I didn’t realise how much I loved Harry Styles until I realised how much I loved Harry Styles. It started a few weeks ago, when Harry was interviewed by Rolling Stones to promote his new album. When asked about his notorious fan base of teenage girls, he said, “Who’s to say that young girls who like pop music… have worse musical taste than a 30-year-old hipster guy?… How can you say young girls don’t get it? They’re our future. Our future doctors, lawyers, mothers, presidents, they kind of keep the world going. Teenage-girl fans – they don’t lie. If they like you, they’re there. They don’t act ‘too cool.’ They like you, and they tell you. Which is sick.” Right answer.
Harry Styles’ self-titled album is a blank slate for the pop star. The album starts off with Meet Me in the Hallway, a nod to the psychedelia of the 70s, with a loopy guitar riff reminiscent of Pink Floyd and David Bowie. Arguably my least favourite song on the album, Sign of the Times is next, which Styles ironically released as a single. Up next is Carolina, a track filled with grime and twang. Styles slows it down with Two Ghosts, a nostalgic acoustic piece. Another acoustic, Sweet Creature reveals Styles’ heavy Beatles influence. Only Angel and Kiwi pick up the pace again with a grinding electric guitar. Kiwi follows suit; the song is full of bangs and crashes. Ever Since New York changes the mood again, slowing it down. And then we have Woman and From the Dining Table, probably my two favorite. All in all, this album is definitely worth a listen.
Picks: Carolina, From the Dining Table, Woman
I’ll start off by saying that I am not a fan of One Direction in the slightest. I haven’t followed any of their other solo projects, assuming, maybe foolishly, that they were only popular as individual acts because they had been in One Direction. That was my opinion until April anyway, when Harry Styles released Sign of the Times.
I fell in love with the track, and even more so with his second release, Sweet Creature. Both songs are a lot more authentic sounding than anything 1D ever released, and are fantastic in their own right. You can hear the genuine emotion in Styles’ soothing voice, which takes on more of a rock vibe than it ever did in any One Direction releases (arguably to the best of my limited knowledge).
The album itself is filled with pared down, generally acoustic guitar focused tracks, with a 60s/70s singer-songwriter vibe threaded throughout. It makes for easy listening – sure, it isn’t anything particularly revolutionary, but it’s undeniably great music. My one gripe would be that, aside from this detached, sleazy singer-songwriter vibe he has going on, Harry hasn’t really found his own style. Whilst listening I was reminded of artists as varied as T.Rex (listen to the background riffs of Carolina and then play Get It On), Arctic Monkeys (there’s an undeniable Alex Turner-esque confidence on Only Angel), and The Beatles.
Harry Styles is a promising and exciting debut album, and one for both Directioners and non-Directioners alike.
Picks: Sweet Creature, Sign of the Times, Only Angel, Kiwi
Fresh from a hiatus Harry Styles is back – and this time he’s trying it solo. His self-titled debut album, written largely by Styles himself, draws heavily from retro influences and is heavier than most One Direction fans may be used to.
The album is a neat 10 track foray into the rock world, leaving behind the stylised, over-produced (but still, in my opinion, excellent) pop of One Direction. Each track is fully realised and may surprise true indie fans who had written Styles off a pop pretty boy and those who expected Zayn to have the only successful solo career post-band. Certain songs, such as Kiwi and Carolina, rely on the kind of cliché imagery I wish indie songwriters would avoid – the manic pixie dream girl-esque references to ‘bad’ girls with a penchant for smoking and drinking makes me cringe- but the songs are fun nevertheless. If you can move beyond some of the try-hard lyrics (“even my phone misses your call by the way”) the album is a success, with standout tracks such as Woman and From the Dining Table.
The album is also surprisingly honest, after years shirking questions about his love life, here Styles lays it all bare, with songs about masturbating in hotel rooms and references to his infamous romance with Taylor Swift. With no-one else to hide behind and a new refreshing honestly, Styles’ first attempt at a solo career is a success in my eyes; a mature, stylized and well thought out release.
Picks: Ever Since New York, Woman, From the Dining Table
The front cover of Harry Styles’ debut album shows his back, the only part of him not covered in tattoos, presenting a blank slate and new start. His new image seems carefully considered to be confidently edgy, acknowledging the need for a strong aesthetic to distance himself from the pretty-boy-pop of One Direction. To do this, Styles places himself as the most recent in a timeline of not just musicians, but showmen. He collates bits of Bowie, Jagger and more modern icons such as Matty Healy, or Alex Turner. Drawing on these influences, Styles’ persona loses its uniqueness, as at points he seems to imitate rather than innovate. This happens both in his performances and the music itself; Sweet Creature has already been criticised for copying The Beatles’ Blackbird, and Two Ghosts could have been lifted from a later Kings of Leon album. Although this is easy to criticise, it also shows that Styles is engaging with different genres; the album has no large concept, rather presenting a taster-menu of different styles of music, and his foray into each is very palatable, from the country-esque twang of Two Ghosts to the indie-rock of Kiwi. He excels, however, in the folk-rock Ever Since New York or Carolina, and the gentle guitars and vocals of From the Dining Table. Overall, this is an impressive debut from a man with the world’s eyes on him, and although it is far from perfect, it shows enough promise to ensure us that he’s good, and some day could be one of the greats.
Picks: From the Dining Table, Ever Since New York