Liam Payne: the yellow Starburst. A man with all the charisma of a moist towelette. A man who answers the question ‘What if Gary Barlow had less personality?’ A man with the charm of a regional sales manager of a company that manufactures a very specific type of U bend pipes. A man who can suck the energy out of a conversation like a reliable Henry Hoover, gulping down good vibes like an insatiable, buzz-killing black hole. A man who is so dull it borders on fascinating.
The final member of One Direction to release a solo single, Liam Payne has finally unveiled ‘Strip That Down’, a hip hop flavoured debut that attempts to position him as a sort of British Bieber. A bit like what Saturday Night Takeaway is to Saturday Night Live. Sure, both are bad, but while one of them attracts huge international audiences, the other is still trying to hype up Kaiser Chiefs as its main musical act.
So what’s the deal with ‘Strip That Down’? Let’s start with the good bits. The production here is spot on. It’s slick and modern, somehow transforming Liam “but it’s a work night” Payne into a purring RnB lothario. The simple refrain of “yeah, yeah, yeah” works well here too, as do the finger clicks and the pulsing beat that throbs in the background.
The problem is with Payne himself. If this were a ZAYN song, we’d have no quibbles, but the fact is, Liam can’t pull off lines like “I just wanna have fun and get rowdy” when we all know with 100% certainty that Liam Payne has never been rowdy in his entire life. “One Coke and Bacardi (sippin’ lightly)” he continues, and it’s really quite a funny image, Liam Payne at a house party with his Bacardi and Coke, trying to get a bit lively but probably just swaying a bit and tapping his toe. There is something so delusional about ‘Strip That Down’, something completely at odds with the entire Payne brand that makes it impossible to take seriously. Which is a shame because, lyrics aside, this is a really decent track.
It’s grating to hear Payne sing “You know, I used to be in 1D (now I’m out, free)” when – let’s face it – without One Direction, he’d be the doorman at some dive club in Wolverhampton, turning punters away because they’re wearing black trainers instead of black shoes and he’s nobody’s fool. Also, it’s kind of hilarious that Payne has to remind us he used to be in One Direction. You get the impression he’ll still be doing it in twenty years’ time, only then he’ll be whispering it in nineteen year old girls’ ears at sleazy clubs while they try and bat him away with their handbags.
So what’s the verdict on ‘Strip That Down’? A song with heaps of potential that is sadly ruined by the personality vacuum at its helm.