Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young once sang how “Our House” has two cats in the yard, while Madness pined about how “Our House” was “in the middle of our street.” Now, Harry Styles has invited fans into his house with his new album, Harry’s House, released on May 20. What they found inside was 13 brand new songs, including a mysterious track called “Matilda.” While Harry has not revealed the identity of the mysterious Matilda, he did open up about why he wrote the heartbreaking track.
Harry confirmed that the song was not about himself, but rather someone else’s experience. “In getting to know [that person] better, they revealed some stuff about them which was like, ‘That’s not normal,'” Harry explained. “And I think for a lot of people, what you know in your experience is everything that you know, so it’s easy to mistake it as being, I guess, in this specific case, regular behavior.”
The lyrics in the song are about the recognition that something is not “normal” and getting the right kind of help for it. Naming the title character Matilda, though, was inspired by the character from Roald Dahl’s book. “It’s kind of how I imagine Matilda as a grown-up,” Harry admitted. “I played it to a couple of friends and all of them cried.” One person who Harry did not play the song for is the person it’s about, but he said that he thinks that they’ll know it’s about them once they hear it.
Matilda features lyrics like, “You can throw a party full of everyone you know and not invite your family ’cause they never showed you love,” and “You talk of the pain like it’s alright, but I know that you feel like a piece of you’s dead inside.” Harry also sings, “I know they won’t hurt you anymore as long as you can let them go,” in the bridge.
Of the album, Harry previously told Zane Lowe on Apple Music 1, “I was kind of like, ‘I’d be really fun to make an album called Harry’s House,’ and thought about it being this smaller thing. And then it was back to that thing of, ‘Maybe that’s an album I’ll make in four years or five years or whatever.’ And as I started making the album, I realized it wasn’t about the geographical location. It’s much more of an internal thing.”
“And my favorite thing about this album is while it’s so different, I think it was very much made with the same intent as Fine Line,” added Harry. “I think it just felt like from the first album, I think it wasn’t necessarily a super commercial album. And I think there was something in doing the tour and people coming and dancing and having a good time made me feel like, ‘Okay, you just want me to make what I want to make.’”
Harry also credited his maturing sound to Billie Eilish’s popularity. As she blew up, Harry – who experienced fame at a similarly young age – realized that he was no longer the hot young teenage starlet in the spotlight – and that was okay. “She’s a lot younger than me and there’s no point in me going like, ‘Okay, how do I get back in? How do I get back to…’ She totally broke the spell for me in a way that I’m very grateful for that,” said Harry. “It’s maybe weird because I’ve never told her that, but for me it just let me go.”
So far, so good. Fine Line was a commercial smash. The album debuted atop the US Billboard 200 and in 2022, the RIAA certified it triple-platinum. Critically, Fine Line received generally positive reviews and was, at the time, the best-rated album from a former One Direction member. It also earned Harry his first Grammy Award, winning Best Pop Solo Performance with “Watermelon Sugar.”
Harry’s House will seemingly continue that trend. Rolling Stone gave the album 4/5, saying that Harry “pulled off the neat trick of making his music at once elegant and more refined but also warmer and more intimate — the polished-marble smoothness of Steely Dan with the generosity of an Al Green or Yo La Tengo record.” American Songwriter echoed that high praise, saying that Harry’s House is “unmistakably groovy” and that the album is “a summertime fling that, thankfully, seems like it will stick around for quite a while.”