Final Rating: 9/10
Just stop your crying it’s a sign of the times. This what I told myself the day One Direction broke up (not in those exact words but you know where I’m headed). It has been almost two years since the bands last album and in that time we have seen the boys move on and grow, both as individuals and as artists. Friday May 12th marked the release of one of the most anticipated albums, as Harry Styles showed the world that he was a rock star.
For fans of the One Direction era, the tone of Harry’s album was not a complete surprise with songs like “Stockholm Syndrome” and “Olivia” from FOUR and Made in the AM. But for those who only know Harry Styles as one-fifth of that bubble gum pop manufactured boy band from the X-Factor, your heads are probably turning right about now.
From the moment the very first track “Meet Me in The Hallway” begins you can already hear those who have influenced Styles in the past. The psychedelic acoustic guitar is very reminiscent of Pink Floyd classics. When approaching this album Styles said that the songs were crafted at some of his most vulnerable moments.
The album continues with Styles’ debut single “Sign of the Times” which is a very melancholy ballad that channels his inner Bowie. When listening to the song for the first time I envisioned an angel looking over the life it had left behind. After the music video, which came out last week we saw Harry flying over picturesque Scotland wearing his best clothes, helping to put some truth to the theory. This song very much has a classic rock feel, and you almost wonder what the reception of this song would have been like in the late 1970’s. It debuted at #4 on Billboards Top 100 proving that it will have no problem sticking it out with the music of today.
The third track on the album “Carolina” is quickly became one of my personal favourites and from a concert standpoint will probably be one of the best to see live. Harry quickly abandons the ballads and trades them in for an upbeat guitar-driven and rhythmic affair. I’m already thinking about audiences around the world, dancing and singing the la-la-la’s of the chorus back to Harry at the top of their lungs. If you dig far enough into the Twitterverse you will see many theories swirling about whether the song has to do with a young woman from South Carolina or with drugs. While I am a true sucker for conspiracy theories I think either version of the song truly fits this rock-n-roll persona.
“Sweet Creature” which was released as Harry’s second single, is where he is lyrically at his best and most vulnerable. He penned the song with Kid Harpoon who has written songs for the likes of Christina Perri, Shawn Mendes and Florence + the Machine (just to name a few). It was one of the first songs that didn’t feel overcrowded by creative voices; this song is raw and authentic Harry Styles. The 23-year-old has taken the beating from the tabloids as being the womanizer since One Direction began. While some of the songs on this album certainly channel into the allegations, “Sweet Creature” is the complete opposite. With the lyrics: “When I run out of road, you bring me home, You’ll bring me home” you get a sense of this young relationship that might now be broken, and even though they might not see each other or talk as much as they once did, they know they are fated.
Like a one-two punch “Only Angel” and “Kiwi” really bite back at you with their guitar riffs. “Only Angel” is the pinnacle rock-n-roll track on the album that allows Styles to really unleash the inner Mick Jagger that has been waiting to emerge for quite sometime. With the screaming vocals and inevitable hip shakes, it’s going to be hard for fans of all ages to keep it together during live performances of this song. “Kiwi” picks up as quickly as “Only Angel” ends, the perfect combination of back-to-back songs. Styles hinted on BBC radio 1 that this was the first song he ever wrote for the album, he used it as his outlet to get a lot of the nervous energy out of his system.
The album’s final bow is “From the Dining Table” which is the perfect melodic coda. After being emotionally tested during the entire album this song really slows things down and gives you time to process the last forty minutes. As Styles taps into one last acoustic confessional with the lyrics: “Why won’t you ever say what you want to say? Even my phone misses your call, by the way.” You are transported on one final journey with a young man who has both seen it all and lost a lot along the way.
This album is everything you could have wanted out of Harry Styles’ debut album. He pays homage to so many incredibly different and unique artists and within those homages; there is still an authenticity that is very Harry Styles. You can tell that over the year it took him to write this album, he really put a lot of thought into what he wanted to showcase to the world. This album will succeed not only because of his boy-band fame but also because of its musical arrangements. Those who maybe turned away from One Direction may start to slowly come out of the woodwork and be extremely impressed with what Harry Styles has to offer as a solo artist.