Album Review: Harry Styles Finds His Solo Direction


Courtesy of Columbia Records

From a boyband superstar to one of the most highly anticipated solo acts in music, former One Direction member and current heartthrob, Harry Styles, released his solo debut self-titled album on Friday.

The 10-track album is a complete switch from the generic teenage love songs the boy band would churn out for five years. The 23-year-old superstar held back on any features, and simply executed the task of showing what he’s really got: pure talent.

From Styles’ vocals to his newly honed talent of playing the guitar, this Bowie-meets-Elton -meets-Beatles-meets-the-Stones album does it all.

The first two tracks set a steady pace, with a slow strum cohesively flowing through his soft yet sharp vocals. He opens with “Meet Me in the Hallway,” with creeping common patterns of country guitar strums. His echoing voice illustrates the emptiness and loneliness of Styles, waiting for his yearning lover.

This is followed by the debut single “Sign of the Times,” which is headed for No. 1. This track creates the strong chain Styles needed to break through skeptics and gain credibility.

He assembled a band and with the helping hand of mastermind producer Jeff Bhasker (Kanye West, “Uptown Funk”) and recorded most of the album in Jamaica.

He shared in a recent interview with Rolling Stone that the lyrics depict the point of view of a mother who’s not going to make it after labor but the baby will survive. Her message to the baby is “stop the crying, it’s the sign of the times.” It created the underlying message that the shedded tears, the constant downfalls, is not the beginning nor the end.

The halfway mark of the album takes a sharp turn on tempo and pace. Styles enrages in a rock ‘n’ roll phase in “Only Angel” and “Kiwi.”

“Only Angel” opens with a smooth trick, as if the gates of heaven are opening, the angels sing a harmonious key, but gets cut with Styles’ Jagger-esque screech. The sexualized song, imaginably gives fans heart palpitations as he sings about his new dream girl, whose skirt is too short for mother to see. Their rendezvouses and sexual chemistry are marked with a key lyric  “when it turns out she is a devil between the sheets.”

You can hear the adolescent girls faint in unison.

“Kiwi” is the edgiest the former boybander has gone. It’s a great ode to his idol and Rolling Stones frontman with a dash of Ramones. It’s just a complete jumble of rage and electric guitar riffs and solos inducing through the almost three-minute song. 

Styles was in a whirlwind romance with pop superstar Taylor Swift in 2013. Swift is notorious for scripting lyrics about her past and infamous relationships (she has dedicated so far two on her last album to Styles).

The tables turn on her as “Two Ghosts” eerily depicts their sensationalized and rocky relationship. The subtly is uncanny as it opens, “Same lips red, same eyes blue. Same white shirt, couple more tattoos.” Fan bases from both ends immediately correlated the lyrics to Swift’s “Style,” which fans easily concluded the man behind the love story.

Styles’ falsettos on “Sign of the Times” to “Sweet Creature” and the authenticity of his songwriting prove the album to have an eclectic presence. Compared to his former and equally vocally talented bandmate, Zayn Malik, “Harry Styles” speaks at a higher volume.

The path to a longstanding solo career looks bright for the British crooner.