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09th Jun 2023

REVIEW: ‘The Show’ is Niall Horan’s most earnest album yet

Simon Kelly

Niall Horan album review

The Irish musician releases his third solo album.

Niall Horan has carved out a good path for himself since leaving One Direction. In the time since going solo, the Mullingar man has become known as an honest, down-to-earth and extremely affable popstar. This is exactly the type of energy he puts into his latest album, ‘The Show‘, and it’s no surprise that it’s his strongest work yet.

Following up on his 2020 break-up themed record ‘Heartbreak Weather’, his third project hits on some completely different notes. Finding himself in a happy relationship throughout Covid lockdowns, Horan had to find inspiration from elsewhere.

Riffing on themes of anxiety, finding love and the mingling of those complex feelings, ‘The Show’ is an album that, despite Horan getting stuck in the weeds sometimes, is commendable for a young artist to put out there. Especially if that artist happens to have the weight of his pre-solo career looming over him at all times.

The album opens with the high-energy single ‘Heaven’, clearly inspired by the Beach Boys both sonically and lyrically. “God only knows where this thing goes,” sings Horan, but right away the intent for the album is clear, this is a personal exploration.

Niall Horan The Show

Despite the strong start, the first half of the album shifts up and down in terms of quality. Tunes like ‘If You Leave me’ and ‘Never Grow Up’ are a little more filler than killer. Even the titular track ‘The Show’, while incorporating the theme of the album quite well, doesn’t stand out among the rest.

One song that does stand out early on is ‘Meltdown’. The buzzy and energetic tune runs down a well-worn track left by a certain former bandmate, with a driving bass and melody that would feel right at home in Harry’s House. It’s important to note here that songwriter Amy Allen (who also wrote for Styles) is credited on this track, but Horan still makes it his own.

While ‘Meltdown’ might be a fan favourite on the album, the back half of ‘The Show’ is where the 29-year-old kicks into gear. Horan’s voice shines through on songs like the beautifully stripped back ‘You Could Start a Cult’ and the clearly 1975-inspired synth banger ‘Save My Life’.

Finishing off strong, Horan hits his stride on the introspective ‘Science’ and closes out on another instant hit ‘Must Be Love’, which bursts into a glorious chorus just waiting to be sung by thousands in a jam-packed stadiums.

While the influences are clear throughout the album, Horan is definitely maturing as an artist and his latest record is proof of that. Though a lot of his music is still in the safe zone, ‘The Show’ could be a jumping-off point for a very interesting career direction.

“If I’m being honest it scares me to death,” he sings on the record’s final tune. Maybe scaring yourself is a good thing, it’s clearly helped Horan put out his best work yet.

‘The Show’ releases on Friday, July 9.

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Niall Horan