Liam Payne, one of five former members of the British-Irish boyband One Direction, threw his hat in the ring along with his ex-bandmates on December 6th and released his first solo album, “LPI”. On the same day, two other former members of One Direction, Niall Horan and Harry Styles, released solo songs.
The album, titled “LP1”, is the first album from Liam Payne since the One Direction’s split at the end of 2015. The album was released under Capitol Records and includes 17 tracks. Many of those tracks include songs Payne has released over the years, including his first solo single, “Strip That Down (ft. Quavo)”. “LP1” has received much criticism, presumably due to Payne’s excessive sexual overtones on the album and how women have been presented in several tracks.
For much of the record, Liam Payne describes these sexual escapades through songs like “Hips Don’t Lie, Rude Hours”, “Weekend“, “Both Ways”, Strip That Down”, “Get Low”, and “Bedroom Floor”. Evidently, fans and music critics alike found the surplus of sex on the album in poor taste and a lack of creative songwriting. From a One Direction fan, it is disappointing, to say the least.
The song “Both Ways” has received the most controversy, as it appears that Payne is fetishizing bisexual women and perpetuating misconceptions about the bisexual community. Lyrics from the chorus are “My girl, she like it both ways / She like the way it all taste / Couple more, we’ll call it foreplay / No, no, I don’t discriminate / Bring it back to my place / Yeah, she like it both ways.” The track describes Payne with a bisexual woman and his perception that he will have threesomes and a lot of sex due to the misconceptions attached to the bisexual and LGBTQ+ community.
If the album had any themes other than sex, it would be Liam’s relationship with fame. On tracks like “Stack It Up” and “Tell Your Friends”, he discusses money and his reputation. On “Tell Your Friends” he sings, “I don’t like who I used to be but that don’t matter now” in reference to his identity. He has revealed in several interviews his lack of direction (no pun intended) after One Direction’s split. In the years before the album’s release, he has had a son, dealt with some failed relationships, and struggled with alcoholism and fame. I believe the album would have had more substance if he explored those topics more rather than just sex. His lack of creative identity is prevalent in tracks like “Remember, Heart Meet Break”, and “Say It All”, which are decent listens but lack something more.
Some highlights of “LP1”, however, are the featured artists he’s included on several of the tracks. He has created tracks with many notable artists, like the song “For You”, he did in collaboration with Rita Ora for the movie “Fifty Shades Freed”. The song “Stack It Up” features A Boogie Wit da Hoodie, which opens the record. The tracks he has done with other musicians on this album have become radio hits, such as “Strip That Down (ft. Quavo)”, “Live Forever (with Cheat Codes)”, “Familiar (with J. Balvin)”, “Polaroid (with Jonas Blue and Lennon Stella)” and “Get Low (with Zedd)”. Most can agree that these songs are catchy and manufactured for radio play, but they are among the better songs on the album.
One song that has stood out to me, and other listeners for that matter, is the track that closes the album called “All I Want (For Christmas)”. It is not what you think it is as it isn’t another rendition of Mariah Carey’s Christmas classic. It is his own original Christmas song and a piano ballad at that. It is probably the best song on the album, in my opinion, with lyrics like “If we can make it through December / Maybe we’ll make it through forever / ‘Cause all I want for Christmas / Is you and me to fix this / If we can make it through December / Every New Year we’ll be together / Baby, all I want for Christmas / Is you and me to fix this.” Payne’s smooth and masculine voice shines on this track, reminding listeners of his musical talent, that doesn’t seem present on much of the rest of the record.
‘LP1’ overall lacks both creativity and the presence of Liam Payne himself. It is unclear if he is attempting to follow the adage “sex sells” or if he is just not sure who he is yet. It is however important that he takes the bad reviews of this record to reflect on the problematic mentalities featured on this album. He is a talented vocalist, and the final track on the album is proof he can do better in the future.