When the Art Contradicts the Headlines: The Curse Of The Girl Who Had Something Missing In Her Eyes.
In 2012 Louis Tomlinson was asked to describe himself, and he chose one specific word: “Flamboyant.” He was twenty back then, and it is difficult to pinpoint at what point this exact person, who soon took free reign in his lyrics, started diverging from the public news the rest of the world was getting. What is undeniable is that the Louis we have always listened to in his art was and still is completely irreconcilable with his public persona.
Privacy and boundaries, of course, are extremely important, and thus, regardless of the many incognitas that may come to mind, all to be analyzed in this article was public knowledge or related to his own art, lyrics Louis wrote and chose to share with us. Before diving into Louis’s solo career, there are some One Direction songs he has writing credits in worth-mentioning, as these share quite a few themes with his most recent tunes.
The most curious thing about the first song in question, Home, is the situation it was released in. It was late 2015, at a time when Louis was all over the news partying and happy, anytime a certain major life change was mentioned, he seemed absolutely gutted. The interview would be over then for him, it felt as if someone had ruined the party.
If you don’t know what happened next, you may want to look into 2015. Louis’s public persona, by the 20th of October of 2015, was very different from what it used to be, it had never been more heterosexual.
1D was known to have performed even when they weren’t feeling well. They performed with “puking breaks” between songs, a broken leg, no voice, and even what looked like an asthma attack on stage, and despite the strictness of the past, the Belfast concert was suddenly canceled. It was spoken news because fans had already seen the openers perform and were expecting 1D on stage soon. Journalists were ready to capture their set. The reason for the cancellation? One of the members allegedly had diarrhea, and the media did not even agree on who it was at first: journalists told fans it was Niall, but the official news ended up blaming Liam. Most fans didn’t believe the excuse and suspected it was a protest led by Harry and Louis against the life-change in question.
Precisely in the midst of this chaos, Louis tweeted two lyrics of a song we had never heard before, a song which many believe was never supposed to see the light: Home. In the span of a night, a concert was canceled, a new song was officially released and another one he had written along with Harry Styles got a music video, and the extra song in question was certainly illuminating.
The lyrics the fans still bring up to this day were:
So many nights I thought it over, told myself I kind of liked her
But there was something missing in her eyes
One verse after that, the song shifts pronouns from her to you, and we never hear from her again. Later on, two usual themes in Louis’s music are introduced: the concept of home (he casually shares with Harry Styles) and the reassurance that a relationship he is in is “okay,” as it can be read from this part:
I’ll make this feel like home
Baby, we could be enough
And it’s alright
Calling out for somebody to hold tonight
When you’re lost, I’ll find a way and I’ll be your light
You’ll never feel like you’re alone
For more information Home and Larry check out this article.
Strong, in Midnight Memories, is all about this love who is perceived as wrong.
I’m sorry if I say, “I need ya”
But I don’t care, I’m not scared of love
‘Cause when I’m not with you, I’m weaker
Is that so wrong? Is it so wrong
That you make me strong?
There are also several lyrics that fans have connected to the Larry ship and compass tattoo. Not to mention the term “ship.”
My hands, your hands,
Tied up like two ships
Made In the A.M.
Made In The A.M. to listen to: In End Of The Day, Louis and Liam choose to describe love like this:
The priest thinks it’s the devil, my mum thinks it’s the flu
But, girl, it’s only you
And, in the chorus:
All I know at the end of the day
Is you want what you want and you say what you say
And you follow your heart even though it’ll break sometimes
All I know at the end of the day (All I know)
Is you love who you love, there ain’t no other way
If there’s something I’ve learned from a million mistakes
You’re the one that I want at the end of the day (At the end of the day)
Two members of One Direction wrote a song about a love story considered a sin, a love story the Church classifies as a product of the devil. From what they said themselves about their writing process when they worked on a song together, Louis usually focused on lyrics while Liam was very good with melodies. I see this song as a protest, a cry for freedom to love whoever you want to, it advocates against the idea of love being a choice and, let’s be honest, seems like an appropriate song to dance to in a pride parade.
With this, one major chapter in Louis’s life ends. Don’t forget the concepts of home, of the inability of changing who you are, of a love being wrong and of the church, because we see them again.
Just Like You & Walls (the album) & Copy of a Copy of a Copy & All Along
It’s the guy from the one band
Cigarette in my left hand
Whole world in my right hand
Twenty-five and it’s all planned
Night out and it’s ten grand
Headlines that I can’t stand
This is Just Like You’s grand opening. In one of the first singles Louis releases, after all the members of the band go solo, the singer introduces himself and describes the public persona everyone knows (although Twenty-five and it’s all planned could refer to many things, a stable relationship, a career, money, maybe this fictional life others have planned for him through his public image) and, in the last verse, makes quite a controversial statement: Headlines I can’t stand.
