Louis Tomlinson didn’t get nearly as much solo time as the other four members of One Direction during 1D’s heyday. After the group released its 2014 album, Four, fans rallied for Louis’s sake, starting trends on Twitter and bringing posters to concerts begging for Louis to get the attention he deserved.
Since the boy band took a “break” in 2016, each respective member has moved onto a solo career. Harry has released two critically-acclaimed records, both of which stray drastically from the sound of One Direction. Zayn has also dropped two albums, and Niall and Liam have each put out a record. In late 2016, Tomlinson released his first single “Just Hold On,” beginning a series of singles that would be released over the course of the next three years, leading up to the release of his first studio solo album, Walls.
The album itself, while nowhere near as remarkable as Styles’s Fine Line, is also not as bad as Payne’s LP1. Tomlinson’s record has its moments of self-reflection buried beneath a bunch of ’90s-pop ripoffs. What is most disappointing about the album is not the quality — no one was expecting a masterpiece from Louis Tomlinson — but the lack of depth, considering what the singer has been through recently.
The band disbanded in 2015, and soon after, Louis had a child. Tomlinson lost his mother, and a couple years later, his younger sister. While Tomlinson is not required to make an album about the hard times in his life, his album fails to break through the surface to anything that gives us insight into Tomlinson’s personal life. Instead, real pain and heartache is masked with basic beats and identical instrumentals. And it’s palpable.
Walls feels like a missed opportunity. Louis doesn’t naturally possess the ability to sing with the same power as Harry or the same range as Zayn. He doesn’t have the same charm as Niall or the same control as Liam. What Louis does have is a sweet voice, a charming personality and a range of emotional experiences that could inspire and dictate his art. The album, filled with ballad after ballad, sounds like it could have a lot of substance, but the lyrics are lacking. When listening to the songs, you don’t hear anything emotionally poignant. Most are your typical, slow love songs — a niche that he is extremely comfortable with coming out of a boy band. No songs are atrociously bad — they just aren’t interesting. “Habit,” one of the more popular songs on the album, is enjoyable to listen to. The lyrics are just remarkably simple.
What makes the album the most disappointing is all the potential that is there. While he isn’t the most talented singer, he is extraordinarily passionate about music (his judging on the X-Factor or recruiting and signing his own talent). Watching interviews with him reveals his aptitude for music and how much it has shaped his life. Even with Walls, a very stereotypical pop-ballad album, there is a clear Oasis influence — proof of Louis channeling a very specific style of music that he loves. He has the ability to create music; he just needs to figure out how to dig deeper.