Zayn channelled R&B, Harry went full-on rock, Niall found his sound in folkish-country pop and Liam just went all over the place. And on January 31st, 2020, Louis Tomlinson became the final member of One Direction to finally release a debut album. I have to say, it was well worth the wait.
Having been through quite a few downs in the last few years (losing both his mother and sister), Tomlinson has packed quite a lot of emotion into this heavily Oasis-inspired album. And you can tell.
This album is sort of like him looking back at the glory days of One Direction with a fond reminisce, while also forging a new path (or should I say, direction) with a sound he seems to have found a new home in.
There are some songs on this album, like “Don’t Let It Break Your Heart” and “Perfect Now,” which will take you straight back to One Direction’s glory days. He channels the pop singer in him, the part that thrived with the global sensation that was the band, and it definitely carries that bittersweet nostalgia that every 1D fan can associate themselves with (I certainly could). The other part channels the new sound Tomlinson is headed towards: old school Britpop, with a heavy Oasis influence.
Here is a track by track analysis of the album:
Kill My Mind
Right off the bat, the heavy Britpop vibes can be heard. It’s very different from the kind of music Tomlinson has made in the past, and it kind of gives you an idea as to what direction he is about to go in musically.
As Louis has said in his track by track analysis for Apple Music, “This was a statement of intent. This is where I want to be, this is where I want to move into.” He navigates this song with a sort of swagger that is enhanced by the strong guitar riffs in the background. The northern English accent is prominent in this track and overall, this whole song is very British. And it is definitely a fun and exciting way to kick off this album.
Don’t Let It Break Your Heart
This is what I’m talking about when I say he also touched on his One Direction roots. The chorus of this song will instantly remind you of a 1D song. It could easily fit into FOUR or Made in the A.M. Tomlinson has acknowledged that this is definitely right up the band’s alley and says that “it’s just one of those songs that’s trying to promote hope regardless of what life throws at you.” And it is definitely a nice song to be humming along to, and for all the 1D fans out there, it adds for a great nostalgia factor.
Two of Us
This is definitely one of the most emotional songs on the album. Written by Tomlinson for his mother, who tragically passed away a few years ago, it will tug at your heartstrings and maybe get you to shed a few tears along the way. Tomlinson has said that he “wasn’t ready to write the song” but it is definitely “the most special song I’ve ever written”.
When he released this song a few months ago as a single, he said in a statement, “I just feel like musically, I almost needed to get this song off my chest. People say writing is a part of therapy and in a way, I feel like I’d been avoiding writing this song because I knew I only had one chance to get it right. I don’t mean to be too soppy about it, but if ‘Two of Us’ can help just one other person who’s going through the tough time that I went through, then that would make me really happy.”
It is a very raw tribute. Louis has sung his fair share of ballads in the past, but this is definitely his most emotional and personal one yet if the lyrics “You’ll never know how much I miss you / The day that they took you, I wish it was me instead,” are anything to go by. It is truly a beautiful way to remember his mother, who I’m sure would be very proud.
We Made It
This song was also released as a single, and while it’s not one of my favourites, but it’s a good song nonetheless. The song is very road trippy, and the meaning is pretty straightforward: we went through some pretty difficult times, but we made it.
The lyrics tell a story of him looking back at his past and acknowledging all the good and bad times. The song proclaims that we — as in Tomlinson and his fans — made it ’till the end. It is in a similar vein to One Direction’s “History,” which is also like a tribute to the fans of the band.
This is one of my favourites from the album. If you want a sweet but sad little song, this is it. It seems like Tomlinson is singing about being young and reckless, as well as finding someone he would possibly want to spend the rest of his life with. However, it’s too much responsibility for a teenager to comprehend.
In other words, they were too young. (Hence the song title.) It is kind of like an apology to the girl he loves, asking her to forgive him for the stupid mistakes he made because he was “too young” to figure out what all of it means.
Its a beautiful, stripped-down song, with just Tomlinson’s beautifully unique voice powering through some soft acoustic guitar in the background. It is a pretty honest song, as Tomlinson puts it, “We all made mistakes when we were younger, and I just wanted to capture that idea of true honesty.” “Too Young” is the kind of song you’d listen to with a reluctant smile on your face, somewhere between forgiveness and acknowledgment.
The title track of the album. Again, very Oasis, but also very different at the same time. Another taste of the new path Tomlinson has forged. I say Oasis because he literally lifted elements from 3 Oasis songs to put on this track, while also giving Noel Gallagher credit as a lyricist and composer. The live guitar riffs add a really fun edge to the otherwise kind of emotional song. Not my favourite in the bunch, but it certainly is a good song to belt out on a road trip.
This is also one of the songs I really loved. I feel like this is Tomlinson at his best — when he’s just being himself. It is very festival-esque, in a way. Emotionally deep with subtle instrumentation to back it up, this song has quite a storytelling vibe to it.
