26-year-old English singer Liam Payne (perhaps best known as a former One Direction member) released his debut solo album on Friday. Payne found chart success in 2017 and 2018 with catchy singles like “Strip That Down” (with Quavo) and “For You” (with Rita Ora), but his first full-length release, titled LP1, feels underwhelming after the long wait.
The collection of songs on this album feel too bland and too purposely contrived to be chart hits, and it makes it seem like Payne is still looking for his sound. He picks elements of what’s popular now and mixes them all together, but not in a groundbreaking or new way.
That’s not to say there are no good tracks. “Remember,” a slower but still upbeat song about missing an ex, is pretty catchy, and “All I Want (For Christmas)” is a melancholy piano-backed Christmas love letter to a troubled relationship that lets Payne’s vocals shine. And “Familiar,” a 2018 collaboration with Colombian reggaeton artist J Balvin is a fun summer-tinged song and a good alternative to the overplayed “Despacito.”
The trouble is that the songs, taken as an album, aren’t all that memorable, and they’re repetitive, both lyrically and sonically. So repetitive that while they’re catchy sometimes, they won’t stick long-term. They’re like mediocre dollar-store chocolate—tasty in the moment, but not something you’ll buy again next time you crave a sugar boost.
All of Payne’s previous singles are included and stacked toward the end of the album, and the inclusion of songs that were initially released over two years ago raises the question of whether he was just trying to fill space. Or perhaps he was trying to boost the palatability by including songs that were already well-received.
Payne may be trying to stay relevant by tapping into trends, but they don’t always work for him. The result is an album that lacks personality and depth and doesn’t do anything for the vocal or songwriting abilities that Payne demonstrated while in One Direction.