Home Music When Art Contradicts the Headlines Pt 2 – Louis Tomlinson

When Art Contradicts the Headlines Pt 2 – Louis Tomlinson

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Faith In The Future:

When it comes to Louis Tomlinson’s new album, I’d say this masterpiece recently released is as contradictory to his public relationship as it is to who he is as a person according to the media. There are certainly songs we’ll skip because they are not a direct contradiction, even if they don’t align with the public narrative either.

In fact, not every song in Faith In The Future is romantic or autobiographical; some of them are directed to mates (That’s The Way Love Goes), are partially fictional (Chicago), not written by Louis (Headline) and others refer to his personal journey, self growth and identity (Bigger Than Me, Out Of My System).

However, it is incredibly interesting how the themes we heard in Louis years ago, during One Direction, are recurrent and make an appearance a decade later, almost as if they represent a part of who he is he can’t change, something you don’t “grow out of.” First of all, the album’s opener, which happens to be one of my favorite tracks, has many “easter eggs” you should recognise by now if you have been paying any attention.

This first track, The Greatest, includes lines which are quite illuminating when you relate them to a couple: We had to disappear / ’Cause nothing gets through here. And these don’t fit the narrative of the song being about us, the fans. Overall, I find it way too dramatic to be a dedication to us, we never disappeared, no one has been kidnapped by Louis just yet, and the recurrent “you and me” gives the tune a more intimate and romantic context, even if it was probably written to fit this second meaning as well, which makes fans feel involved and part of a group and creates an incredible atmosphere on stage as the tour opener.

Taking them by the romantic interpretation, these lyrics seem to fit in the story of a love belittled in Too Young, classified as wrong in Strong, discriminated against by the church in End Of The Day and Only The Brave…  And the same can be said about The Greatest lyrics I said you know me / Alone, we’re only / Just as good as the rest. This last line is, once again, incredibly loud: apparently, they feel this misjudgement on the outside, whereas, in private, the couple is “as good as the rest.” And this statement clearly falls short because together they are “the greatest.”

However, it could also be interpreted as “together, as a group, we are the greatest; while alone we are just normal people” and refer to the power of joining forces and working together if we go by the second meaning of the song.

Now, in the last chunk of lyrics we shall analyze of this song, we find what I call a “hiding” reference. “Your face reminded me of a love you cannot hide” could be an innocent sentence and maybe we shouldn’t look into it, although again, the choice of words is interesting, as the kind of romantic affection you are generally forced to hide or choose to hide is not from a love Louis Tomlinson – the public persona they built around him – would ever refer to. Of course, this love they cannot hide is one they live in the dark, according to the first of the two true gems of the song, the motifs of the dark as opposed to the light and of wasted time and the necessity of making up for it, as it can be extracted from: 

The way you know something

Your face reminded me

Of a love you cannot hide

But don’t need to tell me why

Back dancin’ in the dark

Back to the very start

Findin’ pieces that can fit

Making up for what we missed

We shouldn’t be surprised, as the first motive at least has been seen before; in fact, Louis co-wrote a whole song about it. Through The Dark, the 11th track of Midnight Memories, already develops a whole chorus around the concept of a love that takes a lot of sacrifices to maintain, a love in the dark, but one Louis promises to take into the light.

Oh, I will carry you over

Fire and water for your love

And I will hold you closer

Hope your heart is strong enough

When the night is coming down on ya

We will find a way

Through the dark

“Back dancing in the dark” for me reads as a continuation of “we will find a way through the dark” and is a very loud and clear reference to closeting, one they did not choose. Years later, still trying to find a way towards the light, there is something that pushes all plans backwards and, as many fans believe, this could simply refer to lockdown and how it stopped everything, and so they had to go “back to the very start.” This links to the second motif of wasted time in “making up for what we missed” that we are going to revisit in Face The Music and All This Time.

However, before all of that, if we follow the dark and light mystery, it will take us to Lucky Again and the lines Whatever gets you through the darkest night / Just find the light out in the madness, hold tight which again, can have a much more simple meaning. Nevertheless, by now, we should know if there is something Louis’ lyrics are not, is simple. There is a storyline about getting out of a darkness Louis did not choose for himself, and out into the light (light for me equals freedom); meanwhile, however, we know the couple is “dancing in the dark.”

Overall, Lucky Again tells the story of a relationship which was lost and now found again, the whole album tells us the “love letter apology” saga has had a happy ending, and we have a little reference to wasted time in the second verse, in the line Before the time, it got away from us.

But what has me interested for this matter is Louis’ admiration of how his muse has walked a long way towards the light to be themselves, sacrificing a lot in the process, because this is something his beard could never relate to, straight people do not have to work to be themselves in that sense.

You give and give until it’s gone away

Just tell yourself you’ve got another day

You’ve lived that life, you just don’t see it yet

I see how hard you’ve worked to be yourself

Of course, although in Lucky Again Louis is not speaking about himself, the “change theme” is also developed in the opening verse of Bigger Than Me, which could be read as a response to the voices classifying this love and, thus, his identity as wrong in the past and which shows a great deal of personal-growth.

