Fine Line (Album Theory)

Produced By: Jeff Bhasker, Kid Harpoon, Tyler Johnson, Greg Kurstin, & Sammy Witte

Page One: The Success Of Fine Line & My General Interpretation

Page Two: My Fine Line Theory (Track-By-Track)

Page Three: My Videos For The Album

Fine Line. The album that created a baby.

Idc, idc, come for me.

Wait. Ok, let’s start over…

Fine line. What a sensation! The romance! The dizzying success! The global and historical impact! She is a record-breaking triumph and rightfully so. This album and it’s creator are more than deserving of all the recognition they have received over the past couple of years, and will continue to receive for decades to come.

Now, let’s briefly name a few of this project’s greatest achievements to date (because God knows she’s still collecting accolades left and right! I can’t keep up with them all. Seriously!)

Since this album is still selling like hotcakes a year and a half later, and charting on the Billboard Top 200 every week, I took the liberty of researching it’s latest chart position, which is: #18. For reference, some of the other 1D members struggled to achieve a Top 20 chart position in their album release week, and even if they did, they usually fell off the chart the following week. Harry is still charting in the Top 20 (sometimes even higher) over a year and a half after his album release. Wtf?? It’s already 2x platinum and it hasn’t even been 2 years yet! To this day he sells more albums a week than some of the other boys sold in their album release weeks. It’s simply unbelievable.

At some point you have to ask why?? Is it due to bribes? Witchcraft? Prostitution? I’ve literally heard people accuse him of all three lol. I even tried to answer why Harry’s success is so unheard of in comparison to his four counterparts in this video:

I’ve sung the praises of Fine Line (ad nauseum) for over a year and a half now. I know you’re tired of hearing about it, so I’ll try to keep the rest of this post brief (yeah right lol. ) I prefer to make individual posts on my favorite songs anyway, so this will be an overview for those individual song analysis coming soon!

Upcoming Song Analysis:

  1. Golden
  2. Adore You
  3. Lights Up
  4. Sunflower Vol 6
  5. Falling
  6. To Be So Lonely
  7. Fine Line

I have a little-known theory about the story behind this album. (Obviously. When don’t I have a theory?) And I don’t believe I’ve ever discussed that theory in public anywhere (except maybe briefly on Twitter.) So I’ll attempt to do that here on the next page. But I also want to say, I believe this album is first and foremost a journey of self, not necessarily an album about Zayn. (I know you’re all like “bitch please you’ve been relating this album to Zayn nonstop since it dropped.” Yes, I have! But you guys don’t understand what I mean yet lmao. Let me explain!)

This album charts Harry’s self-discovery as an individual, as an artist, and lastly as a man secretly in love with his brown-skinned ex-bandmate. All three (and many more) interpretations can be true at once. I think it tells a momentous story of barely mitigated honesty, which was a sacrifice Harry deemed necessary to understand certain aspects of his identify he worked so hard to conceal from the public.

His relationship with Zayn (which came during a seriously formative time in his life) became a major influence on how he viewed the world at large and what he expected from it. Therefore, I think their relationship impacted him in both positive and negative ways. Without question, it damaged him. I’m certain it gave him much ecstasy and optimism at times, but equal amounts of misery and despair. And I’m certain while he values (or valued) their chemical/physical bond, he regrets it in a lot of ways because of the impact on his mental health (based on the lyrics and riotous video of “Lights Up”).

Harry’s relationship with Zayn was conflicting (to say the least.) I believe it confused him a great deal while he grew up under the spotlight, with expectations from the public that he ought to have been girl-crazed and licentious, forcing him to battle rumors of being a womanizer from early on. I can’t begin to imagine the cognitive dissonance he must’ve experienced at this stage in his life, developing strong feelings for another male (who was content to remain with females in the public eye despite his relations with Harry behind closed doors) while the media was accusing Harry himself of objectifying women. Damn, they couldn’t have been more wrong.

Everyday he was being told he must desire females (which he very well may have) yet all the while he was head over heels for another male—-his freaking bandmate! Their relationship was supposed to be professional. Wholesome. Platonic. Yet, somewhere along the way, they took a detour down an altogether different route, one that forced them to question and then suppress their sexuality, one that distorted their self-perception; and one that doomed them to a life of strife few could endure.

I had an interesting task at hand when trying to do even a modicum of justice to the Zarry relationship in This Thing Upon Me; attempting to get down into the crux of what must be an incredibly complex reality for Harry. What’s worse is that no one knows he is dealing with this (except a few highly observant and open-minded fans. Us!)

So in the book, it was difficult to navigate a world where he was unable to express these crippling feelings to anyone, least of all Zayn. The difficulty I had in writing about this alienation from a third-party perspective causes me great concern for how long he endured it in real life for so many years.

