‘Harry Styles’ Album Review: Solo Debut Is Rock N’ Roll & Refreshing
On his first solo album since the disintegration of One Direction, Harry Styles establishes that he has serious ambitions to be a rock n’ roller, not just another manufactured pop write-off. As a sort of re-introduction, Styles has named the album Harry Styles and admirably shows his many fans who he truly is, maybe for the first time.
Unlike his One Direction bandmates, such as Zayn Malik and Niall Horan, Styles has chosen not to succumb to the trendy sounds of 2016-17. There are no deafening R&B club bangers with a wailing synth for a chorus and inauthentic dancehall drums bouncing from the left speaker to the right. Even the annoying “millennial whoop” only makes a minor appearance. Instead, what Harry Styles offers is a sprinkling of rock variations from the late ’60s to the early ’80s with a light touch of 2017 to bring it all together.
On “Kiwi,” Styles rolls out some heavy guitar work and the song makes for most punk-sounding tune on the album. On “Only Angel,” Styles’ lead guitar sounds eerily similar to the Rolling Stone’s “Street Fighting Man.” But for the most part, Styles is not very heavy handed. The album’s first single, “Sign of the Times,” is a pure rock ballad with a strong piano leading the way, with a ripping guitar screaming in the distance. “Woman,” showcases Styles inner-Elton John while “Sweet Creature,” shows his inner-Paul McCartney, as the song is essentially played in the same picking pattern as The White Album‘s “Blackbird.”
Sonically, the album shows several dimensions of rock n’ roll but the lyrics don’t necessarily follow. While they are far more developed than the ghostly empty lyrics of One Direction, Styles misses the mark of interesting lyrics though out the album, but only by a few colorful adjectives. As is true for the entire album, even though the lyrics fall slightly behind, there is no reason to believe the next album will show positive growth.
Harry Styles‘s strongest track is it’s last, “From the Dining Table” – again, sonically, because lyrically, the song has a slightly regrettable line about masturbating in a hotel room to the heartache his girl has left behind. But overall, the song is a beautiful showing of restraint and authenticity. Style’s filled out vocals follow a sweetly picked guitar for the majority of the song. Around the two-minute mark, Style’s is joined by several harmonizing women and an orchestral wave reminiscent of the Beetles “She’s Leaving Home.” In 2017, this emotional peak is typically followed by something loud and abrasive, but Styles, instead drops the song back into the guitar and closes out the song on a fading whisper. It’s a refreshing end to a respectable album and maybe hints at a stronger, more refined sound to come.
Listen to “From the Dining Table” below (and ignore the “played with myself, where were you?” line).