While it could be a reference to the intrusive stories shared in the media every celebrity has to deal with, it is curious to me he feels this level of loathing for a narrative that had been, for the most part, positive (except for obvious tragedies in his life the tabloids exploited, Louis at this point is marketed as a young party-driven man back in love with his long term girlfriend after a relationship with Danielle Campbell – who admitted in a podcast said story was a pr stunt – and rejoiced by his recent parenthood: what is there not to like?).
And he continues:
But you only get half of the story
The cash, and the cars and the glory
Just like everyone else here before me
‘Cause nobody cares when you’re boring
Apparently, we only get half of the story and, although he is mostly talking about the celebrity lifestyle and how, in reality, he is just like everyone else, that first statement stays with you no matter how you look at it.
The music video was announced on National Coming Out Day (11th of October). In a background full of newspapers, Louis shows the story of some quite well-known artists who were closeted by the music industry such as George Michael, and many other topics related to closeting and the LGBTQ+ community. After this music video, it’s easy to interpret this song in a completely different way. I’m just like you, Louis says to his mostly queer fanbase:
Even though my problems look nothing like yours do
Yeah, I get sad too
And when I’m down I need somebody to talk to
Yeah, I feel the same as you do
Same stress, same shit to go through
I’m just like you
If you only knew
There is something tragic in the beauty of these lyrics, maybe because of the discrimination, the traumatic experiences you are bound to go through as someone queer and that Louis could be referring to. The double interpretation many more of his songs has become something quite common with Louis’ lyrics.
Walls, released in 2020, with a world tour that was completely sold out for 2021. The lyrics below contradict the official narrative:
I went to Amsterdam without you
And all I could do was think about you
These are the opening lines of Always You, a song which, as Louis himself said in an interview “is autobiographical, me making that realization that it’s always been that one person and that no matter what you do or what you see, you miss that person.” This song was written in 2017, then Louis spent years teasing it after he posted a 15 seconds clip on social media. 2017 is the year he allegedly got back with his girlfriend.
According to the headlines, he went to Amsterdam with Eleanor for her birthday in July 2017, there he took her to a gay bar, and a month later he posted these lyrics. Which means he went to Amsterdam with her but was thinking of someone else.
Another set of lyrics which caused utter shock were the ones in Habit:
And it’s been ages, different stages
Come so far, from Princess Park
I’ll always need ya,
In front of me, in front of me.
Princess Park is where Louis and Harry lived together after the X Factor. Liam, Niall and Zayn lived in the same building but Louis and Harry lived together. This inspired a famous hashtag in the fandom, which Louis created, #welivetogetherdealwithit
Many fans think Habit could be about performing in front of a big crowd. For me, the meaning of the song is clearly romantic. He is clearly talking about one person, the whole album – except for Two Of Us.
It only takes listening to the opening to realize the Princess Park line contradicts the headlines.
The next rather frequent theme in Louis’s lyrics should not come as a surprise either. If you have to constantly fight against the idea of your relationship being wrong or a sin, it is because someone or something is pressuring you. There are people in your close circle telling you “you shouldn’t be together,” “you’re too young” or “this love will never last.”
This was already mentioned in the One Direction world-famous tune You & I, in the lines: Not even the gods above can separate the two of us/Nothing comes between you and I, which say more than what it seems at first sight considering Louis used to jokingly called the managers of the band “the gods above.” The narrative takes another turn during Louis’s solo career, where he introduces the concept of being “too young” and brings up this force who is keeping him and his partner apart again:
Oh, I can’t believe I gave in to the pressure
When they said a love like this would never last
So I cut you off ’cause I didn’t know no better
Now I realize, yeah, I realize
Someone was pressuring Louis, telling him his relationship had no future, but it is also interesting the choice of words, which I refuse to believe accidental in a brilliant lyricist like Louis, who visibly cares about every detail. “A love like this will never last” might be something you would say to your teenage son who has come home with a girlfriend or boyfriend he declares the love of his life, a preadolescent or even teenager who will break up with said love in about a week. But, what is the problem with two twenty year olds who are barely apart? Because the distance could hardly be a problem for this kind of love Louis was discouraged to pursue when the supposed university student went on tour with the band all over the world for years, until they broke up in 2015.
No, “a love like this” is not something that comes to mind when you think about young love between a straight couple with economical stability and a lot of time to spend together. However, it is indeed a comment you would hear from the big fish in a notably homophobic industry about a relationship with the you in Home and Strong which starts when Louis is walking the first steps of his career, a type of love many considered could jeopardize this immediate success or that they straight up called “wrong” or “a sin.”
