By Debra Kate Schafer
Louis Tomlinson’s first solo album may have been four years in the making, and he may have been the last of his former One Direction bandmates to release a debut, but that does not give anyone the right to tear it down before listening.
Sometimes art takes time, sometimes life gets in the way and sometimes you need to find yourself in order to develop a distinct sound. “Walls” is the stellar product of the hardships Tomlinson has faced, as well as his creativity and strength.
“Walls,” the 12-track debut from the arguably least problematic member of One Direction, is stellar from start to finish. Fans were already familiar with some of the album’s songs, as they were released as singles and promos. Songs like the alternative rock banger “Kill My Mind” and the upbeat pop hit “We Made It” had accompanying music videos that fans adored. These two Tomlinson songs give insight into what it is like being young, reckless and in love.
Every song off Tomlinson’s album may be radio ready, but that doesn’t mean that they were made for the radio. These songs are not soulless pieces of music crafted and manufactured quickly with the intention of garnering nothing but streams and likes. Tomlinson admits this himself, releasing a statement on Twitter just last year that reads, “[…] I’m not here to compete with the likes of Drake and Ariana Grande. I’m here to make music I love and make my fans proud to say they’re a fan.”
As a songwriter, each of Tomlinson’s tracks encapsulate his feelings, family, career and relationships. The intricacy, personality and heart in his lyrics prove that he is an incomparable songwriter and an underrated storyteller.
Take “Two of Us” as an example. The song, released last May, is a hard-hitting pop rock ballad about grief. This theme is important to Tomlinson, and he has lost both his mother and younger sister. The very public losses that he and his family faced were tragic, sudden and soul-crushing–even to fans and outsiders. Yet, Tomlinson was able to use this tragedy to create something so stunningly beautiful. In “Two of Us” he sings, “The day that they took you, I wish it was me instead” and “I promised you I’d do this, so all of this is all for you.” Every word and note is personalized to align with his own story, but that doesn’t mean it is any less relatable to a fan who has also suffered from a major loss.
The title track, “Walls,” is so easy to fall in love with and deserves to be recognized a little bit more than the rest of the songs off this album— it is raw, emotional and so very fierce. It’s British pop at its finest, because you listen to this song and can easily hear the lyrical intensity of Coldplay, the harmonious undertones of One Direction and the best musicianship of Oasis.
“Always You,” the album’s ninth song, is a home run through and through. Tomlinson’s artistry is evident, with twinkling acoustic guitars and a modern beat-driven edge. This is the perfect song to play during a rom-com movie montage. Its swoon-worthy lyrics, like “I went to so many places, looking for you in the faces,” and classic nineties pop stylings makes it the perfect contender for the sound track “Clueless” or “You’ve Got Mail.” Similarly, the fan favorite “Habit” has a similar narrative that encompasses a tumultuous and all-consuming relationship.
“Walls” channels everything from Tomlinson’s musical past, his industry influences and his personal life. This debut record proves that he is more than a charismatic member of a boy band. He is more than his bandmates’ successes. He is more than his personal turmoil. Tomlinson is himself: a hard worker, a family man, a crafty, personable songwriter and a full-fledged musical icon in the making.