S/T by Harry Styles
Genre: Pop Rock
Favorite Tracks: “From The Dining Table,” “Ever Since New York,” “Kiwi”
I have not known peace since March 25, 2017, when Harry Styles posted three blank photos to his Instagram, signifying a Big Announcement. One week later there was a single announcement and a month and a half later there was an album. I told my friend I was nervous for the album release and she was confused: at that point I’d heard four out of the 10 songs, what’s to be nervous about?
But like . . . I’ve been here before. Remember Joe Jonas’s 2011 album FASTLIFE? No? I do. It’s my curse. I remember every shitty solo record shamefully offered up by my former fave boybander in the past 10 years. So of course I was stressed that Harry’s album would be another sad, vacant plea to remain relevant in the midst of One Direction’s “hiatus.”
I’m good now! No worries though! HARRY STYLES is Styles’s dream come true—an effortless homage to classic rock with notes of sweet indie melodies woven throughout. Fans eagerly awaited Styles’s first single, “Sign of the Times,” hoping it would offer some foresight as to what the album would sound like, but there’s no way to encapsulate this multifaceted record in just one song. Harry stays a bit pop, a bit indie, but ventures into uncharted rock territory, a genre he could only dip his toes in while an active member of One Direction. At a certain point it doesn’t even matter if the songs are good—Styles loves the songs so much that you can’t help but enjoy.
Styles shines brightest on “From the Dining Table,” the album’s finale. In every bit of press he’s done, he insists that the primary goal of his solo career was to be honest, and that’s no more apparent than with this track. Though the record sees its fair share of slow and somber from Harry, this is as slow and somber as it gets—his voice is low and you can practically see him resting his head in his hands as he begs his beloved to call him. This side of Harry, raw and vulnerable, made rare appearances with One Direction on tracks like “If I Could Fly” and “Something Great,” but on HARRY STYLES every other song is quiet, toned down, and exposed. It’s such a welcome change from the vague, easily accessible lyrics of 1D—a band whose records exclusively featured tracks made to fill stadiums. HARRY STYLES finds a space in between; his recent surprise show at the Troubadour and guest appearances on James Corden show how versatile the record is. He can slow jam to “Two Ghosts” with Stevie Nicks and dazzle late night television audiences with “Kiwi.” It’s a welcome change to see the real, adult Harry Styles.
There are jokes everywhere about how much Styles is drawn to dads and dad culture, and HARRY STYLES justifies them all. With the softly psychedelic “Meet Me In The Hallway” and the purely rock “Kiwi,” there’s no question where he finds his influence (the same influence you can find in this video of him shimmying with Ronnie Wood of the Rolling Stones). I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if my own father scored our next family road trip with “Only Angel” and “Woman.” Styles’s voice transitions between the multiple styles easily, but after being a popstar for six years, it’s no surprise that his talent manifests best in screaming into a microphone.
What HARRY STYLES lacks is a cohesive flow; not exactly a huge issue, but with 10 songs clocking in at 40 minutes total, one might expect some kind of narrative. It’s difficult to blame Styles for any beef you could have with this record—his excitement to finally record an album of his own is dripping from every note. In the Apple Music exclusive film, HARRY STYLES: BEHIND THE ALBUM, there’s a notable moment when a producer says, “Let’s do Harry’s idea,” and Styles jumps up and down. “First we’re gonna do Harry’s idea, then we’re gonna do Harry’s idea, and then after that: Harry’s idea,” he exclaims and falls into a chair. In his Rolling Stone interview he explains: “Every decision I’ve made since I was 16 was made in a democracy.” HARRY STYLES is aptly titled because Harry Styles is packed into every second of it.
I’m just . . . so excited about all of this. This album is awesome. It’s simultaneously surprising but exactly what I was expecting. For as much time as I’ve spent defending One Direction and Harry Styles as legitimate musicians, I deserve something as enjoyable and downright Good™ as HARRY STYLES is. Every time I start “Meet Me In The Hallway” I can’t help but feel pure joy in knowing that the next 40 minutes of my life belong to HARRY STYLES. Styles knows what he’s doing, and after years of preparation, he’s finally ready to do it his way.