‘Lonely in Chicago’? So is Louis Tomlinson in Sophomore Album ‘Faith In The Future’

Courtesy of BMG Rights ManagementLouis Tomlinson's second solo studio album was released on Nov. 11.

In his second solo studio album “Faith In The Future,” pop singer Louis Tomlinson doesn’t have much new to say — but it works for him. It seems as though taking the beaten path is where he delivers his best work throughout the album. The album was released on Nov. 11. 

The opening track “The Greatest” started as Tomlinson’s vision of this album’s tour opener, he told EUPHORIA Magazine. It’s a decent tour opener but would be more at-home on the soundtrack of a mid-2010s dystopia movie. The song is pointlessly overdramatic and isn’t a great lead-off track for an album that goes on to be rather melancholic.

In the second track “Written All Over Your Face,” Louis Tomlinson shifts from seemingly pretending to be in the Dauntless faction of the fictional dystopian novel “Divergent” to pretending to be alt-rock band Arctic Monkeys. He was inspired by the Arctic Monkeys’ style and sound and used that inspiration to create “Written All Over Your Face,” the singer told EUPHORIA. However, that inspiration is not subtle.

The prominent bass, stripped-back production and even his line delivery have all the markings of a rock song right off Arctic Monkeys’ “AM.” With lines like “Hey, babe / It’s written all over your face, say it,” and “It’s hard enough to get you sober / Got no chance if I’m hungover,” the comparison is an easy one to make. 

The album’s third song “Bigger Than Me” is a return to the One Direction sound. Characterized by acoustic guitar melodies and laid back production, Tomlinson matures that sound for older audiences through ‘90s inspired guitar. 

 A coming-of-age anthem for the post-lockdown crowd, the song struggles with feelings of emotional claustrophobia and restlessness.

However, what the singer means when he says “It’s bigger than me / I’ve woken up from my sleep,” is unclear. The song doesn’t suffice as a political statement. Rather, it lies safely in the realm of clinically apolitical Bildungsroman ramblings.

In “Lucky Again,” the singer crafts his own unique sound built upon older genres. The song is distinctly Tomlinson’s sound, with a combination of a bright 2010s-esque piano melody and a One Direction flair Tomlinson mastered during his six years with the band. 

Grappling with change is a running theme throughout the album. While this is conveyed in “Face The Music,” it isn’t done in any spectacular way. Tomlinson’s songwriting trips, stumbles and falls over itself in the verses before pulling itself together in the hook. 

“I don’t wanna face the music but I still wanna dance with you,” he repeats in the chorus.

In “Chicago,” Tomlinson sings about the desire to reconnect with a lost love before eventually understanding “It just wasn’t meant to be.” It’s a song for recent divorcees and old divorcees alike. 

Tomlinson asks the subject of that former love to call him if she’s ever in Chicago, saying, “Just because it didn’t work doesn’t mean it’s meaningless to me.”

Tomlinson continues to find his voice through ballads like “All This Time,” which is in a league of its own compared to the rest of the album. The instrumentals, reminiscent of Tomlinson’s first album “Walls,” drowns out Tomlinson’s vocals as he whispers the things that make his life worth living.

“The friends we make, the love it takes / It’s worth, it’s worth, it’s worth it all this time,” Tomlinson sings.

“Out Of My System,” with lyrics only halfway to a tangible emotional experience, delivers production that tries to draw inspiration from bands like the Strokes and the 1975 — but instead falls somewhere between emulation and outright imitation.  

Out of nowhere, Tomlinson takes the listener to the beach with “Headline.” The singer chastises a former lover for judging him before knowing him atop an energized pop beat. The cheerful song sparks a thematic dissonance in its somber lyrics. At the same time, the acoustic guitar and isolated drums make the song sound like Tomlinson is serenading an annoyed and unwilling crowd at a bonfire. 

“She Is Beauty We Are World Class” is on another planet, both in production and lyricism. There is simply no way to decipher what Tomlinson is trying to say here without asking him directly. Every line sounds like he started writing with no clear idea of what to say next. 

This track isn’t the only strange outlier on the album, showing how Tomlinson can’t seem to figure out what he wants to do sonically. He spoke at length about his inspiration in his interview with EUPHORIA, but it seems as though can’t figure out where and how he wants to use that inspiration. 

“Faith In The Future” struggles to draw the line between inspiration and imitation, with many tracks sounding like unoriginal copies from other artists. Contrastingly, other songs seem altogether uninspired and thoughtless.

Tomlinson reiterates that he’s still ‘Jenny from the block’ throughout “Common People,” singing about the pressures of former One Direction fame and how going home to Doncaster in the United Kingdom gives him a sense of normalcy.

“Holding On To Heartache” cements Tomlinson’s struggle to adapt as he sings about the comfortable familiarity of the past and the uncertainty of the future. The mediocre song is ruined by a strange echo in the chorus, which sounds like someone singing underwater. 

Finally, with “That’s The Way Love Goes,” Tomlinson makes one final tribute to the acoustic One Direction sound with added soaring violins and somber, one-note piano strikes. He seems to have finally found the sound that fits him best — but it took him 16 songs to get there. 

When Tomlinson isn’t pretending to be someone else he delivers his best work. There isn’t much to be said for shining through the bad with mediocrity, however.   

“Faith In The Future,” along with the rest of Tomlinson’s discography, is now available on all major streaming platforms.

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