Harry’s House, by Harry Styles
What does it mean to be a pop star in 2022? Since One Direction went on hiatus a few years ago, Harry Styles has released three solo albums, all of which have been immensely successful, and has positioned himself to be someone deeply inspired by the singer-songwriter movement of the 1970’s. As it happens, I happen to be quite a fan of this particular genre of music, and if it tends to be a bit rare of a phenomenon right now, it is interesting that Styles would lean into this sort of approach rather than into a pop star approach. Styles has often been accused of trying to appear to be more weird than he really is, because at his heart he is a slightly quirky but also generally relatively easygoing sort of persona. This particular album has already spawned a couple of hits and it is curious to see if it has lasting staying power like his second album did. But what does this album sound like to someone who is generally a fan of singer-songwriter materials but also someone who tends to underplay the quriky?
“Music For A Sushi Restaurant” begins the album with some really quirky instrumentation and this odd song is already getting some airplay and may be a potential out-of-left field hit. “Late Night Talking” was the second hit single off of this album and it is an appealing song about encouraging a loved one, and it’s certainly relatable. “Grapejuice” is a song about devotion with an odd name, but easy enough to appreciate with a laid-back vibe. “As It Was,” the smash first single from the album is a mid-tempo song about love and devotion, enjoyable to listen to but not particularly challenging, though with quirky elements in its music it must be admitted. “Daylight” is a beautiful and optimistic song about relationships. “Little Freak” is a strange song, an easygoing ukulele song that is mostly positive thinking about someone, but using some really weird language to discuss what is a generally inoffensive sort of musing. “Matilda” is an encouraging song to someone who grew up in a bad family and it is a gentle sort of song that is easy to appreciate and a standout here. “Cinema” is the beginning of the second-half of obvious album cuts, and it is a song with an odd metaphor that compares a relationship to the way things are in the movies. “Daydreaming” is a sweet song about the use of love of daydream fuel. “Keep Driving” is a lazy sort of summer driving song about moving to cope with life, and the joys of eating and intimacy. “Satellite” is a song about the awkwardness of communication that seems to circle what one really wants to address, unsurprisingly intimacy, and is possibly my favorite song on this album. “Boyfriends” is an interesting ode to the way that men tend to be taken advantage of and misunderstood, but told as a sympathetic song to women. “Love Of My Life” is somewhat ominous sounding song about love in the midst of touring and a dissatisfaction with the state of the world.
By and large this album is a relaxing, laid back album with a summer vibe that stays in a mode of love and intimacy through quirky detail and interesting production. If one is looking for evidence to say that Styles exaggerates his quirky elements, there is certainly plenty of that to be found here. But rather than the cool kid, Styles most resembles someone who tries very hard to get things right and if he is not always successful, he certainly comes off pretty sympathetically here as someone who loves food and affection, tries to communicate if he is not always successful, and tries to be honest to his own slightly quirky but also tryhard muse. His inspiration by 70’s singer-songwriters appears sincere, he too is an artist in an insecure time trying to find in relationships the stability that is absent in the life of a pop star or in the world at large in a time of constant crisis. And despite that context, this album still appears to offer love and relationships as a shelter in the face of the storm. God knows we need some refuge from all this world inflicts on us.