Elizabeth Proffitt | Contributing Writer
This article was originally published May 2017
Harry Styles released his first self-titled solo album May 12, 2017. The greatly anticipated album takes Styles in a new musical direction, departing from mainly pop songs that he wrote in One Direction, towards psychedelic rock-infused ballads.
Styles’ new style has garnered numerous classic rock comparisons, however Styles manages to sound musically familiar but make that familiar sound his own while enticing a new audience. The album’s ten-song track list varies from sentimental ballads about lost love to upbeat tracks about romantic frustration.
The album begins with “Meet Me in the Hallway,” a dreamy song that sounds like it could have been an unreleased track from Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here.” The nostalgic ballad gives fans an insight into Styles’ vulnerable side. With lyrics like, “'Cause you left me in the hallway, Give me some more. Just take the pain away.”
The next track on the album is Styles’ first solo single, “Sign of the Times.” Styles uses an airy falsetto to lament on the current state of unspecified events, whether it be a relationship, political tensions or personal problems of his own. The concept of some kind of personal loss is explored here as well, with a comforting push to remember that “Baby, it’ll be alright.”
This song is a good framework for the entire album because it’s introspective and soulful. The song received comparisons to David Bowie and Prince songs, however Styles’ personality shines through and is complemented with a backing choir of gospel singers when the singer croons about his wish to get away.
Styles’ song “Carolina” sounds like a classic nod to The Beatles with sliding, almost psychedelic backing vocals dedicated to a woman he met just once. The song “Two Ghosts” however, doesn’t seem to fit the overall style of the album. The song is very sentimental, with Styles constantly dodging questions about the songs inspiration, however the country spin to it is in contrast to the rest of the album’s rock sensibilities.
“Sweet Creature” is the album’s most folksy song, and the only other song similar to “Two Ghosts” in its musicality. The sentimentality that acts as a cohesive thread throughout the whole album centers here with nostalgic imagery. “Sweet creature, We're running through the garden, oh, where nothing bothered us, But we're still young, I always think about you and how we don't speak enough...”
One of the album’s most technically interesting songs comes in the form of “Only Angel.” The song starts out like an angelic, psychedelic dream fit for Pink Floyd or “Congratulations” era MGMT and then suddenly transforms into a bluesy, heavier rock song that breaks the somber tone from the past few songs.
This transition in “Only Angel” sets up for Styles' most surprising song, “Kiwi.” Fans of the Arctic Monkeys or The Fratellis will enjoy this innuendo-laced song that references everything from cocaine to prostitution, a far cry from some of his earlier songs in the album and especially his work in One Direction.
Styles debuted “Ever Since New York” on "Saturday Night Live" last month, the folksy song continuing the album’s theme of nostalgia, and now confusion. “Tell me something, tell me, something, You don't know nothing, just pretend you do, Tell me something just before you go.”
“Ever Since New York” falls in line with the last two songs from the album, “Woman” and “From the Dining Table.” All three are different musically, “Woman” in comparison to “Ever Since New York is much more bluesy and psychedelic, but it also recalls a feeling of regret or tension.
The transition from “Ever Since New York” to “Woman” almost reads like the progression of the end of a relationship, the confusion that comes with the dissolve and then the ultimate jealousy and irritation of the aftermath.
“From the Dining Table” slows down the tempo and finishes the album in a similar way as “Meet me in the Hallway” started it. The lyrics of this song are the most honest, with a solitary backing guitar to make the song feel the most intimate.
Taken literally, Styles explores the gritty aftermath of ending a relationship with someone while trying to move on, unsuccessfully. Styles lazily sings, “Woke up alone in this hotel room
Played with myself, where were you? Fell back to sleep, I got drunk by noon, I've never felt less cool…”
Newly solo, Styles has managed to excite fans and non-fans alike with his self-titled album, his tour for this album begins this September, and sold out in a matter of seconds. To promote the album, he will also have a weeklong residency on the Late Late Show with James Corden from May 15 to May 18.