- 13 Mar 20
Irish superstar returns with defiant break-up album.
Three years after making history with his globe-dominating solo debut, Flicker – which landed him among an exclusive club of just four Irish artists to score a No.1 album in the US – Niall Horan is back.
While his previous outing saw the Mullingar star mining into an acoustic guitar-led, folk rock-influenced sound, Heartbreak Weather finds him taking a defiant pop turn – with bright, soaring melodies, feel-good grooves and the customary lovelorn ballads, across 14 tracks that occasionally veer back into One Direction territory.
Inspired by a break-up, there's a powerful personal element to this record that was less obvious on Flicker. With writing credits on every track, Niall's plucky, refreshingly honest approach is one of Heartbreak Weather's most genuinely compelling features. In places, however, it takes the form of a concept album, as he explores the building up and breaking down of relationships.
Opening with the title track, Niall immediately introduces Heartbreak Weather as a more glittery and swaggering beast than its predecessor. Despite its title, the track lands with all the pounding confidence of an '80s pop hit, including elated synths and a punchy beat.
Even when embracing a radio-ready pop sound, Niall continues to wear his eclectic influences on his sleeve. 'Dear Patience' features subtle nods to David Gray – suggesting that, like most families in the country, the Horans had a White Ladder CD knocking around the house.
If The Weeknd had boyband roots, meanwhile, he might produce something like 'Small Talk'. The track is a standout, finding Niall teetering on the edge of the dark side with a grunge-flavoured, lust-pop energy.
Lead single 'Nice To Meet Ya' is the album's real highlight, however. Blending '00s rock and R&B elements, it's an unexpected direction from Niall – and wouldn't sound out of place on a record from his former bandmate Harry Styles, or a 'Let Me Go'-era Maverick Sabre.
Niall pulls back from the elation, too, on slower, piano-centred ballads like 'Put A Little Love On Me'. Although not particularly groundbreaking, these moments of vulnerability give Niall's vocals a chance to shine, particularly on the moving 'San Francisco'.
If pure, unapologetic pop is what you're after, then look no further. Whether Heartbreak Weather will repeat Flicker's chart magic remains to be seen – but Niall's sophomore album will certainly serve as another step on his path to international pop domination.
Heartbreak Weather is out now.
Pick up your copy of the new issue of Hot Press, featuring an in-depth interview with cover star Niall Horan, in shops now – or order below: