Harry Styles was always the biggest stand out in One Direction; always poised for something bigger and better than what 1D was able to show of him — and he’s finally delivered it. Harry Styles sees the 23-year-old trading in his One Direction pop hooks and settling himself effortlessly into the role of a burgeoning prince of rock, coming off sounding like a love child of The Beatles, Prince, Queen and The Doors.
Harry Styles is an album about what happens after the lights have faded, after the parties have ended and the awards are just bookends gathering dust. It’s a relationship centered album about what happens when you look up and don’t recognize the person you’re in a relationship with, when you’re left alone with your thoughts about what could have been, and when you start wondering where it all went wrong. “We’re not who we use to be,” he laments on “Two Ghosts.” “We’re just two ghosts standing in the place of you and me/ Trying to remember how it feels to have a heartbeat.” The album doesn’t feel forced, contrived or obnoxious. There’s legitimate intent and meaning to what he’s saying, and feels like a natural and genuine progression for him.
He sounds right at home on true rock entries “Kiwi” and “Only Angels,” but he truly shines sounds most authentic on the more vulnerable side of things with “Ever Since New York,” “Sweet Creature,” “Meet Me In The Hallway,” and the aforementioned “Two Ghosts.” These songs service his underrated vocals so well and is such a great use of what he can do. Cuts like “From The Dining Table” find Styles at a particularly bleak place following the end of a relationship, even running into his ex’s new man. “I saw your friend that you know from work/ He said you feel just fine/ I see you gave him my old t-shirt/ More of what was once mine,” he says. While “Kiwi” on the other hand sees him admitting his enjoyment of the chase singing, “She’s driving me crazy, but I’m into it.”
Clocking in at just 10 songs, it’s an unusually short debut album. Most times, coming fresh from the boy-band life, a debut album will be stuffed with many “this is who I am” filler tracks, but Harry Styles skips this trope and instead shows us what he’s made of through his ability to honor his influences while carving a new notch for himself in these classic genres — and he does it all without boring us to death or annoying us.
It would have been nice to hear him really dig into some more of his feelings outside of a relationship and be a little more brutal, but he’s writing what he knows and how he wants, and through that overall offers up a more than exceptional debut. This album proves he wont fade into obscurity like so many former boy-banders before him, his play for legitimacy being more than successful here. He’s still learning who he is in this new role as a solo leading man, but this album exhibits what a natural performer he really is, and the performer he’s turning into. We might just be witnessing the birth of a true child of rock.