Niall Horan’s solo career thus far has been unpredictable, to say the least. His first single – the nostalgic and entirely lovely ‘This Town’ – was acoustic and simple, and set him up to move in a direction away from pop. This comes as no surprise to fans, who have watched Niall play his guitar on stage for years – the only member of One Direction to do so. He has always cited a wide range of influences, none of which were ever especially pop. However, second single – and hit of the summer – ‘Slow Hands’ was nothing like its predecessor. It threw a curveball – nobody could predict what the rest of Horan’s songs might sound like.
The beginning of Niall’s tour – the Flicker Sessions – gave fans an insight, and suggested that ‘Slow Hands’ was an anomaly. It was on this tour that he debuted the new single, ‘Too Much To Ask’, which was met with a couple of thousand enraptured faces each night. A few tears, too.
Thankfully, the studio version of the song delivers on what the live performances promised. The song has a distinctly autumnal vibe, with vocals that can only be described as soft and warm. The cosy effect is emphasised by the cover art of the single, which sees Horan sat on a bed – a bed with a mustard yellow duvet. As a piece, the song and artwork screams comfy jumpers and snuggling up by the fireplace. Not that Niall Horan should ever be trusted near a fireplace.
And yet, the subject of the song is definitely not about being comfortable and content. The lyrics speak of heartbreak, or feeling left behind by the one you love and not knowing how to move on. As Niall sings “Oh love, do you feel this rough? / Why’s it only you I’m thinking of?” in the pre-chorus, it’s hard not to see the tears in his eyes. It’s hard not to feel it echo within yourself – the knowledge that what you hope for is hopeless, but it’s not something you can let go of. The chorus increases this sense of desperation, begging to know that they too regret how things ended. It’s painful because it rings true to so many of us, and it rings true because it’s a beautifully crafted piece of music. We do not need to know about Niall’s love life to recognise the sincerity in this song – the music speaks for itself.
With easily one of the most achingly beautiful lines to come out of pop this year – “My shadow’s dancing without you for the first time” – ‘Too Much To Ask’ proves the Irishman’s emotional maturity, as well as his remarkable song-writing talents. He is not only able to put out big tunes – like ‘Slow Hands’ – but emotionally-driven songs that provide the sense of connection that music fans desire. Niall has always been far more than ‘the cute one in the back’ – as some viewed him in One Direction – but this is the song that is here to prove it the whole world, not just the fandom.
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