Friday, October 21st, 2016

Niall Horan – This Town

Finally, a solo single by Niall Horan’s Mum’s favourite member of One Direction.


Katie Gill: So in the “what are you gonna do after the band breaks up,” Harry became an actor, Zayn tried to do Miguel, and Niall did…Ed Sheeran. I’m not a big fan of the ‘white guy with an acoustic guitar’ Jason Mraz, Ed Sheeran sort of genre to begin with but thankfully, Niall saves that genre with sheer cuteness. Yes, this is a bit play by numbers but in my mind, Niall was always the cute one of One Direction (Harry was hot, Niall was cute). He weaponizes that cuteness in a charming number perfect for movie trailers and middle school slow dances.

Alfred Soto: Niall’s heart beats in one direction. When he inserted these candy box melodies into his former act’s songs, listeners could count on Zayn’s rue and Liam’s cock thrusting. As soon as one of “This Town”‘s verses ends I wait for one of them to take over.

Olivia Rafferty: Where does Niall fit in the narrative of life after boybands? Perhaps he’s too gentle and Irish to fit the Bad Boy Archetype, which is often attributed to ex-boyband members trying to make it solo. Instead it seems he’s going to fade into the catalogue of male pop songwriters that I like to call “white dudes in leather jackets,” bumping elbows with the likes of Ed Sheeran, Shawn Mendes and the Charlie Puths of the world. His songwriting chops come through on the track, and they’re still of a distinctly One Direction flavour. For fans who are mourning 1D, this might be a godsend, but for Niall it might be stagnation. On closer listens to “This Town,” it’s twistedly satisfying that the whole song plays around production, arrangement and melodies which you’d find in a 1D song, while Niall sings about everything revolving around that one point, everything still coming back to that one thing. It seems like he’s failing to let go on several levels.

Kat Stevens: So understated that Niall, the shortest Direction, requires at least 4 goes at that chorus hook before I realise how heartwarming and sweetly sung it is. I would score the song higher but I am pre-emptively docking a couple of points due to its inevitable future omnipresence on the tube station busker circuit.

Thomas Inskeep: Oh, look, another 1D solo single, this one based around acoustic guit– [falls asleep]

Claire Biddles: Despite not really buying into authenticity as a valuable commodity in musicians, I’m interested to see the role it plays in the solo endeavours of One Direction during their hiatus. Time apart from a boyband (whether permanent or temporary) is typically a chance for individual members to show their true selves or rather ‘true selves’, in inverted commas — from Robbie Williams’ on-the-nose cover of George Michael’s “Freedom”, to Charlie from Busted’s po-faced ‘proper’ rock band Fightstar, solo projects are usually an excuse for boybanders to distance themselves from the group and present a more knowing, adult, cooler self. This can sometimes work well — like I say, I don’t care so much about authenticity — but sometimes it falls flat on its face: The reason I don’t like Zayn’s solo work is because his loverman persona is so unconvincing — I can’t help but see an awkward boy from Bradford, albeit a really hot one. We’ve yet to hear a single from Harry, but if his extensive photoshoot for Another Man magazine tells us anything, it’s that he’s more interesting when he’s presenting as himself, rather than a cutesy version of Mick Jagger. I think the reason I’m looking for authenticity in the work of One Direction members is because I’m rooting for them as interesting in their own right. Niall is superficially the least interesting member of 1D, but “This Town” feels inherently him — he’s not trying to be cool or sexy, he’s just doing the things he did in 1D, but by himself, and he’s doing them well. The signposts of authenticity are here — the acoustic guitar, the handwriting on the single cover — but the sentiment is genuine: lines like “If the whole world was watching I’d still dance with you” are lovely and unselfconscious. My favourite One Direction songs are the most earnest, the most authentically emotional, and “This Town” is so earnest, and — I think — authentically emotional too. I always thought Harry was my favourite, but maybe I was a secret Niall fan all along?

Cassy Gress: He’s just seen a face, he can’t forget the time and place where they had met. Everything comes back to her. Mmmm, da da da. This is harmless and inoffensive and earnest but also bland, and in the right context it’s a good song to curl up to, alone in bed.

Edward Okulicz: Calling it “This Town” feels like a self-conscious attempt to be “authentic” and “writerly.” It’s really hard to sell a song about a town; why not just call it “Everything Comes Back To You” or something, I wonder. Songs about girls are much easier to write and relate to. No such bluff was needed, the song works fine when it centres on the girl and gives off some decent singer-songwriter moves, but look, it’s no “Night Changes” now, is it?

Brad Shoup: It’s only halfway through I noticed the four-on-the-floor thumplet, crying to kick this thing into a millennial whoop. Instead, it kicks against folk-pop stasis, although Niall ends his chorus on a remarkable ponderousness, and his bridge is straight out of mid-period Elliott Smith.

Hannah Jocelyn: I don’t know if it’s the gorgeous vocal sound, the understated production (with quite the pedigree – hi, Greg Kurstin and hi again, Spike!) or, like, just the actual song, but “This Town” is far above average, yet surprisingly relaxing and easy to consume. It’s far less manipulative and douchey than someone like Shawn Mendes would be even in his most sensitive moments. Maybe it’s because he isn’t actually saying this to the girl – the whole thing sounds more like something he wishes he could say than an actual thing he’s saying to this other person. As if Niall’s character is just sitting on a park bench, gazing into the sky as he tries writing a song, making something up. There’s no “I’m better than him” lyrics, there’s just that repetition of “It’s so hard”, far from the most complex sentiment, but it doesn’t need to be complex. That innocence and honesty makes Niall sound not like just another guy with an acoustic guitar, but an unpretentious variation of another-guy-with-an-acoustic-guitar stumbling upon a lovely little tune. With three other writers, yes, but the delivery is all him.

Reader average: [7.5] (10 votes)

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2 Responses to “Niall Horan – This Town”

  1. j copperman – “like puth/etc but less douchey” is also a thought i had so thumbs up

  2. claire nailed it for me