Lastly, even though the following contradiction is not in the lyrics, it is worth mentioning Louis himself explained the song in a track-by-track interview after the album release as finding the one at eighteen and having to deal with that pressure, and by the time the narrative between his public persona and his girlfriend was first published, he was almost twenty years old. At 18 he had met Harry Styles.
Only the Brave
If you are looking for a queer anthem like End Of The Day was in the One Direction era, this last song of Louis’s debut album I’m going to mention could be an individual introspection of the same story. Only The Brave, in the artist’s own words, is about how “love is only for the brave” and we get another mention of those romances burnt by the church five years later, in the verse It’s a church of burnt romances and I’m too far gone to pray/It’s a solo song and it’s only for the brave.
In fact, this song covered his first world tour shows in pride flags and rainbow lights and we did see Louis a little teary once or twice at the very beginning of LTWT. It is a tune that has taken the meaning it was always destined to take and leaves no room for doubt: Louis may have classified his personal journey as a solo song, but his predominantly queer fanbase responded loudly and clearly and made him realize that the fans support him and relate to his journey.
Copy of a Copy of a Copy
This sentiment of belonging to a collective where he would not be the first to bleed, a group of people trapped, crying their voices out, trying to break free from a curse older than time itself is seen again in Copy Of A Copy Of A Copy, as it can be interpreted from:
I can hear you, howlin’ ’til your lungs hurt
So let this be your comfort
You’re not the only one, no
In a strange way, we’re all in this together
Been this way forever, you’re not the only one
Louis, who seems to be talking to his younger self the entirety of the song, states “nothing is original,” perhaps the music industry? I can’t go on with this theory without acknowledging a much simpler explanation that I think makes a lot of sense. As many of Louis’s songs before this one, Copy Of A Copy Of A Copy has taken a double meaning no matter if it was intended to or not, one only a few people understand and another one more approachable that provides a larger group with the opportunity to relate to the lyrics and take them to their own lives.
Does it make sense for Louis to be talking about the universal experience of heartbreak? The process of having your heart broken and accepting that person and the relationship you had with them is gone? Sure, although it does seem a little bit dramatic if I do say so myself (howling ‘till your lungs heart? Really?! What type of breakups did you all go through?!), but it is a valid interpretation and music is subjective, like all forms of art.
However, is this what Louis wanted to tell us with this song? A person very close to him, who must know him pretty well after touring with him all over the world for years and everything else that must come with being in the same world-successful boy band, didn’t think so. According to Liam Payne in one of his Instagram lives during quarantine, he had indeed heard Louis’s new song, which he said was about “the truth” of his and his girlfriend’s relationship.
Why is this relevant? Louis’s relationship with this girl, who had something missing in her eyes, slowly dissipated to the public eye only recently, and, at the time, they were very much in love according to her Instagram, pap walks, gossip magazines and Wikipedia. I encourage you to look up the lyrics online and go through the entire song all over again with this in mind, wondering how it could be about Eleanor. The only valid explanation is that Louis’ public relationship is part of that “old curse” he is trying to break, of this “glass” he can’t get through, that indeed, “nothing is original” and bearding and pr relationships in the industry are all “a copy of a copy of a copy.”
Before moving on to Louis’s new album, there is an unreleased from this time that was indeed leaked but that Louis publicly acknowledged not too long ago and was already mentioned in a few headlines when it was first leaked in 2018 and nobody paid enough attention to it except for a couple of articles. This is, of course, All Along, where we have the “too young” theme in the verse I wish I met you later and, a home mention where he is clearly defining his lover as his home (But now I’m home/I’ve been all over the world and I was wrong) and implies he is talking about the same person he found his home in Home. What caught everyone’s attention, however, is the description of a specific event and how the few headlines we got immediately lied and said this was about a concert Louis had gone to with his alleged girlfriend.
We saw Ed in Manchester
I held you while he played
Every time I hear his songs it takes me to that place
Even after all we’ve done I had the nerve to say
I wish I met you later
I wish I met you later
The Ed in the song – which falls under the same apology love letter category as a lot of songs in Walls -, of course, is none other than Ed Sheeran, close friend of Harry and Louis who wrote a handful of tunes for the band such as Little Things or Moments and, given that Louis has only ever publicly attended two Ed Sheeran concerts in his life and, in fact, the Manchester concert he attended was the only occasion he was not working or away the days Ed was performing in the city, he does not leave much room for doubt: While there was indeed an Ed concert he attended with his ex girlfriend Eleanor in 2017, this was not in Manchester, but in London; and the person he went to the gig in Manchester with years before (2011) is already mentioned at the beginning of this paragraph, they are the you in Home, the one once lost and found, the same person he lived with in Princess Park, the same partner he left behind when he went to Amsterdam: Harry Styles.