Harry Styles delivers a successful, enjoyable debut album with his highly anticipated, self-titled effort.
Every boy band has a star. While One Direction was so popular that all five of its members had their fair share of buzz, Harry Styles seemed to be the chosen one. Styles becomes just the second member of One Direction to release a solo album, simply titled Harry Styles. Styles embraces a pop/rock sound, clearly different than most young pop artists in recent times.
“Sign of the Times”
“Meet Me in the Hallway” kicks off the album intensely. Styles’ vocals are drenched in reverb, giving them a wide, mysterious sound. “Meet Me in the Hallways” sounds nothing like contemporary pop. There are few lyrics on the verse, but Styles conveys his point – Maybe we’ll work it out. Interesting start, not a hit per se, but unique.
On “Sign of the Times,” Styles impresses with his vocal tone, which is perfectly suited for this rock-pop ballad. As the song progresses, he lets loose, showing great vocal ability, checking off all boxes. Although ambitious at nearly six minutes, “Sign of the Times” is beautiful, conveying a serious message. The first verse tackles morbidity, while the second reflects on the ascent to heaven, transcending earthly pain. On the bridge, Styles places emphasis on the importance of openness as opposed to the devastation of covertness. On the golden chorus, there’s a sense of reaching heaven – escaping the times:
“Just stop your crying, it’s a sign of the times / We gotta get away from here…/ Just stop your crying, it’ll be alright / They told me that the end is near / We gotta get away from here.”
“Carolina” embraces a folk-pop sound, driven by its rhythmic guitar. Something positive about the record is its groove, which gives Harry Styles more fun. At its most literal, Styles is singing about a girl. “Two Ghosts” is well-rounded, with a moderate tempo and respectable vocals. The chorus is simple, once more, but sufficient. Acoustic rhythm guitars dominate the production.
“Sweet Creature” clearly has a throwback quality, resembling the folk music from the 60s and 70s. The rhythmic guitar lines sound tried-and-true, despite the fact “Sweet Creature” is a new song. Ultimately, he successfully channels the past, delivering a balanced vocal performance. It’s imperfect, however, sometimes coming off too static. Because of its stripped, acoustic nature, there’s less room for error and a lower ceiling. He adds a hint of excitement, but “Sweet Creature” doesn’t possess the same potency as say “Sign of the Times.”
“Only Angel” begins angelically, before establishing itself as a gritty, hard-rocking record. Traditional rock at its core, it sounds refreshing nonetheless. Things remain high-flying on “Kiwi,” where Styles is aggressive and energetic as ever.
“Ever Since New York”
After two raucous numbers, Styles settles things down on the reflective “Ever Since New York.” The vocal production on the chorus is absolutely stunning. Lyrically, there are some truly thoughtful, poetic moments. Clearly, whatever went down in New York has affected Styles deeply. The result is one of the best songs of his debut album. Penultimate record “Woman” blends classic rock, pop and soul together. Like much of Harry Styles, this sounds like it could’ve potentially been a hit in the 1970s. “From the Dining Table” concludes the album radiantly, finding Styles showing poise and subtlety.
All in all, Harry Styles delivers on his self-titled debut. It isn’t perfect, but in many ways, it’s more distinct than his work with One Direction. That is to be expected though – this is a solo album. Does he play too much into the traditional, vintage sound at times? Yes. Perhaps there could be even more variation, but for the most part, this feels like his lane. Successful debut without question.
Gems: “Sign of the Times,” “Carolina,” “Only Angel,” “Ever Since New York” & “Woman”
Harry Styles • Harry Styles • Columbia • Release: 5.12.17
Photo Credit: Columbia
To read the full-length, track by track album review of Harry Styles’ Harry Styles, check out Harry Styles, Harry Styles | Album Review on The Musical Hype.