‘We’re not who we used to be,’ Harry Styles purrs over the acoustic and gorgeous track ‘Two Ghosts,’ and that’s a nice way of summing up an obvious truth: he’s broken free and found a voice that contradicts his One Direction roots. Here’s why we’re okay with Harry’s transformation.
Harry Styles, 23, showcases his skills as a songwriter, tackling the usual topics of love and loss on his self-titled debut (May 12), but it’s really the music that hooks you. As you listen below, you’ll notice that he certainly draws from Elton John, Queen and Bon Iver, but he makes the sound his own. As he hops from genre to genre, Harry not only proves his versatility, but makes a convincing case that he will be around for a very, very long time. (In a nutshell: give this album ALL of the Grammys.)
Harry greets us with “Meet Me in the Hallway,” an acoustic track with layered vocals that’ll put you in a trance right off the bat. It’s about a messed-up relationship that might just be on its way out, and while Harry hopes that “maybe we’ll work it out,” by the time we get to “From the Dining Table,” he’s waking up alone. Bonus points for bookending the album with two gorgeous, acoustic songs.
He switches gears with “Sign of the Times,” which was our first introduction to Harry’s solo sound. While it ruffled some feathers, I have to say I liked it upon first listen. It was a risk to make this the lead single because it’s not the most upbeat song on the album, but it’s a beautiful one. Plus, it’s a message to fans that Harry plans to leave a legacy, and he’s not too young to start. It’s followed by “Carolina,” and I’m still not over Harry’s amazing pink suit that he wore while performing it on the TODAY show. In short, it’s a love song with a banging chorus. Perhaps the best on the album.
That brings us to “Two Ghosts,” which many fans believe to be about Taylor Swift. Whether you subscribe to that or not, you can’t deny that it’s a pretty ballad, and it’s a nice exploration of a folksier side of Harry’s sound. “Sweet Creature” is in the same vein, and puts Harry’s vocals at center stage.
Harry begins to really gather momentum with “Only Angel.” Interestingly enough, it begins with the same piano melody that “Sign of the Times” ends with (if you have any ideas as to why that’s the case, please do let me know.) The “woo, hoos,” are the best part, and I dare you to prove otherwise in a court of law. Also, it’s hilarious that Harry thinks he’s the only one who’s ever loved him (“I’m still the only one who’s been in love with me.”) I think not.
“Kiwi” features the zaniest chorus on the record, with references to a girl who cries wolf to the tabloids. Lyrics aside, it’s a jam. I don’t love the next one, “Ever Since New York,” which Harry debuted on Saturday Night Live. The best part is when he goes extra high on the closing lines. Fortunately, things pick up again with “Woman,” a “Benny and the Jets”-esque track with a banging “la la la” chorus. I am a sucker for “la la la” choruses. Thank you, Harry.
My favorite part about Harry’s album is that it’s not a sequel to any of his work with One Direction. It’s a fresh look for him, and damn, it’s a good one. I can’t wait to see where he flies next.
HollywoodLifers, what are your thoughts on Harry Styles?