Arista Records & Syco Music · January 31, 2020
Walls opens with “Kill My Mind,” an interesting, but ultimately worthwhile choice as the album’s first song. Largely inspired by the rock style of Oasis, “Kill My Mind” provides excitement to an otherwise repetitive and boring LP.
Tomlinson is clearly inspired by his history with One Direction, which is obvious by his vague positivity and lack of individuality in his lyrics. “Don’t Let it Break Your Heart,” “Too Young,” and “Perfect Now” are a few examples that emphasize his continued connection to his old boy band. They feature lyrics such as, “You say to me your jeans don’t fit / you don’t feel pretty and it’s hard to miss” and “We were too young to know we had everything.” Tomlinson fails to get personal with his listeners, leaving a feeling of disconnect with the music.
Regarding “Perfect Now,” Tomlinson tells Apple Music, “Lyrically, it’s kind of an extension of ‘What Makes You Beautiful,’ One Direction’s first single. It was written quite deliberately as an attempt to write a fan favorite song.” It seems as though Walls was written with the intention to please former One Direction fans, rather than for Tomlinson to discover and develop his style as a solo artist.
Most of the songs on Walls rely on similar guitar instrumentals and background harmonies, but Tomlinson’s voice is certainly suited for the Britpop style he experiments with throughout the album. Yet, in the album’s title track “Walls,” Tomlinson’s voice is overshadowed by those very instrumentals. He keeps coming back to the ideas of hope and optimism, telling the listener, “These high walls never broke my soul.” However, nothing about the song’s production allows it to stand out enough that his listeners will remember these themes.
“Two of Us” is the most authentic song on Walls. In it, Tomlinson remembers his mother, Johannah Deakin, who died from cancer in 2016 at the age of 43. By sharing these feelings with his fans, he not only honors his mother’s memory, but allows his listeners to understand him on a deeper level. When he sings, “I can feel your blood run through me,” his listeners can’t help but feel his pain with him.
Throughout his LP, Tomlinson reflects on his youth, his experiences with love, and the challenges he has overcome. He looks to the future with hope, a mindset that could inspire his fans. However, he presents this hope in a mostly shallow way, relying on impersonal lyrics and pop production. Still, like Tomlinson has hope for the future, there is still hope for the future of his career. As this is only his first solo album, it only makes sense that he will only continue to grow as an artist and learn how to more authentically share the hope he holds inside.
Listen to Walls: