The Show is a cohesive, eloquent, and enchanting addition to Horan’s repertoire. The album opens on a single the artist had painfully teased for several weeks before sharing with the world — “Heaven.” This is a song made for the stage, one that would resound through an auditorium at the pivotal scene of a drama. Brimming with theatrical grandiose, this song gives the listener a taste of the sonic and lyrical potential of the album. True to its name, an ethereal atmosphere wafts across the track.
Horan begins with “Strange light revolves around you/ You float across the room,” bestowing his lover with a near-mythical quality. This only grows stronger when he later says “It’s hard to be a human/So much to put an answer to.” It almost feels like we might be something ethereal too, and we’re looking how to be human. Here is where we start, in a world that is grand and magical. So it is only right that love is too.
Love, in this album, is an endless promise, and each track is a new expression of unbridled affection. “If You Leave Me” speaks of the baseless late-night fears that still leave you aching for assurance. And so he says, “If you leave me/ Hope you know that you’re sentencing me to a life on my knees.” In “Meltdown,” Horan is on the other end of reassurance, guaranteeing that even when everything else falls apart, his love will be the one thing that won’t. Bathed in the glow of this love, the beloved is described through graceful lyricism such as “Your touch is made of something/ Heaven can’t hold a candle to” and “You are so much more than beautiful to me.”
The Show innovates the ways in which a person can vow boundless devotion to another. This is not because Horan says things that never have been said before. Singing about love, after all, is one of the few traditions that have steadfastly weathered the test of time.
Rather, the album’s allure lies in its refreshing ease and joy, unparalleled by anything other than perhaps a children’s storybook. In a kid’s story, there is a straightforward way that the world works. When someone does good, they receive good. When someone works hard, they achieve their dreams. And when someone says “I love you,” they mean it forever. There is no world where love is not eternal, and if such a world existed, it would be unbearable. So, love is always new because there is no such thing as love that does not last. And that’s why each time Horan promises his love on this album, it feels like he’s discovering it.
In key moments of the record, Horan turns his attention to the jagged pieces of life, but with his trademark optimism. In the titular song laid in the middle of the ten tracks, he speaks of life as sometimes a board game and at times a dance floor. But Horan is consistent in his ability to keep his eye on the “light creepin’ through under broken skies,” simply saying that if not for all the difficulties, how would we recognize the good?
In the final song, Horan confesses to something he never gave us cause to think– trusting love can be hard. In the turmoil of fear and overthinking, he sometimes finds it challenging to follow his heart. So what’s the answer? How to go from doubt to the reverent, unfailing love woven into the bones of this record? The answer is as simple as the doubt is complicated: “If it feels like lo-lo-lo-lo-love/ If it feels like love/ Then it must be love”
The Show is an album for someone who needs their faith in love restored. This is a place where you encounter love stories as if for the first time. Horan’s easy earnestness shows love in all its fairy-tale charm, where promises are freely made and endlessly kept. To borrow his own words, The Show is an album that is so much more than beautiful.
Album cover courtesy of Capitol Records
Rating - 9/10