When somebody told me I would change

I used to hide behind a smile

When somebody told me I would change

I was afraid, I don’t know why

‘Cause so does the world outside, I’ve realized

The song, mostly, is about Louis’ growth as a person in general, even if “when somebody told me I would change” is a line we can’t ignore. And before going back to the wasted time motif, it is worth mentioning another instance where we get a change reference, in this case, in the extra track High In California and the line Spend my whole life just thinking I had to change. Keep in mind straight people don’t spend their lives thinking they have to change.

As promised, the discussion about wasted time is resumed in the chorus of Face The Music:

So, one more night

I’m gonna choose

I don’t wanna face the music, but I still wanna dance with you

Let’s buy some time

For what we shouldn’t do

I don’t wanna face the music, but I still wanna dance with you

I still wanna dance with—

There is something bitterly funny about the expression “face the music” linked to the intention of buying time to do what they shouldn’t, because at some point we have to start wondering what is stealing time from them. Louis says he wants to still dance [in the dark] with this person before facing the music [industry]. That is his reason for borrowing time, but what explains the time lost in the first place is, in fact, the curse described in Copy Of A Copy Of A Copy, which here reappears in the first verse:

 Good and bad and right and wrong

Are stories made up when we’re young to scare us

Love and hate are in-between

Depends on your reality to see them

And what is even more illuminating is how this ties back to the treatment queer people receive in the music industry described in COACOAC and the logical conclusion of their careers being the cause of a huge part of their “wasted time.” At least, that is how Louis feels about it until All This Time, where he understands their careers are worth it, they are worth all this time and the important thing is not “how you spend the time but if you waste it.” Besides, we have the following chorus about the topic:

When it gets cold

Oh, sometimes, sometimes, you lose your hope

But the friends we make, the love it takes

It’s worth, it’s worth, it’s worth the pain

The friends we make, the love it takes

It’s worth, it’s worth, it’s worth it all this time

Lastly, when All This Time is concerned, something very obvious is the queer imaginary, the metaphors of a distinctive group both lovers belong to, the recognition of an equal as an outsider in a society that condemns the difference:

Our eyes meet

And I can tell that you’re the same as me

It’s the way we

It’s the way we see ourselves through walls of trees

And on the topic of queer imaginary, it is important to highlight the queer metaphors of She Is Beauty We’re World-class.  In fact, only the first verse leaves us with a lot to dissect:

Conversation is currency

Shapes become a language

Square eyes and sunglasses

Finding faces in the trees

Fabricated fairytales

Bring a new world to life

Sit down, sit down in the space and time

For me, “shapes become a language” is a very imaginative and creative way of describing queercoding, a secret language the ones silencing you can’t understand, a way of speaking in the dark, and it is even more evident if you consider Louis has an actual triangle tattooed in his ankle. The triangle, in case you didn’t know, has become a well-known queer symbol since the Nazis used it to mark queer people during the nazi regime during the Second World War. The LGBT community would later reclaim it as a symbol of pride; hence, it has become one of the most popular tattoos for gay men in our times. And not only did Louis get a tattoo of a triangle, he frequently has them in the background of some of his music videos such as We Made It.  

Another very interesting phrase is “fabricated fairytales,” which could be linked to the beginning of  Face The Music (“stories made up when we are young to scare us”), to the headlines he can’t stand, the reason he believed he had to change, the half of the story we are told we are getting in Just Like You and that someone Louis has heard he is supposed to be in Habit according to the lyrics: I took some time ’cause I’ve ran out of energy / Of playing someone I heard I’m supposed to be / But honestly, I don’t have to choose anymore. 

Could Louis be talking about his public persona? About the tissue of lies closeted artists are forced to maintain as part of their public image and the homophobia they are often subjected to?

To no one’s surprise at this point, light (paradise, freedom) as a juxtaposition of darkness is very present in this song as well and, above everything, we can and should admire the way Louis brings to life once more the abstract concept of belonging to a sheltered group and finding what makes you different in a fellow member of the community.  Fade into the light, Louis says, we’re the same, he concludes in the following verse:

Escape the inevitable

Fade into light

Soak up the empathy

‘Cause I’m with you tonight

Are we one or are we two?

Are we me or are we you?

Have we been all this before?

Do you see what I see?

Of course, by the bridge the couple is already “surrounded by light,” but maybe we’d do well in forgetting this light and darkness concept for a while, because before analyzing Silver Tongues, the song where it all comes together, it is impossible to miss the fact that the she is not part of the we

Now it is a good moment to bring back the she who had something missing in her eyes was not the you Louis defined as his home in Home, because this is the same concept and I wholeheartedly believe she and you are the same two people they were back then, if she in this song is only one person that is, and not the representation of the story we’ve been told by the media and every woman who has ever worked for the cause.

The exclusion of the “she” is evident if we look at the pronouns of the rest of the song: “we” when talking about Louis and his partner, “you” when talking about this person, and “she” only in the chorus. We already know, because Louis has told us, his partner is not “she”, but “you”, that no matter how present “she” is and how much attention she gets, they are world-class, they are the true couple, they are “the greatest.”

