On ‘Harry’s House’, the third solo album by the colossally charismatic former member of British boy band One Direction, 28-year-old Harry Styles often sings from a perspective that combines a prematurely wise elder, a personal cheerleader and a public defender. therapist.
“You can throw a party with everyone you know and not invite your family, because they never showed you love,” he sings on the acoustic ballad “Matilda,” a tender character study centered on a woman who is bearing the brunt of trauma from childhood. past – at least until the narrator gives her permission to put them down. “Boyfriends,” he later sings to a song of the same name, “they take you for granted, they don’t know they just misunderstand you.” That track, with some deft fingerpicking by singer-songwriter Ben Harper, views the male copy from a bewildered distance, as if it were a category of mere mortal from which someone as empathetic as Styles is automatically exempted.
Though “Harry’s House” is sonically more adventurous and eclectically influenced than most styles of music created with One Direction—the title itself is an obscure nod to Japanese singer-songwriter Haruomi Hosono’s 1973 album “Hosono House”—he shares it. His former group’s album sense of generosity and devotion to the female subject and, by extension, listener. As journalist Kaitlyn Tiffany writes in her forthcoming and highly entertaining book “Everything I Need I Get From You: How Fangirls Created the Internet as We Know It,” One Direction “was a group of guys whose commercial proposition is that they never hurt themselves.” would do. you.”
When Styles – who was active in 1D from 16 to 24 – started his own business, his most successful songs paid a more mature but still selfless tribute to women. The beach hit ‘Watermelon Sugar’ from his 2019 album ‘Fine Line’ was a winkingly euphemistic yet sensually serious ode to the bestowal of female pleasure. Another faint highlight of that record was called, even more succinctly, ‘Adore You’.
Such dedication to the feminine certainly makes Styles’ music run smoother than the many pop songs pocked with outright misogyny. But this different oriented perspective also makes Styles feel, on his records, like something of a figure. This issue was less apparent on the superior “Fine Line,” which partially broke up and left Styles room to wallow, transgress, and occasionally get a revealing jab at his ex’s new partner (“Takes he takes you around his parents’ “gallery?”). Despite the intimacy implied by the title, “Harry’s House” doesn’t have much furniture.
It is certainly the most strikingsounding album Styles has made to date, and his production team of Kid Harpoon and Tyler Johnson (with whom Styles has worked closely on all of his solo albums) concoct some vibrant sonic landscapes. The album opens with the bright and playful “Music for a Sushi Restaurant”, brimming with horns, a gummy bass line and surprising bursts of stacked vocals. The dreamy “Daylight” has a psychedelic weightlessness and sudden electric guitar crunches reminiscent of Tame Impala, while the climax “Grapejuice” frames a sprightly ascending melody with a kind of upbeat piano and compressed vocal effect reminiscent of Paul McCartney from the “Aries” Era . Styles’ voice is streamlined and agile throughout, preferring a looser delivery – he actually scats on one track – then the flashy, belt-it-out pyrotechnics of his boy band days.
There’s something heavenly about the whole album, and the 41 minutes unfold with an air of pleasantly stoned contentment, occasionally clouded by a soft melancholy that passes by like a fleeting cloud. Styles’ current hit single “As It Was” comes closest to sounding really distressed, and part of what makes that song work is the tension between his mumbled, slumped shoulders and the synth hook’s gleeful urges to carry on. to go.
The wedding band funk of “Daydreaming” and the lyrically meaningless “Cinema” feel relatively frictionless, demonstrating Styles’ unfortunate tendency to write lyrics that feel more like accurately posed Instagram carousels than evoking specific emotional states. “Black and white film camera/Yellow sunglasses/Ashtray/Swimming pool”, he sings on the modest “Keep Driving”, the lyrics play out like a stylish but pompous film montage that takes the place of actual character development.
Styles is such a magnetic performer on stage, a provocative interview subject and a fearlessly androgynous fashion record that his records have come to feel like missed opportunities – the least personality-driven expressions of his otherwise captivating celebrity. “Harry’s House” is a light, fun, summery pop record, but it has a yawning void at its center; towards the end, the listener tends to feel more intimately familiar with the objects of his affection than the internal world of the titular character himself.