The Irish former One Direction star returns with a masterclass in pop
In the post-One Direction world, nobody for a second is going to question Harry’s dominance. But the sparkle, scale and spectacle of Mr Styles isn’t Niall Horan. And while placing all the ex-1Ders in the same sphere is inevitable, it does him a disservice. They’re not quite Gary and Robbie but the analogy comes close to working.
Horan has given himself time to find his feet as a solo artist, but he’s done it with a panache and verve that has generally escaped Irish ex-boyband members. Heartbreak Weather overwhelmingly proved that the Mullingar man is in nobody’s shadow, but The Show is unquestionably the moment he finds his groove.
Out of the gate, Horan hits his stride with the taut, Beach Boys-referencing pop rocker ‘Heaven’. Its soaring chorus and sunny harmonies are instantly infectious; Horan isn’t hanging around, hitting them hard and leaving them grinning. The slinky ‘If You Leave Me’ shifts the tempo, recalling some of the best, funk-driven 80s pop. He’s back on anthemic form on ‘Meltdown’, a pulsating, kinetic bit of synth pop majesty.
The whole thing sails along on a summery breeze, even when the tempo drops for the lovely Beatles-inflected ‘On A Night Like Tonight’ and the heart-stopping ballad ‘Science’. Nothing outstays its welcome, with all the fat trimmed off and just the essential, satisfying centre left. The sweeping, orchestral title track feels utterly epic, even at just over three-minutes long. By the time the joyous ‘It Must Be Love’ winds things up, it feels all too soon.
Horan has always been likeable to a ridiculous extent, blessed with a natural charisma that shines through in his considerable vocal talents. The Show is Horan as an album: phenomenally charming and arresting in its unshowy brilliance. It’s the equivalent of someone who, when coaxed over to the upright in the corner of a pub, says: “Yeah, I play a bit of piano” and brings the house down. The Show is a pop album for anyone who laments the current state of pop music: grown-up without being a drag, slick without being anonymously bland, over-blessed with hits and completely bereft of misses.