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defend the album is a lyrics-first blog by me, bradley fields, about the stories and moments I find in albums that matter to me. Almost always in fewer than 1,000 words.

Niall Horan's Flicker

Niall Horan’s Flicker has the rises and falls of someone working through relationship dynamics for the first time. And it sounds like he’s been listening to The Eagles, a lot.

She’ll dance in the dark—a real work of art; her eyes could burn down the room.

On the Loose is about being on the losing end of attraction to a woman who uses attraction as power. It’s definitely heavy on male gaze, but there’s agency in the trouble she causes (“She doesn’t know how to lose”).

Over and over the only truth: Everything comes back to you.

There’s circularity in This Town. There’s the emotional loop the lyrics draw. There’s also the airy guitar line driving the melody. Its repetition feels like Kacey Musgraves’s Merry Go ‘Round—an idea sturdied by “children playing in this fairground.” And that idea—wanting to go back to playful younger days—makes me think of Madonna’s This Used to Be My Playground.

Oh, my, my. You just took me by surprise.

Seeing Blind is about the beauty of the unexpected. It features Maren Morris, and her verse's first line, “My heart was always on the run,” is super on-brand (see also, “80s Mercedes”).

Like sweat dripping down our dirty laundry.

I think this Slow Hands lyric means he wants her stuck on him like sweat. Which, ok. But I’m still putting it next to Color Me Badd’s “Making love until we drown” in the pantheon of remarkably awkward metaphors about sex.

My shadow’s dancing without you for the first time.

Too Much to Ask is a plea to admit it hurts being apart. It’s about wanting more reciprocal closure.

We made our love out of stacks of cards.

Paper Houses is feeling that you believed too much and tried too fearlessly. It left you completely unprepared for the fate of that faith to be heartbreak, which, of course, you only realized when the house fell apart.

If you get lost in the light, it’s ok. I can see in the dark.

Niall makes promises in Since We’re Alone. It’s assurance (“If you put it all in my hand... I won’t break it all apart”).

I remember the magic electricity.

The title track seeps with mutual loneliness. Being in it together doesn’t save you, and you know that before you’ve admitted it to each other.

I will steady your hand when you’re losing your grip.

Fire Away is an invitation, much like Since We’re Alone, to trust. It’s offering to be the safe place to land.

All I’m asking for: a bit of patience, please.

The story of You and Me is that the now between us is happening for a reason or, more accurately, a worth. That means the moments described in the song aren’t so much rationale as justification. It’d be hollow for me to suggest my pursuits are for you, but if a better me would make a better us, there might be shared value in them.

Notes

Release date

October 20, 2017

Producers

AFTERHRS · Greg Kurstin · Jacquire King · Julian Bunetta · TMS

Writers

Alexander Izquierdo · Ben Kohn · Daniel Bryer · Daniel Dodd Wilson · Ed Drewett · Greg Kurstin · Iain Archer · Jamie Scott · John Henry Ryan · John Ryan · Julian Bunetta · Maren Morris · Matthew Smith Radosevich · Matt Rad · Mike Needle · Niall Horan · Pete Kelleher · Ruth-Anne "Rooty" Cunningham · Tobias Jesso Jr. · Tom Barnes

Talib Kweli's Radio Silence

Darius Rucker's When Was the Last Time