Louis Tomlinson: The Beauty And the Vulnerability in His Music
Update on: Feb 1, 2022.
After a wait of six whole years and postponing the tour indefinitely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, singer-songwriter Louis Tomlinson returns to the road for the first time as a solo artist. He has been rehearsing for this world tour since the beginning of this year and is super pumped to finally be performing for live fans. While we celebrate and enjoy, Louis Tomlinson’s world tour, here is a glimpse at his decade-long career, comprising of his days in One Direction and his gradual journey of self-discovery in the solo career.
Often at the receiving end of fan hysteria, and riding the pop boy-band fame at its peak, everyone has heard of One Direction. After banding together during X-factor 2010, the group - composed of Zayn Malik, Harry Styles, Niall Horan, Liam Payne, and Louis Tomlinson enjoyed half a decade in a tremendous spotlight before gradually disbanding. But of them all, the powerful and potent lyricism Louis employs intrigues me the most. His flair for uplifting moods, along with rejuvenating happiness and hope, among his listeners comes through with his songs. His words can ebb and flow with inspiration and motivation, a refuge for listeners who seek comfort in his art. I present an ode to his path of self-realization, reminiscing his journey as an artist, who came into his own in the last decade.
"I come running into you like a moth into the flame,
Wish I didn't need so much of you,
I hate to say, but I do"
The experience of simply listening to him vocalise his philosophical-hopeful lyrics is so immensely immersive and inspiring that I now have a diamond tattoo etched forever on my hand, reminiscing the words- “You once told me don’t give up, you can do it day by day, diamonds, they don’t turn to dust or fade away”.
(Credits: Author) Louis Tomlinson vinyl with the aforementioned tattoo.
Self-confidence is an essential tool for every artist who creates and puts a part of themselves out there. Louis Tomlinson, with his now evocative lyricism and haunting vocals, undertook a long journey to get there.
In a decade, Louis Tomlinson went from being an influential group member of One Direction to being a judge for a reality show. From staggering to finding his own footing in a solo career, to finally releasing his debut album in January 2020, his road has been full of hiccups, but has nevertheless established a rugged foundation for the definite escalation of his career in the following decade.
Until 2015, Louis Tomlinson was a feisty and charismatic mischief-maker in one of the most epic boy bands of the recent past. The spine of the band, Louis contributed as an excellent lyricist and created the banger songs that the band is affiliated to today. Unfortunately, when the band decided to go on an indefinite hiatus in 2015, Louis’ future began looking cloudy.
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Never the recipient of appreciation or acknowledgment for the band’s success, Louis was, in fact, criticised for his vocals and often regarded as the weakest band member. He considered himself as the most forgettable among the five, and in retrospect, admitted that his self-esteem was at an all-time low.
While he initially planned to play to his strengths and only be a lyricist, helping other artists create beautiful songs and albums,he began feeling a sense of ownership towards his work of art and decided to venture into vocalization. An indomitable support system for his fledgling solo career, his mother was instrumental in him facing his fears and pursuing his passion. But while Louis Tomlinson faced a plethora of difficulties professionally, his personal life was far more devastating. He lost his mother (44) to leukemia and then his younger sister (18) to a drug overdose. In a heartbreaking detail, Louis performed his first solo song, Just Hold On, on 10th December, 2016, three days after his mother passed away on 7th December, 2016.
Louis Tomlinson with his mother, Johannah Deakin (Image courtesy: Dave J Hogan, 2015)
In a circumstance brimming with emotional gravity, the song implores listeners to hold on to life and happiness.
Despite the personal setbacks and shaky beginnings of his solo career, Louis Tomlinson persisted, calling his mother’s words of encouragement to mind.
"I promised you, I'd do this,
So all of this is all for you,
Oh, I swear to God, you're living,
Through everything, I'll ever do"
- Haunting lyrics from Two of Us dedicated to his mother.
In the year 2017, Louis Tomlinson released three singles titled Just Like You, Back To You ft. Bebe Rexa and Miss You.
Just Like You foreshadows the music Louis Tomlinson would subsequently create. Written with an intent to communicate the humane side of being an artist, the lyrics were simple, honest, and raw. He wanted to capture and reflect his personal life, giving a glimpse of the all-too-human hardships he faced behind the curated media facade. The song evokes empathy for the artist. You feel the trials and tribulations of a life full of fame. This was the first time Louis touched upon his vulnerable side.
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However, he was still evidently struggling to find the right kind of music.
These singles attempted to chase commercial success yet they couldn’t help the artist gain enough attention, recognition, and validity. They all attempted to follow the commercial formula to gain quick mass appeal and skyrocket to success as hit songs. The creators were trying to chase radio charts rather than creating songs that were true to Louis’ more emotional and intuitive musical style and influences.
Despite being lyrically strong, the forced songs were produced and promoted in a manner that did not ring true to Louis’s talent.
