Harry Styles

Harry Styles

Columbia, 2017

http://hstyles.co.uk

REVIEW BY: Mark Millan

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/24/2020

The thing with vocal groups like One Direction is you’re never able to get a firm grasp of the individual talents that each member brings to the table. For the most part, their music was bland pop-lite stuff directed at the tween/teen markets, and if any adults got caught up in the hype, then that was an added bonus. Their management team did an amazing job of creating a fuss from day one, and not since The Spice Girls had a British vocal group captured such a massive slice of the global market. As with The Spice Girls, it wasn’t meant to last, and following six years of 1D mania, the lads announced it was time to take a breath and entered an “indefinite hiatus” that may or may not mean there will be a reunion at some point.

Harry Styles was always a favourite 1D member for many fans and it was never hard to see why; with his easy charm and good looks, it was almost impossible not to like the guy regardless of how one felt about the music. It’s fair to say of all the 1D lads, Styles has made the easiest transition to solo artist, and not to mention the most successful one. Although for some of the guy,  music has taken a back seat, for Harry, it seems to be his true desire.

Styles was just 22 when he began working on this self-titled debut disc in 2016 with a small team of writers and producers to oversee the project and keep it focused, namely: Jeff Bhasker, Kid Harpoon, Tyler Johnson, and Alex Salibian. Released in 2017, my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Harry Styles bears little resemblance musically to anything 1D put out, save for a few tracks that maybe are a little too tame compared to the stronger material found on the record. The most pleasing aspects of the album is that it forgoes the current seemingly unending trend of filtering and processing recorded tracks into computerized oblivion.

This is a pop album, make no mistake, but thankfully the emphasis is on actual instrumentation played by an array of session players that bring to life all of Styles’ influences, from Britpop to ‘70s easy rock. The first single released to showcase what was to come was a no-brainer: “Sign Of The Times” is an epic song that is steeped in ‘90s Britpop and builds to a wonderful crescendo, featuring a choir backing Styles’ killer vocal performance. The second single released was the obligatory break-up song “Two Ghosts,” for which Styles sits comfortably in his beautiful mid-range and is backed by a track that would’ve found a home on a mid-‘70s FM rock station.

The third and final single dropped was “Kiwi,” a blissfully smutty rocker that Styles wrote about a one-night-stand from hell: “She worked her way through a cheap pack of cigarettes / Hard liquor mixed with a bit of intellect.” He rips through it with swagger but also with tongue firmly planted in cheek. It’s not all good new, however, as sex is on the menu again for the blatant Stones imitation of “Only Angel,” complete with handclaps and Styles doing his best at trying to out-Jagger Mick but failing miserably; they even threw some cowbell (“Honky Tonk Woman” style) as if to drive the point home.

The clunky “Woman” is another ‘70s piano pop throwback that never goes beyond anything than an idea, and “From The Dining Table” is a trippy acoustic ballad that finds Styles channelling too much Donovan and not enough Harry (his harmonies are stunning, though). “Sweet Creature” is a little “Blackbird” (yes, that one) at the beginning but is easily the most earnest of the ballads on offer here. “Carolina” is another ode to another ex (“There's not a drink that I think could sink her”) that brings some silly fun to proceedings, and “Meet Me In The Hallway” has some very ‘60s folksy vibes going on; it’s definitely one of the more original ideas explored across the album.

As a debut album, I guess Harry Styles does its job as it showcased Styles’ ripping vocals and sense of fun. His charm really does translate. However, there isn’t much depth here; the whole thing feels as if he just wanted to hit on as many ideas and influences as possible. It would have been nice to get more of a sense about what makes this guy tick, but there’s always next time for that.

Rating: B

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