As One Direction slowly takes their separate roads, we are left wondering just how they'll all turn out. ZAYN took the bad-boy pop direction with his risqué record, and Louis Tomlinson has taken a venture into the EDM world. Now that it's time for the (assumed) frontman to take his own path, we were all wondering what would be coming. Boy, was it something special. Harry Styles sheds his old skin in his debut album Harry Styles, revealing a creative side to him that feels like its been brewing for a long time.
We knew Harry Styles' solo career would be fruitful from the second we heard 'Sign Of The Times.' In the context of the album, the track sounds even more epic. It's 80s vibe carries the general sonic motif for the record on a strongly established basis. The song's beautiful composition lends itself to the album's entire sound, really showcasing Styles' strength as an artist. The somber piano and vocals slowly build to a massive song full of orchestration, crashing guitars, and a powerful guitar as Styles croons above the end. It's a fantastic track and introduction to his career.
The album doesn't follow the sound of 'Sign Of The Times,' but it does follow the era. This album is all about the 80s in every shape and form. There's an 80s pop-rock section that kicks it off, that leads into a more folk pop sound before revving things up to some pure 80s rock, reverting back to the softer sound to conclude the record. It's very interestingly plotted out, almost like it represents Styles' life: gentle beginnings, growth, his rebellious stage, before finally hitting maturity. It does make sense; his debut album laying out his life and foundations is a good move. You really feel like you grow with him throughout the record, too: the uncertain, almost detached beginning of 'Meet Me In The Hallway' is a fragile beginning, but a few songs later with 'Carolina,' you really feel his understanding of who he is is a lot more solid with the song's swagger an groove (it even sounds like he's channeling his inner Weezer on the track).
To be fully honest, I didn't know what to expect from this record, but a lot of it wasn't what I expected by a long run. The album being a mostly pop rock venture was a big surprise, and I certainly didn't expect so many dimensions. There's a little of everything here as far as 80s pop rock goes. The folky ballad 'Two Ghosts' rings out very sweetly, Styles singing with a very mellow tone with humble and relatable words to accompany them. 'Sweet Creature' is much the same, the vocals really standing out above all else.
When the guitars get rolling, the album really gets exciting. 'Only Angel' begins with a beautiful intro, choirs singing gracefully and the glorious synth rolling in before a big, Rolling Stones reminiscent riff rolls in and Styles shouts in pure rock fashion. The blues rock vibe goes strong with this one, Styles really sounding like he's in his element. 'Kiwi' wastes no time getting into things, its punchy rock vibe sounding like a cross between Elvis and classic 80s rock. He even gets jazzy with 'Woman,' its funkier approach offering up some great sounds.
To end it off, the album reverts back to its more stripped down form. 'Ever Since New York' is a largely chill track, the percussion taking a starring roll with its interesting, almost traditional sound. Styles sings with a lot of feeling, really feeling thankful for the experience he's singing of. The album closes with 'From The Dining Table,' a quiet song with a lo-fi atmosphere. The story comes full circle here, Styles reaching the present, singing longingly about memories of the past. It's a sadder song and feels a lot more mature than previous tracks, but not in such a way that devalues them. It shows his growth from start to finish in a fantastic way.
Harry Styles shed his old skin on his debut album, and he sounds in his element more than he ever has. He sounds free and has no limit on his creativity. It's a powerful debut that will leave everyone wanting more from him in the time to come. This is the music he was meant to be making.
Favorite Tracks: Kiwi, Sign Of The Times, Only Angel
Least Favorite Track: Meet Me In The Hallway
Rating: 94 / 100
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