Harry Styles presents himself as rock star on solo debut album
It has been raining solo material by the One Direction singers lately. Zayn already dropped his R&B debut album last year, but keeps on putting out new singles and collaborations, Niall has launched two singles so far, Louis Tomlinson worked with Steve Aoki on a dance collab, Liam will drop his very first track next week and Harry Styles just released his first album! Harry’s solo music does sound nothing like anything the other boys are doing though!
When the big and vivacious first single ‘Sign of the Times’ dropped, I wrote that it did not sound radically different from his One Direction music. Although the arrangement was obviously more rock oriented, the hook of the chorus is huge and quite poppy. When listening to the full 10 tracks long album, it is not hard to understand why his label pushed this as the first single, as it clearly is the most radiofriendly song on there. ‘Two Ghosts’ seems like the most hit worthy follow with a laidback singer-songwriter vibe and an instant chorus.
It has to be said, the rest of the album sounds way less polished and quite convincingly rock & roll. The guitar based opening track ‘Meet Me In The Hallway’ about dealing with rejection, is raw and pure and therefore quite accurately sets the tone for the whole record. The pre-order single ‘Sweet Creature’ follows a similar sound, properly showing off Harry’s matured vocals. Out of the slower tracks ‘Ever Since New York’ is a stand out. The repetition of the sentence ‘Oh tell me something I don’t already know’ is hauntingly beautiful. Vocally and lyrically it is heartbreaking and convincingly so.
For fans of more upbeat rock and roll, the album has got ‘Carolina’, ‘Kiwi’ and ‘Only Angel’ lined up, of which the latter is the strongest. The track talks about his attraction to a girl that certainly is not the perfect daughter-in-law (“couldn’t take you home to mother in a skirt that short, but I think that’s what I like about it”) and perfectly builds up from an ethereal intro to full on 70s rock, complete with cowbell, obviously inspired by his idols like the Rolling Stones and David Bowie.
While Styles’ debut record does sound like it was made in the 70s and he convincingly presents himself as a solo artist with a record that balances between rock, folk and singer-songwriter pop, the compositions are not always up to scratch. Maybe this is my pop heart complaining, but the majority of the choruses on the album consist of the repeating of the same one or two sentences, with ‘woman, lalala’ as a low point. Harry, we know you no longer aspire to be a pop star, but that does not mean you cannot deliver us some more melody to keep us hooked.