Arista/78, 2020

Pop/Pop rock/Britpop

It’s something that’s inevitable for every boy band or girl group. Whether they break up or not, their members will always release solo albums. There are some exceptions to the rule, like Justin Timberlake, but in general the solo releases are never as successful as the group albums. With the release of Walls, every member of One Direction has now put out a solo effort. A couple were better than others but they’re pretty much following the same trend. I’m not even really a fan of 1D, but there is a certain something they have all together that none of them have quite delivered on their own. Walls is no exception, but now the question is exactly how short it falls.

It’s not uncommon for boy band members to try and brand themselves with a specific style when they try to strike out on their own. For the most part, the 1D guys have stayed pretty close to generic pop. Harry spread out a little on his last album and Niall played around with some acoustic guitars and a hint of folk pop, but that’s about as far as anyone had gone successfully. With Walls, Louis appears to be branding himself as the Britpop guy, more specifically the Oasis-style Britpop guy. This is apparent from the first song where he sings with a cadence that sounds like Liam Gallagher. And this same voice comes back along with Oasis-style melodies on nearly half of the tracks on the album, and the title track even has a very “Wonderwall”-esque drum fill (there’s actually a couple hints at “Wonderwall” on the album).

That’s not to say that an Oasis influence is a bad thing. There’s a reason they were one of the most popular British bands of the ’90s. They’ve probably influenced dozens, if not hundreds of artists. The problem comes when the influence crosses a line into just copying, and then copying to the extent that it’s distracting. And that’s a line that this album crosses, a lot. It’s not really saved by the rest of the tracks, either. They’re all pretty generic pop or acoustic ballads that teenage girls will latch onto and teenage boys will play to impress those same girls. One in particular, “Perfect Now,” feels like it’s trying to be this decade’s “Hey There Delilah,” but it makes more sense in the context of this pop album than “Delilah” did on a pop-punk album.

Lyrically, Louis does rise above your typical vapid pop on a couple tracks. The first is “Two of Us,” a track dedicated to Tomlinson’s mother, who died in 2016 after a bout with leukemia. In it, he promises to live on in her memory with a bright vision for the future. Another instance is “Too Young,” and while it does basically follow the trope of being too young to fully realize what love is, it kind of approaches it from a different angle. Here Tomlinson is apologizing for giving into the pressure of others telling him he was too young and cutting off a relationship in a bad way. So the way I’m hearing it is he admits he was too young to understand true love, but also too young to realize that what they had probably could have lasted…? Maybe? I don’t know, but to me it’s a little refreshing despite the overall trope of the song. The rest of the lyrics on the album don’t really present much to write home about, but he does manage to avoid truly cringe-inducing lyrics for the most part.

Overall, Walls isn’t a terrible album, but it’s not a particularly good one, either. It’s greatest sin is ripping off Oasis, and there are far worse musical sins that one can commit. But it is a pervasive sin, nonetheless. Beyond that, there are two lyrical bright spots and the rest of the tracks are pretty forgettable pop. I don’t fault Louis for trying to give himself an identity outside of One Direction, but he really should have tried to find his own instead of adopting someone else’s.