from falling. 8.5/10
“Bend the Rules” is the fourth song on the album. This is a gloomy song about the times in a new relationship when you’re not really sure where you stand with each other, and in Horan’s case, it seems like his new girl is not very trustworthy. The person isn’t breaking any rules, but they still aren’t being as honest as they could be. Overall, I like this song; it can get a bit cliche, but I like Horan’s voice in this song. 7/10
Next is “Small Talk,” a sultry, sexy song sort of similar to his 2017 hit “Slow Hands.” Horan is very direct in that he knows exactly what he wants to do, and he hopes the girl would join him. My understanding regarding the concept idea is that since this comes after “Bend the Rules,” which again is about not knowing where you stand, so instead he decides to go out on the town and have some fun. However, the bassline in this one is really magnificent, and I appreciate a great bassline. Overall, this is a very average song to me. I like when the chorus hits, but other than that, it doesn’t really have anything special to me. 6.5/10
The first single “Nice To Meet Ya,” again continues the going out fun that Horan wishes to capture with these middle songs, hoping to explore his options. Horan explains it as his “egotistical side” in the article from the Sun mentioned earlier. I enjoy this song; however, it’s not my favorite, and because it is a single, it tends to be more commercially based, which I think this song is. 6/10
The second single from “Heartbreak Weather” is “Put a Little Love On Me.” Another beautiful ballad from Horan where he sings passionately from the heart right after a breakup, admitting he still has feelings for his former partner. This is a very real feeling for anyone who has been through a breakup, since you don’t want to reach out, you are left simply wondering what the other is doing, and that can eat away at you. I love this song, mainly because I love piano-based ballads, and you can truly hear the emotion that Horan put into this song. This is not just a made-up scenario used to write a hit, this is real, and that makes it real for the listener too. 9/10
“Arms of a Stranger” is next. Honestly, this is probably my least favorite on the album. The chorus is very “on the nose,” as Horan again mentions in his Sun interview, which I’m not really a fan of. He sings of literally finding comfort in the arms of a stranger, which is all good and well, but I prefer lyrics to be a little more abstract, and have you searching for a meaning, or even your own interpretation, this does not allow for that. However, I do enjoy the musical composition, pre-chorus and bridge. I think this is one that will grow on me, but as of right now, I’d say it’s average overall. 5.5/10
“Everywhere” is a great recovery from the previous track. Maybe because it sort of gives me One Direction vibes, but overall I just think it’s a wonderfully produced pop song that could definitely be a hit if it were released as a single. The song itself explains the feeling after a breakup where you think you see that person everywhere and everything reminds you of them. A show on TV, a line in a song, or even a smell can bring you back to when you were with them, and it can be very hard to get rid of those feelings once you’re exposed to them. Overall, this is one of my favorites on the album, and will be on my repeat for quite a while. 10/10
The tenth song on the album is “Cross Your Mind.” Inspired by Fleetwood Mac and others, which you can definitely recognize, this song tells of mixed signals and being pushed to the side in the mind of the one you’re chasing. Oddly enough, Horan said this song started as a piano ballad, which is hard to imagine after listening to the song, and I think this fits a lot better as an upbeat but heart wrenching song. 8/10
“New Angel” is next up, and it is an upbeat realization where Horan searches for someone to distract him from his own thoughts. To me, this is a continuation from “Everywhere” since he sings of his ex-girlfriend being in his head constantly, and now he needs someone else to give attention to so he doesn’t drive himself crazy. Again, I think Horan has a great bassist, because the bassline in this one is very groovy and fun. I love this song; I think it’s a great concept and a fun song and again has a sad meaning covered by the tone. 8.5/10
The third single from the album so far is “No Judgement.” In my opinion, this single is an upbeat love song about the time in a relationship where you have been together so long that nothing is judged anymore. The music video encaptures this relationship perfectly, and is quite goofy too. I think this was included in this “concept” album because it, for many people, is where you would ultimately like to end up in a relationship, just being yourselves with one another. However, it could, as Horan explains, also mean that time when you’re both not sure what you’re looking for, and he is being supportive either way with what she chooses. I enjoy this song, and it is a single that I’ve heard on the radio as well. 8/10
Second to last is “San Francisco.” This song is another semi-upbeat difficult one where Horan is yearning again for the beginning of the relationship he so desperately wants back. Originally called “Take Me Back,” the song is catchy, pop-oriented but beautifully written and produced. This is another one of my favorites on the album; you can truly tell it meant a lot to Horan, to me at least. 9/10
Lastly, “Still.” This is probably my favorite song Horan has ever written. The lyrics cut deep, and hit you right in the gut, especially if you have ever dealt with a breakup where you tried everything but you’re still not truly over that person. Horan plainly admits that, after everything, he is still in love with her. A guitar-based ballad, with hints of orchestral elements, this track impressed me so much, specifically Horan’s vocals throughout. This was a beautiful and satisfying way to end Horan’s second album, giving the “punchline” as he calls it. 10/10.
Overall, Horan’s second album lived up to my expectations. Although I thought there would be more folk or guitar elements, I think their substitutions are still good choices for what Horan was aiming for. As I listen to the album more and more, I think I’d prefer to put this one on rather than his debut album, although I still love both. I think “Heartbreak Weather” is more cohesive and put-together, and the former 1D star can only go up from here. My final score (I even did the math) was about a 8/10, a solid score for a solid sophomore album.