The Show: The Encore

The Show: The Encore

The Show finds Niall Horan three albums removed from his career beginnings as a member of one of the world’s biggest boy bands, but the hallmarks of One Direction’s musical sensibilities—bright, uptempo pop-rock melodies and big, memorable choruses—remain a key part of his own artistic identity. This is due, in part, to the presence of the Irish singer-songwriter’s near-constant collaborators, Julian Bunetta and John Ryan, whose contributions to One Direction’s rise are analogous to those of Swedish hitmaker Max Martin and the Backstreet Boys. The Show introduces producer Joel Little—best known for his work with Lorde and Taylor Swift—to this winning creative mix, spiking the velvety warmth of Horan’s pop tones with an icy cool which complements the isolated yet intimate lockdown reflections that inspired much of the project’s lyrical themes. The sonic sweet spot Horan hit immediately with his debut solo release, Flicker, provides a rock-steady base for him to venture down more explorative songwriting avenues here. Cowrites from talent such as Caroline Ailin (Dua Lipa, Selena Gomez), Amy Allen (Harry Styles, Olivia Rodrigo), and JKash (Charlie Puth, Maroon 5) contribute flavors of funk, ’80s synth, and dreamy power pop, underlining the versatility of the star’s appeal. The deluxe release, fittingly retitled The Show: The Encore, highlights Horan’s impressive live chops—a recording of lead single “Heaven” in particular, taken from his headlining performance at Ireland’s Electric Picnic festival, perfectly captures the atmospheric magic of communal music experiences. Elsewhere, reworked versions of “You Could Start a Cult” and “The Show” invite Lizzy McAlpine and John Legend respectively to impress their own distinctive touch on Horan’s mellow balladry. His choice of duet partners—a rising star and a veteran icon—positions him perfectly as an artist generous in sharing his spotlight with promising newcomers without being outshone when he himself steps into someone else’s. As he brings this era to a close, Horan has more than earned the right to take one last bow.

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