While fans were quick to figure out the pattern and felt slightly disheartened, they focused on the silver lining. Despite the unsuccessful songs, Louis hadn’t lost touch of his magic to write exceptional lyrics, and loyalist fans demonstrated immense support towards him. The next year kept Louis occupied as the judge of the music reality show, The X Factor, where he began his journey. He maintained the same zeal and passion approach towards art and artists, which reflected in his honest opinions on the show.
Meanwhile, behind the scenes, he seemed to be going back to the basics for creating his music. He sought creative inspiration and let his instincts steer him to create art, listening to artists like Arctic Monkeys, Oasis, etc.
Come 2019-2020, Louis Tomlinson dropped his promotional singles and finally, after a five-year-long path full of twists and barbs, his debut album Walls.
Walls as an album is overflowing with variety and experimentation of style. From rock, brit-pop, pop-rock crossover, indie rock, modern pop-country vibes to emotional ballad, this album has it all. Certain songs bear notable influence from artists like Oasis, Vertical Horizon, and Blink 182. The album is highly guitar-driven with beautiful production work on percussion.
After all these years, Louis had finally found the essential core of his music. While reflecting on the creation of Walls, Louis admitted that in the initial years of his solo career, he relied a lot on others for working on his music. It was during Walls that he finally felt self-reliant. After a lot of soul-searching and going back to his musical idols, he found comfort in creating a variety of musical styles.
"I took sometime 'cause I ran out of energy,
Of playing someone I heard I supposed to be
But honestly, I don't have to choose anymore "
- Habit (2020)
There are certain stand-out songs in the album. Two of Us, an emotional ballad dedicated to his mother, featuring extremely moving lyricism. Walls, the title track, is the artist’s personal favourite, teeming with heart-felt vulnerability and powerful lyrics. The song provides a sense of liberation and openness and yet advocates the ability of finding power in being susceptible. Only The Brave is starkly different, with only a guitar and Louis’ vocals giving it a scratchy old vinyl effect. It is poetry turned into a melody. Since Only The Brave is the closing track, it strategically leaves listeners yearning for more.
"Nothing wakes you up like waking up alone"
~ Artist's favorite lyrics from Walls, the title track.
Walls has been loved by the fandom to no bounds. Despite it being almost two years since the album was released, the fandom is still creating new streaming records.
While Louis is sticking to and carrying forward the One Direction music style, he is leaving behind the band culture of chasing radio charts and the next big single. He intends to focus on great choruses. However, he is expanding the existing style and adding dynamics to it making it more personalised and refined, in a thoughtful journey to better art that shows no signs of ending yet.
The past few months have been wonderful for the artist. It was reported that the online charity concert he conducted last year, broke the Guinness World Record for the highest tickets sold by a male artist in 2021. Apart from that, in a generous attempt to pay back to his fans, he distributed free merchandise and free vinyl for certain lucky winners was lucky enough to be one of the hundred and fifty people across the world to win a vinyl in the giveaway. I understand firsthand the kind of love and support the fans and the artist-who has stayed humble and grounded despite scaling new heights every year- mutually share. It is a beautiful, loyal and strong bond.
He organised his first festival this year, something he wanted to do since his time in the band, and in a stroke of generosity, charged nothing for the tickets while handling all financial charges himself. The applauded Away from Home festival was performed on 30th August and was live-streamed alongside a behind-the-scenes documentary on 4th September. The documentary provided an undisguised insight into Louis’ vocal training session and his nervousness about producing and performing such an event. Post the nerve-wracking 18 months pandemic pause, it was a great way to reconnect with his fans, supporting them by helping them feel attached to the artist himself.
The road ahead for Louis Tomlinson isn’t easy, since he still hasn’t gained his well-deserved recognition. However, he seems to have finally found his footing, creating genuine music rooted in unfettered emotions for fans around the world to relate to.
With Copy of a Copy of a Copy and Change, his unreleased songs, he has proven that he is going to continue to emphasise hopeful and uplifting lyrics while channeling his personal emotions and insecurities. He is open to having his vulnerabilities heard by his listeners. The artist has spent most of 2021 working on his next album which is expected to release in the first half of 2022. As Louis and his fans would say - Faith in the Future!
Authors Note - Wish you a very Happy Birthday Louis
"Tell me do you still remember feeling young"
I am sure everything's changed outside but you feel the same inside.
Author Biographical Note: Vanshika Lakhani is pursuing her degree in Mass Communications and Journalism from Jai Hind College. She is also an alumnus of St. Xavier’s College from where she studied Arts. She reviews films, web-shows, books, and music. Her reviews have also been published on other portals like Film Companion and Café Dissensus Everyday. She is a huge content enthusiast and enjoys talking to people who tell her about new content to consume. Now she is associated with Explore Screen: The Cognitive Dialogue as an intern.
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