Online editor Stephen Ong reviews Louis Tomlinson’s debut album
From late 2016 to late 2017, Louis Tomlinson released a series of singles, his first ever solo songs, in anticipation of his upcoming debut album, including the electronic pop collaborations ‘Just Hold On’ and ‘Back To You’, and the crunching pop-punk ‘Miss You’. Despite his early start, Tomlinson watched on as his ex-bandmates released their albums, and last year, Tomlinson admitted that he had scrapped and restarted much of the album to write what he wanted and not what he thought constituted a hit song. As a result, Walls is nothing like Tomlinson’s earlier songs, and is instead situated somewhere between Oasis and One Direction.
The sound of Walls isn’t surprising; Tomlinson was One Direction’s primary songwriter, and his talent for memorable pop-rock choruses seeps into his solo music, whereas he’s frequently cited Oasis as his favourite band. Therefore, ‘Always You’ (one of the oldest songs on the album that would sound at home on a One Direction album with its refrain of ‘should’ve never let you go’) and ‘Walls’ (the roaring title track with a chorus reminiscent of Oasis’ ‘Acquiesce’) are some of the album’s highlights.
his talent for memorable pop-rock choruses seeps into his solo music
Similar to the album’s Britpop influences is the theme of nostalgia, with ‘Habit’ calling back to Princess Park, where One Direction lived after their success on The X Factor, and lyrics from ‘Fearless’, ‘We Made It’ and ‘Two of Us’ all capture the nostalgia of youth, and memories of his mother Johannah and long-time girlfriend Eleanor Calder. The album’s best cut, however, is ‘Too Young’, a simple acoustic song reflecting on a young romance, where Tomlinson’s mellow voice croons the heart-breaking line, ‘we were too young to know we had everything.’
The songs on Walls do justice to Tomlinson’s voice, which was frequently underrated while he was in One Direction. While not as impressive as his bandmates, his voice was the harmonising glue of the band, and Walls showcases his range on ‘Always You’ and ‘Defenceless’, where he breaks into falsetto during their stadium-filling choruses.
The album’s best cut, however, is ‘Too Young’, a simple acoustic song reflecting on a young romance
Despite much of Walls playing off the same formula that made One Direction songs instantly recognisable, it is tried and tested and the main reason Walls is such a consistently solid album (though Liam Payne’s LP1 has set the bar incredibly low as far as post-1D projects go). The closer ‘Only the Brave’ is the only song to break this formula; it’s a stripped acoustic song that builds up over its less than two-minute runtime, finishing after barely two verses and a chorus. The expectation for the song to burst into a ‘Champagne Supernova’, complete with a Noel Gallagher guitar solo, is entirely subverted, which as far as artistic choices on the album goes, is the most interesting. Perhaps Tomlinson knew it would be nearly impossible to emulate a song as legendary as ‘Champagne Supernova’, or he’s saving it for his second album like Oasis did.
However, the album hits an unmistakably low point with ‘Perfect Now’, a ballad surrounded by many other ballads that lacks the emotion or any interesting moments that the other songs have. ‘Perfect Now’ (the first line of which is ‘You say to me your jeans don’t fit’) is the sequel to ‘Little Things’ (‘You still have to squeeze into your jeans / But you’re perfect to me’), which is an admittedly dated song about loving one’s imperfections. In 2020, and without any of the boyish charm One Direction had singing ‘Little Things’, ‘Perfect Now’ is woefully out of place.
The songs on Walls do justice to Tomlinson’s voice
Walls would have benefitted from just about any upbeat song (particularly ‘Miss You’) in place of ‘Perfect Now’. The opener ‘Kill My Mind’ is the only energetic song on the album, and the only reason the album does not get tiring is Tomlinson’s ability to write a sugary hook. While his actual lyricism isn’t anything to shout about (again, Payne, bar, low, and Tomlinson is no worse than the rest of his bandmates), by keeping it simple, he has crafted an enjoyable album of pop-rock tunes that is sure to appeal to Oasis and One Direction fans alike.