Harry’s strength and patience and forgiving nature inspire me greatly, which is something I began to realize after he released Fine Line. So does his seemingly immortal love for Zayn. It’s the stuff of novels or Nicholas Sparks movies, which is why I had so much fun trying to build a story around this love; narrating his journey through sex, music, and the tribulations of both his heart and mind.

Fine Line reads to me like a diary of the most turbulent chapters of Harry’s adult life. Sure, it covers the self-reflection that led to his enlightenment and ultimately his self-acceptance, but I think a prerequisite for his acceptance of himself was taking the time to be “open” and honest about his time with Zayn. It has, after all, been the most staggering relationship of his life. I don’t doubt that for a second.

It was not a fleeting affair like all of his other public lovers. His relationship with Zayn strikes me as being an integral part of who Harry is today (something he suggests himself in “Golden.”) I think without his relationship with Zayn, he would have become a completely different person. I believe Zayn helped him to understand himself through a difficult lens, one that often challenged everything he thought he was. And again, while I believe his love for Zayn has brought him much happiness, I also believe it brought him tons of self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy. Furthermore (and this is what I believe is the most toxic aspect of this relationship) it caused him to question his worth as a male, in comparison to all of Zayn’s females.

It is my theory that this relationship may have conflicted his understanding of gender at some point, and whether or not he should appreciate or shun his masculinity in order to make himself more desirable for the person he loved most. That’s just my personal thoughts on the matter, which I explored a little in TTUM as well.

Following this journey of self-discovery (which he undoubtedly is still on like the rest of us) I believe Harry wound up in a far healthier place today; one where he accepts both the masculine and feminine aspects of his identify. He accepts himself in all his beautiful, remarkable hues, and values what he feels whenever he feels it, with or without Zayn’s approval. I think that is a major theme of “Lights Up,” which is why I spoke about it in such depth in that post.

Fine Line is a remarkable album because it is essentially saying: “I NOW know who I am, do you even know who you are? Who dares to challenge what I believe about myself? Who dares to keep me in the dark? I accept and value myself, whether you accept and value me or not. I am not afraid or ashamed to love you, regardless of whether you are afraid and ashamed to love me.”

So no, I don’t think this album is about Zayn strictly speaking. It’s about Harry being honest with himself first and foremost, and of course a major part of that is being honest about the greatest love of his life. This album is an inadvertent indictment of Zayn. It is a challenge for him to evaluate who he is as well, so they can determine whether it’s possible for them to move forward together or not. In about 50 years when the truth comes out, this record will be 100x more powerful than it is now. All of their music will be for that matter.

“We’ll be a fine line.” Is one of the most romantic and tragic compromises I’ve ever heard. And he repeats it in such a haunting refrain. And although after Khai it seems the challenge in Fine Line was to little avail, it did succeed in the sense that: despite the Zigi baby and despite the public clinginess of Gigi, Zayn released a self-reflective album of his own, where he attempts to respond to the challenge of Fine Line (especially with “Tightrope.”)

Fine Line is a diary of who Harry became after One Direction, both as a musician and a lover, and how he eventually ended up at an impasse that pitted accepting himself against concealing who he was to please Zayn. And I think he ultimately chose the former, which is why Zarry fell apart to some degree after late 2018. (IN MY OPINION)

PAGE TWO: My Fine Line Theory (Track By Track)

58 thoughts on “Fine Line (Album Theory)

  1. When analyzing the relationship between H and Z a couple of things should not be forgotten. The “normal” growth progression and development stopped when 1D began. They were thrust out of their soc

    1. When analyzing the relationship between H and Z, there are unique factors to consider. “Normal” development for a 16+ boy stopped when 1D began. Their lives no longer revolved around school, friends, going to the movies, parties & dates. Plus they lost the ability to go out whenever they wanted. They were no longer treated like avg. teenage boys. This changed who they were and impacted future relationships. They had to become guarded about their feelings, could no longer have “normal” dates and lost many of the freedoms we enjoy. In addition, they didn’t get “down time” which would have helped them maintain some normalcy.

      For Zayn, who reportedly is ADHD, this lifestyle had a greater impact on his ability to relate and communicate w/ others. I’ve worked with teens with ADHD for 12 years..When reading your doc. I began to suspect that Zayn was ADHD and upon researching I found an article that confirmed. With ADHD there are so many internal issues to balance that , under stress, you tend to withdraw into yourself and shut others out. Trust is hard because you feel “different”. Also, this condition causes a person to hyper-focus on random issues and have trouble focusing on others…which can cause additional stress. One of the most prevalent traits is impulsivity. You can see these traits in Zayn and the impact it had on his relationships especially w/ Harry. While ADHD is treatable, it typically requires counseling, to help deal with the fears and insecurities. I doubt he had any type of counseling while in the band.

