“Harry Styles” is the debut self-titled solo album from the ex-One Direction member, and is an album that lacks a single feature. Styles gives us ten songs on this record, and the genres go from pop to folk to even some rock.
When first hearing about the idea of a Harry Styles solo album, I was only mildly intrigued, as while I believe Styles is easily the best singer of the UK pop band, many solo records like this end up being very mild and rather generic. This was definitely the case with Zayn’s debut, but my entire opinion changed after hearing the first single off of this album, “Sign of the Times”. This beautiful song, along with the also great “Sweet Creature” were plenty to gain my interest in this LP, and give me rather high expectations in the process.
What Harry Styles does the best on this album involves his efforts to be different, as there are almost no moments within these songs that felt safe. Styles pushes the envelope with what he can do with his voice and with the production on every single song on the album, and the wide range that he shows is quite extraordinary. Starting with the opener, “Meet Me in The Hallway” Styles brings a simple, slow, and methodical approach to the song with some gorgeous vocals, but immediately after that he moves to his most impressive achievement: “Sign of the Times”
I already touched on this, but I cannot describe enough just how much this song impresses me on every single listen. Not only is Styles’ voice incredible as it grows stronger and stronger as the song goes on, but just the scale and epic heights that this song reaches alone make it one of the best musical achievements of 2017 so far. The production is exquisite and, as the song reaches the bridge, the finale becomes downright insane, and is a true work of art from start to finish.
The album then moves to the song “Carolina”, which is a lovely upbeat track with a catchy chorus and, once again, terrific vocals from Styles. This has a much different, lower key sound to it, and it works excellently after “Sign of the Times”, and shows more of the diversity and range that Styles can bring.
There is a dramatic shift at the halfway point of this record, with a move from some alternative pop with a folky flair to some straight up rock songs, and, against all odds, I think that Styles really pulls these songs off.
The two major rock songs that work with flying colors are “Only Angel” and “Kiwi”, both of which feature some strong, fiery guitars and crazy good production. Styles nails the rock vocals as well, bringing his own flair, as well as some recognizable influences to his vocals. Still, these two tracks stand on their own as highlights of the album and are incredibly entertaining to listen to.
Influences are a major component to this entire album, as while Styles takes many risks and makes a record that feels bold and original for 2017, there are still some clear inspirations that come to mind when hearing these songs. The biggest vibes that I caught came from the legends of David Bowie, The Beatles, and The Rolling Stones, and while some songs may occasionally feel a bit too similar to these icons, Styles still brings enough of his own originality to much of the album to make it work.
There are only a few songs I didn’t thoroughly enjoy, and even most of these are still enjoyable listens. “Two Ghosts” is one of the stronger lyrical moments on the album, but is also one of the least daring, and is a mildly fun song with some strong vocals, but something that sounds like One Direction could have performed. “Ever Since New York” is Styles’ attempt at a true folk song, and while I really enjoy the simplicity of the chorus. it is still very repetitive with even less going on beneath the surface than the rest of the LP. I also found the closer track, “From the Dining Table” to be pretty good, but also incredibly low key without ever grabbing all of my attention.
All of these tracks are still pretty good listens, but the song, “Woman” is easily my least favorite on the album. From the most generic chorus of the year, the overly long runtime and the ridiculously annoying noise that occurs at the end of each and every line makes for a struggle of a listen, and is a song that is absolutely the low point for the album.
No matter how great Styles’ vocals are, which they are, and no matter how amazing the production is on each track, which it is, the lyrics and song concepts are all ridiculously generic. All ten of the songs, literally every one of them, is about a relationship that is either bad for him or failing due to lack of communication, and about the heartbreak or feelings that he faces in the situation. None of the songs really bring a different viewpoint, and the lyrics are all simple and to the point and never get to any point of substance, which was a bit disappointing to see.
“Harry Styles” is a huge step in the right direction for the previous One Direction member, as Styles impresses with some truly exceptional voice work and a wide range of songs that show just how talented this man is. From the epic “Sign of the Times” to the impressive rock song of “Kiwi” to the upbeat “Carolina”, Styles uses classic influence and his own style to make one of the most original albums of the year, and, though there are some clear shortcomings in the lyrics, it is an album I thoroughly enjoyed listening to.
What did you think of this album? Comment below with your thoughts.