She is beauty

And we are world-class (Oh)


We let the feeling last

She is beauty

And we are world-class (Oh)


We let the feeling last

We finish this analysis with the home mentions, another specific reference that contradicts everything we’ve been told, and Louis’ masterplan. Firstly, home in this album is mentioned in two tracks: once in All This Time, where home is not a place nor a person in this occasion, but more of the two of them being together no matter where, the ultimate happy-ever-after of the couple (sometimes you doubt what you can do can get me home); and again in the chorus of Silver Tongues, where home is the everyday life that awaits for them after a time of momentaneous happiness that makes all the problems, the dark and the cold, fade away.

You know, it’s times like these we’re so much happier

Nights like these, we’ll remember thosе stupid jokes

Only we know

You know, when I’m with you, I’m so much happiеr

Nights like these, we’ll remember those songs we wrote

Only we know

You smile at me and say, “It’s time to go”

But I don’t feel like goin’ home

And while home is a very important concept for Louis and Harry, this is not a song where this motif is used with a hidden message or a meaning to unravel. It makes, before mentioning the obvious, a subtle reference to this fear of time running faster than them and a last “clue” which should open the eyes of many: Louis and his partner write songs together.

Thus, his alleged ex-girlfriend, who is no song-writer and has never written a song in her life, can’t be this person. In fact, the Louis in the newspapers has not publicly dated any song-writer and the only one he has ever been linked to is his bandmate, just to put it out there.

Now, could fans be right about their interpretation of the song being about One Direction? Could the song not even be romantic at all, but about a group of mates? It is not surprising that the public has come up with a reasonable explanation, even if there are certain parts of the lyrics telling us otherwise. The pre-chorus, for example, while the first verse could indeed be about a group of mates, continues as follows: I know nobody understands / Me like you do. This means that, from a songwriting and storytelling perspective, the we in the chorus is probably the me and the you combined, which does not deny the possibility of this me and you belonging to the same friend group (and explains the confusion), but “the songs we wrote only we know” being secret songs the couple wrote as part of a bigger group of people – ehem, One Direction – and not necessarily songs they created just the two of them does not make it better for this part of the fandom and their beloved public narrative.

Moreover, the bridge, in case you were not getting it yet, clarifies “the songs we wrote only we know” are songs “me” and “you” wrote and reintroduces the concept of a relationship that has gone through many fights and difficult times and has been rebuilt stronger and healthier every time. It is a concept Angels Fly orbitates around, for example, but one I will not dig deeper into because it does not exactly oppose Louis’ public narrative either, even though at this point we know he is not talking about “she”, but about “you”.

You and me until the end

Wakin’ up to start again

You and me until the end

Wakin’ up to start again

There’s nowhere else that I would rather be

Lastly, I better wrap this up with verse two and Louis’ masterplan, the tool or mean he and his partner are using to move from the dark (also known as cold in The Greatest and All This Time) to the light (also known as paradise in Paradise). It would be fairly accurate to assume his art, as the fantastic communicator he is, is a big part of this masterplan and his fans are supposed to catch these “clues” or “codes,” they are there for us to pick them up and understand the message Louis wants to tell us. 

It sounds like Louis and “you” had a masterplan to move from the dark into the light with the ending goal of getting to paradise (freedom), it got unfortunately delayed (possibly because of covid) so they had to disappear, to wake up and start the end, sometimes Louis wanted to forget the hardships they are facing and stay in the moment, to not face the music and keep dancing in the dark, and they both were sad because of all the time they thought they were losing on their way to paradise, but Louis concluded it was worth it and that they were already surrounded by light, that paradise was in their own minds anyway, but also, is getting closer everyday.

Notice, by the way, how Louis is describing a specific person (yes, “you” aka Harry)  and their habits in the beginning of the verse, and he even quotes their words although in indirect speech and not like he does in the chorus with the line You smile at me and say “it’s time to go”, there is no way Silver Tongues is about a collective:

You said grass was a dirty drug

You like to preach with a vodka in your mug

I love all the things you know

But I’m king on a fifty-metre road

We stand up tall and beat our chests

We shout some things that we’ll regret

Sit down with a master plan

To put it in a nutshell, the main problems I have believing this album follows the public narrative is the fact that the romantic part of album is about a queer couple and this is crystal clear, the “you” and the “she” and the secret songs “me” and “you” wrote, all the wasted time he would have absolutely no reason to talk about as a straight guy whose career should had never been an impediment to pursue a romantic relationship with someone else outside of work, and the journey from the dark towards the light and paradise using a “masterplan.”

This masterplan, if you allow me to theorize a bit now we are about to cross the finish line, for me translates into finding a loophole in their contracts or any other way of coming out, goal that, according to queer artists who have gone through a similar experience, can take years to accomplish.

Ultimately, we shall hope paradise is indeed getting closer everyday and this masterplan of theirs succeeds. 

Faith in the future.

Andrea Ariza.

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