With a hoard of new music being released lately, the overall theme for popular artists is the evolution of new sound. I think we can all agree that Miley Cyrus went through a complete makeover with her new track Malibu, and then there is Paramore with their alt-funk pop tunes that have beach tune vibes attached which is a smooth transition away from their rock origin. We can’t forget the biggest debut of them all, Harry Styles going solo album creatively titled Harry Styles which is not drastically an evolution aside from the fact that this is his first album without four backup singers to help him out. Sorry ladies, I know it is a travesty but One Direction is not getting back together anytime soon.
At first I had no interest in dissecting this album, and then I saw every other music platform covering it. So, I bought a one-way ticket onto the bandwagon. As a past directioner, shocking I know, I used to long for the Harry Styles solos amongst all five singers from the group. He was my favorite along with millions of other teenage females. The reason for this I am mostly convinced is due to his hair, but for me personally it was his rockstar persona. He had a unique voice, unique style, and a unique heart. All of those attributes to this day I believe Harry still upholds, and the evidence glows in this album.
Harry’s first song off the album is a simple laid back tune that fits the chill natural tone for most of the other songs on his debut album. My favorite parts of his opening tune, “Meet Me in the Hallway”, are the maybe’s he sings that go up so high that I can practically picture his right eye crunching up in a squint while his lips move upward to hit that twisted note.
This song was wisely put as the single due to it arguably being the best constructed song on the whole album. It has novelistic qualities in plot line, let me explain. His soft introduction steadily unfolds into the rising action where he is holding out these long notes and adds a high note to top it off like a cherry on a sundae around 4:00 into the song where he sings, “We don’t talk enough. We should open up before it’s all too much. Will we ever learn. We’ve been here before. It’s just what we know,” Harry sings. Each section of the song hits harder and stronger until his climax of the song where he is practically screaming at the top of his lungs, “We got to get away”. Then he ends it right there, leaving the other half of the novel creatively unwritten. Open for interpretation, the song leaves the listener in awe. Overall, I believe this song is talking about death in a sense. It would make the perfect Shakespearean tragedy of pop music. Well done Harry.
I really dug this song until I heard its background story in an interview that Harry Styles did with Billboard 1 Radio. Now all I can do when I hear it is smirk and shake my head at the petty shade Styles threw throughout this song. In no way was he being rude or talking malice about this particular female, but there is a specific female he has in mind. The summary goes as follows, Harry met a girl from Carolina once who he had sexual intercouse with and potentially a full relationship until they broke up (he would not reveal how, not even the song makes those details clear) and he thinks of her often. Therefore, he wrote this song about her without her knowledge, and had intentions of her hearing it when the album was released so her realisation would be hilariously confounded. “I met her once and wrote a song about her. I want to scream, yeah I want to shout it out and I hope she hears me now. La la la la la la…” Harry gallantly trails on as he sings about the good girl from Carolina who “Feels so good.” Harry you smug bastard. The interview goes on to reveal that the girl did discover the song, and that it was about her because her dad saw Harry singing it on the telly… how awkward.
I do not have too many words for this song. It is a sad love ballad, and quite frankly I don’t feel like being sad when hearing Harry’s voice. However, this song is an amazing example of Harry’s songwriting skills. It’s very poetic lyric wise, this song shows growth. It is talking about two people who have fallen out of love with each other, and it is so sad. A great song to relate to for anyone who is in this situation, or has been one point in time. “We are just two ghosts swimming in a glass half empty trying to remember how it feels to have a heart beat.” Quite beautifully written.
This is the second single that Harry released off of his album before all the tracks were fully uncovered. A great acoustic track with folky undertones. Nothing about this song screams pop to me, which is the genre people choose to categorize Harry under. By definition this song has a simple country vibe with a nice sweet voice attached to match the title.
This song basically has a one minute intro with no vocals attached, a complete tempo change, and a complete style change. It went from angelic symphony to classic rock n’ roll hit. There is no wow factor for this tune. It is a good song, not a great one nor a fantastic one… just good. I can imagine Harry killing this performance on his european tour. However, on record it is subjectively one of his weaker songs. That cowbell in the back goes hard though (starts at 2:40) is all I can hear.
Why he named this song Kiwi I will never know, but it is arguably his strongest rock song on the album. Subjectively, this is my favorite song out of the bunch. When I first heard it the grin on my face went all the way around as my mouth opened in shock. “Driving me crazy, but I’m into it.” Harry sings, and the first time he sang it I dropped to the floor. I had no idea that Harry had this much funk and rock n’ roll talent buried deep inside of him. It was hiding underneath years of teeny bop tunes. As for the connotation of the song, well if you are a pop icon and have not published a song about illegitimate pregnancy allegations are you really a pop icon?
A good song, maybe even a great one. Simple, nice, elegant, and long.
I change my mind about what I said before when I referred to Kiwi as my favorite song on the album because this by far BEATS THEM ALL. It is sexy and shameless. When Harry sings the words, “I’m selfish I know, but I don’t ever want to see you with him.” I can feel that. The vibrato in his voice says it all. The whole construct of this song moves me and that piano kills it off. I am in love.
The simplest of all simple tracks off of this entire album. I have a notion that Harry used split audio with two different takes of the song playing in the listener’s ears. If you listen to this track using headphones, you can literally feel Styles’ lips move against your lobes. He is so close to that mic it’s agonizingly painful to listen to this song without either being weirded out or shrinking in bashfulness. It is such a sweet song though, and shout out to the off tune guitar strum screw up at 2:52 in the track. I caught that. This was a nice way to end it all, I’m impressed.
This song made my head do a double take. I knew about Miley and Liam’s reunion, but it feels like just yesterday I was jamming out to her heartbroken album Bangerz. Oh wait, that was yesterday. I may not agree with their relationship, because I still haven’t forgiven Liam, but I can’t disagree with this beautiful happy go lucky song. She sounds so content, and it shows in the video she released to match it all. Fun factoid, the grittiness in quality is due to most of the song being recorded in Miley’s trailer from the Voice. Overall, the transition may be a little shaky, but her talent still executed this release perfectly. Much cute, very coachella.
Okay, I am not going to fully dissect this album like I did with Harry’s but I will give my input on the band’s comeback. Am I the only one that misses their rock albums that got me through my teen angst phases? Don’t get me wrong, they slayed this release. Every track shows signs of pop beachy alt-funk that redefines their sound quite nicely. I sensed their transition into the pop genre from their last album, Paramore, from songs like their singles “Still Into You” and “Ain’t It Fun” that contrasted their rock hits off of that album like “Now” and “Anklebiters”. With this new album, however, they went full on pop. Kind of like when Childish Gambino came out with his new album “Awaken, My Love” with not a single rap track on the entire list.
Before I completely annexed this album from my library for not being able to cope with the evolution of music, my friend Josh Reed brought to my attention how experimenting with sound is one of the great qualities that music has to offer an artist. So that is why I am happy to admit “Fake Happy” and “Told You So” are my favorite tracks off of the album. Change is a good thing… I guess.