      Honestly, the fact that H & Z were able to development and maintain a relationship under all these conditions is IMO what makes their story so special. Even more so when you consider the depth of their love that survived (survives) years. While most of us wonder how Harry has been so patient all this time, I think it is because he understands Zayn on a level that none of us can.

      1. @Annieb this insight is so interesting the 1D life was anything but normal and likely caused arrested development in some areas and weirdly fast forwarded in others… the pressure must have been huge at times
        The adhd possible diagnosis makes sense so interesting and I think you are right it made a bond of understanding,support and inter dependancy between them. I kinda think they are still working things out and hope they can find some peace together or apart and can honour their history … life is always a work in progress

      2. Can’t believe I didn’t click. I can see a lot of my own traits in Z, but only just getting used to the idea of being ADHD myself, haha. I’m hyper focusing on this right now. I recently found out that we get thousands more instances of rejection in early childhood and it doesn’t ever stop tbh. Easy to see looking back. Honestly I’m amazed they all made it out of 1D alive. I loathe “gods above” who treated them all with so little care. But it was just about wringing as much money out of them as quickly as possible, because boy bands usually have a short shelf life. Unsurprisingly. Cowell said he was walking off a cliff when Z walked out. I hope he reflects on how he treated them all. It’s clear how they feel about him now, lol.

  2. I truly appreciate, A.D., how you put your thoughts and emotions into words and allow an open forum for discussion. When it comes to Harry and Zayn, I sometimes don’t understand what is or isn’t real. But I do love the Fine Line album and how Harry poured out his soul.

    For some reason, I keep going back to a song from the past when I attempt to understand even a fragment of their relationship. ‘Once Upon a Time’ by Dan Fogelberg. (Headphones a must.)

    It’s time for me to step off the Zarry train…

  3. I love this album so much. It’s everything about it; ofc lyrically (he’s so open, honest and vulnerable) but also sonically and vocally… wow, the versatility! The music video’s are art too and even down to the promo, everything was perfectly done.

    I adore Harry so much. ‘Treat people with kindness’ IS Harry, it’s him, and that says a lot about a person. He works so hard and has to be very strong too (I could never have ‘done zarry’ like him with the 1D life and later on with a scary new time of a solo career), he truly deserves each and every praise he and his work gets. It hurts my soul when I see him so worn out. Even with all the succes of his sophomore album listed above and when he’s taking over the world with boundary breaking movies and covers, he always looks tired or his beautiful smile doesn’t reach his eyes anymore.
    At this point I want Z to ‘complete’ HIS self discovery journey – he finally seems to have started with ‘tightrope’ and with his comics – for himself 1000%, but also so Harry can finally have all of him. Yes, I want H to experience love like he has for Z (I say ‘has’ bc I don’t think it’s just a ‘had’ yet) with anyone for that matter, but I want it to be with Z bc Harry deserves that; baby should get whatever he always wanted now, so his wait would’ve indeed been worth it 🥺

    As for the album analysis, beautiful as always! I think your theory about the 2018 breakup is very probable and portrayed by Harry himself in side B of FL. I’d like to think that it was actually during the FL period (the gap year?) that Z went through the writing process of NIL and maybe finally opened up to H emotionally which could’ve been enough for H who just wanted anything at all; that would explain why we still see possible zarry connections now, after all the zigi drama. That would be so contradicting though. Z seems more put off with the zigi drama than ever before but he keeps it going, but it was H who seemed to have really put his foot down discarding these deflecting games since FL. I just don’t see how you go back to saying ‘I’m hoping someday I’M open’ and would be ‘okay’ with Z having a child this time and publicly distancing himself from you more and more (the grammy diss, and God I hope he didn’t say something nasty about H’s Vogue cover, that would break my heart, especially since I hadn’t even thought about how H might’ve felt he needed to be whatever notion Z has of him as his ‘sHe’ even pre ‘girl crush’; to bash him or do anything non supportive when H is being his own ‘she’ would be a big fat no) after FL. But Z pursuing H (I take the pearl bracelet/tba theme post grammy diss and zigi pap walks as most recent ‘proof’ of this) while still full on bearding with G wouldn’t add up with the grammy diss and potential non supportive comments about THE Vogue cover, which is why I’m even considering the first option. Anyway, I don’t know what is going on between them even though it feels like something is… all I see is that Harry seems sad and he shouldn’t be sad. I hope he is thoroughly enjoying his well earned succes in private at least.

    Fine Line is a masterpiece. ❤️

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