The music immediately makes you want to nod your head along to it, and it is very lively and spring-y. It’s emotional, but at the same time, it makes you want to skip along the sidewalk on a nice sunny day. Or sing it along with your friends at a campfire and Louis’ extremely unique voice just elevates it.
It also has an Easter egg from the One Direction days, according to Louis, “There’s a line about the place that we all grew up with in the band, and that was an apartment complex called Princess Park. It’s like an Easter egg for the fans, I’m sure they’ll like that.”
Definitely an instant favourite of mine — and packed with a lot of emotion. The music is very skip-in-the-step and upbeat so it doesn’t seem like it, but the lyrics are extremely meaningful. The moment the song begins, it instantly brings a fond smile to your face. It is clearly about a man travelling all over the world but always coming back to you — because its always been you.
Yes, it’s that love song. That happy, comforting, good-natured song that is just about that one girl who has captured his heart that he always comes back to.
As Louis puts it, “It’s very autobiographical, me making that realisation that its always been that one person, that no matter where you are and what you see, you miss that one person.”
It makes you feel content, and it makes you feel like you’re home, and it just makes you very happy as you listen to it. “Always You” has some beautiful harmonies and generously shows off Tomlinson’s vocal range, and is easily one of the best songs on this album.
This one is a belter — and Tomlinson really doesn’t hold back. It is a ballad, something Louis really knows how to do well. Tomlinson really lets go in this song, reaching for those high notes and successfully hitting them, while also trying to capture what it felt like to truly be young, to be fearless.
“Tell me, do you still remember feeling young?” That is what he is asking of us, as he navigates through what it felt like for him and remembering his own youth, reminiscing with fondness.
It is a bittersweet feeling, and it is quite evident as you listen to the song. It is very raw and nostalgic in a way as it will definitely make you go through a trip down your memory lane, as you try to answer his question.
This song is very One Direction. It is in a similar vein as the band’s highly successful ballad “Little Things.” According to Tomlinson, “it’s kind of an extension to “What Makes You Beautiful,” the band’s first single.”
This is his way of telling the world that he absolutely loves the band and wanted a song on the album that reflects his love for it. This song is very simple and stripped down. It tells a story about a girl being beautiful despite her insecurities.
He also mentions not fitting into your jeans, à la “Little Things,” but it works. It’s not my absolute favourite, but it is a cute song nonetheless.
Defenceless is a song I really like. It starts off quite unassuming and doesn’t really catch you, but as the song builds, and the beat drops, and Tomlinson belts out those high notes, you’re hooked right in. The harmonies and background music add a lovely touch to this song, and the bridge is really beautiful.
No, really, the composition in this song is stunning. It’s hard to describe but it kind of is like a comforting happy melody, like something that can easily be used in a video montage. The music just makes you feel really happy, like basking in the sun on a warm spring day.
The song is basically about being vulnerable and experiencing many different feelings: “One day you might be feeling great, youthful and amazing, and the next day you might be feeling a bit down in the dumps.” And that is being defenceless (against your feelings).
Only the Brave
This song is the last and the shortest track on the album, and it’s wildly different from the rest. It is a song about what it takes to stand on your own and is the perfect way to round off a very emotional album.
It is very soft and quiet and has a retro vibe to it. The way the end drops off leaves you thinking about everything you just listened to and the lyrics are extremely beautiful with lines like “It’s a church of burnt romances and I’m too far gone to pray” and “It’s a solo show and it’s only for the brave.”
This song will bring a small smile to your face, and it just seems like a classic, like going back in time. And having a song about what it is like to tear the walls down and stand on your own is probably the best way to end an album that is very aptly titled Walls and “Only the Brave” does exactly that.
Walls as a whole is a pretty impressive debut. It is a cohesive body of work. This has definitely laid a foundation for the kind of music we can expect from Louis Tomlinson.
Although he doesn’t really experiment a lot like some of his other bandmates, Tomlinson sticks to what he knows. He also shows us what he loves in his sound, and it works for him. I have always thought that he has an extremely unique and soothing voice, and this album has utilised it beautifully.
Walls is one of those albums that could over the years easily become a staple classic. It is very emotionally packed, and it seems like the kind of album you can fall back on a few years down the line to find some familiarity and homeliness — like an old friend.
You can definitely see the ambition. Perhaps Louis isn’t taking too many risks here is because this album is more like a reflection of his past. He’s working on tearing those walls down to become a whole new person. Along the way, he adds hints of the kind of sound he’s headed towards.
This album is a foundation for something new and exciting. We don’t quite know who he really is yet musically, but it is definitely a promise for some exciting things to come, and something tells me, for Tomlinson, this is only the beginning.
Featured image: Rolling Stone