Niall Horan – The Show

'The Show' is a collection of songs about love and fear, but more than that, it's a collection of songs filled with hope.

Label: Capitol Records
Released: 9th June 2023

When Niall Horan released his second album, ‘Heartbreak Weather’, in 2020, it was met with considerable acclaim and a lot of cancelled plans as the world shut down in the face of the global pandemic. Born out of the period of intense introspection that followed, and brought to life through a return to the songwriting form that shaped debut album ‘Flicker’, with ‘The Show’ Niall’s not just at his career best, he’s having the time of his life in the process.

“I’m a specialist at overthinkin’ everything,” he sings on ‘Must Be Love’, “I’ll tell you all about it if you have the time.” Through the ten-track duration of ‘The Show’, that’s exactly what he does. Learning to lean through fear and trust his instincts isn’t just a song topic on the album closer; it’s an energy that runs through all of these songs and makes this record shine. More intimate when it wants to be, and bigger and brighter when it wants that too (hello, sax solos!), this is an artist at the top of their game.

If there was ever any doubt as to his songwriting prowess, look no further than the album’s title-track. A masterclass in dynamics and in sincere, earnest songwriting, this is the beating heart of the record. Stripped back piano? Sweeping orchestral movements? Emotional weight and theatricality that wouldn’t feel out of place in a movie-musical? ‘The Show’ has it all (let’s take a moment to appreciate that triumphant key change, yeah?) – and that’s just one song.

Not just an out-and-out banger, ‘Meltdown’ was purpose-written as a message of reassurance for fans in the moments they might need it. “Just know this too shall pass,” Niall sings in the song’s pulse-raising verse, crafting a euphoric chorus out of the promise that “when it all melts down I’ll be there”.

‘On A Night Like Tonight’ is a straight-up anthem, glittering with summer stardust and complete with a drop that’ll have your soul ascending straight into outer space (get us in a field with a drink in one hand and this song being played on stage, stat). Cosmic and contagious, the track is a hip-swaying ode to ephemeral feeling and the burning desire to make something that can last. Which is exactly what this song will do, with riffs that’ll bounce around your head for days.

Though they are plentiful, it’s not just the Big Pop Moments™ that shine here. ‘Never Grow Up’ breathes fresh life into romance through a series of endearingly domestic portraits. ‘You Could Start A Cult’ is similarly enamoured. Behind its tongue-in-cheek title (because isn’t it human nature to hide our rawest emotions behind something light-hearted?) is an expression of love that feels all the more heart-wrenching for its simplicity.

Characteristically candid, ‘The Show’ is a collection of songs about love and fear, but more than that, it’s a collection of songs filled with hope. Whether you’re seeking it, sustaining it, or somewhere in between, these songs are here for you. So, in the words of the title-track, “hold tight, get ready for the ride.”

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