Former One Direction star Liam Payne has given us a taste of his solo music with First Time, his debut solo EP. Payne released First Time as a sampler for his fans after announcing his debut solo album would no longer be out next month. The singer cited personal reasons as the reason for the delay, saying that recent “big changes” in his life have made some songs on the album “felt from another age”. Indeed, Payne has seen many big changes.
Over the past year, the 24-year-old welcomed the birth of his son, Bear, and separated from his girlfriend and baby mama Cheryl Cole. All four tracks seemingly revolve around Payne’s split from Cole (which is particularly interesting considering Payne has zero writing credits on the release).
First Time opens with the title track. A collab with French Montana, the song feels hypnotic, reflecting the refrain “It’s like you put a spell on me”. Perhaps the catchiest of the songs on the EP, the track still falls flat. Even with help from French Montana, the track feels hollow beneath the entrancing surface.
“Home with You” keeps with the R&B sound Payne has more-or-less adopted since going solo. The song laments about “too many cooks in the kitchen” when all you want is some g.d. peace and quiet with your significant other.
Payne’s first attempt at a ballad comes with “Depend on It”. The most boring on the record, the ballad delivers a slow, uninspired look into the breakup of his relationship. The chorus sings, “We used to be loving, touching, kissin’ like our lives depend on it / How we get to lying, crying, always fighting like our lives depend on it?” Yet even the biggest drama-voyeur would yell, “Enough already!” Less than three minutes long, the song seems to drone on and on.
“Slow” will please the fans of One Direction who stuck with Payne on his solo journey. With a slightly faster tempo, the track could easily have found a home on the boyband’s sophomore full-length release Take Me Home. In fact, parts of the song sound like they were scrapped from their hit single “Kiss You”.
Unfortunately for Payne, the most interesting aspect of the EP is the straight-up gossip about his relationship with Cole. Perez Hilton will have a field day extrapolating entire narratives about “what went wrong”.
On the upside, it seems like a good sign that Payne had the sense to scrap these songs from his debut full-length. Fingers crossed that when that album comes, it will give a more positive portrayal of what Payne has to offer as a solo artist.