If you were a teenage girl in 2015, chances are you were probably affected in some way by the historic One Direction ‘hiatus.’ While it was crushing at the time, it’s undeniable that since, our favourite quintet has gone on to do some amazing things individually, from Louis’ ‘Walls’ album to Harry’s recent 15 nights sold out at MSG. But this isn’t about Harry or Louis – today, we’re reminiscing on Niall Horan’s first solo album, Flicker. From the best tracks to the release’s impact moving forward, we’re here to break it down and take you back to the first days of the Irish lad’s solo career.
1D isn’t very well-known for collaborations – they were rare and far between, but Niall is much more receptive to these. Flicker’s track 3, ‘Seeing Blind,’ featured the first teaming up with another artist, pop-country muse Maren Morris. The song is full of romantic lyrics, with the consistent, repeated metaphor of blindness conveying Niall’s almost rose-colored glasses perspective on the song’s subject. Including lines like “I found my missing piece’ and ‘now I’m looking in your eyes, I must be seeing blind.” It’s a perfect representation of the all-consuming feeling one gets when they’re first falling in love with someone they feel is out of their league. The track soared in the charts and demonstrated to fans the ease with which Niall’s voice blends with those of similar artists. We’re still hoping for more pieces like this – sophomore album Heartbreak Weather didn’t include any fresh partnerships, but maybe in the future…
The album’s second single, ‘Slow Hands’ currently sits at the top Horan’s Spotify streams, beating the lead single ‘This Town.’ Released on May 4, 2017, the track is slow paced yet rhythmic, opening with a slow repetitive beat that continues throughout, providing a fitting background to Horan’s passionate, raw Irish cadence. With scattered hints of funk and full of the blues, it’s the heaviest track on the album and showcased Niall’s potential as an artist who can seamlessly mix genres to create his own unique sound.
What would we be if we didn’t mention titular track, ‘Flicker’ in this roundup? A heartbreak anthem, Niall reminisces on the nearing end of a relationship, a feeling most of us know all too well – like the corner of a road approaching when you’re unable to swerve, the song’s crooning lyrics makes it one of the album’s most heart breaking, ‘please don’t leave echoing in the ears of the listener as each chorus concludes. It’s a melancholy, almost desperate song that once again is touched by the rawness that Niall encapsulates effortlessly in many of the album’s pieces. The mention of the word ‘flicker’ itself comes in the chorus – “a flicker of hope that you first gave to me that I wanna keep.” It’s a hopeful, yet haunting remnant of a lost relationship.
It’s clear that much of Flicker is encompassed with trademark romance themes, a common go-to for hit music – but one of our favourites, ‘On My Own’ definitely sways to it’s own unique beat and disrupts this particular flow. A cheerful, upbeat ballad during which Niall confirms to us that his own company is his preferred way of spending time, it’s a reassuring self-love bop that we could all do with on occasion. After all, sometimes you just have to be your own best pal, and Niall reaffirms in this track that this isn’t something you should feel a need to be embarrassed about. You’re the one with you for life, so it’s best to get comfortable. Thanks, Niall.
After Album Release
Flicker’s October entrance into the world immediately cemented Niall as a star in his own right – something fans were always aware he was. Hot on the heels of Harry’s self-titled debut and Zayn’s Mind of Mine, within the first week, Flicker rose to the number 1 spot on the Billboard 100, firmly landing Niall as the third member to achieve the feat.
Reviewers were fast to rave, calling it in every track. The release definitively plants Niall firmly as an artist whose confidence was blossoming outside of his previously band-based career, one that is capable of crossing genres through a carefully crafted controlling of vocals.
Soon after the release, Niall embarked on Flicker Sessions, a 16-date tour through late November that put fans up close and personal with him. Niall described the vibe as wanting to ‘feel like you’re in someone’s living room’ – a close-up view into his musical process and finished products with this intimate experience. After, he embarked on more of a traditional tour, with dates across Australia, New Zealand, the UK and beyond. He brought country-pop star Maren Morris alongside him as the opener, having had her star on ‘Seeing Blind.’
After a sold out Flicker tour, Niall took a moment away from the spotlight to focus on sophomore album, Heartbreak Weather. Another sultry track album with similarly themed songs that built on the foundations left by Flicker it was once again a critically acclaimed success by those in the industry and fans alike.
With the release of Julia Michaels’ ‘What A Time’ on her EP Inner Monologue Part 2, Niall featured on the track as her co-writer and performer. With Julia on the rise as a star in her own right at this stage, it was the perfect moment for the young musicians to team up and release this relatable pop track that invigorated both their fanbases alike.
What’s next for Niall?
While he already has 2 albums under his belt, personally we’re hoping for NH3 sometime soon. There is much speculation already surrounding the possibility thanks to the excited masses, but nothing is confirmed as of this article’s publication date yet.
Niall sings that his shadow is dancing alone on track 4 of Flicker, ‘Too Much To Ask’ – and with this album, we saw the shadow of boyband Niall making a break away from his past self, and stepping forward without it for the first time – and to this day, it’s a strong take on the fact that both alone and with others, our favourite Irishman Niall Horan is a star set in stone.