A New Direction for Harry Styles

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By Hiba Sohail, staff writer

Harry Styles—the name itself sounds like a rockstar just waiting to perform.

Before his evolution into a soloist, Styles was well-known as one of the five founding members of the insanely fan-driven boy band, One Direction. While the boy band has gone on an indefinite hiatus, it has defied the odds of the stereotypical one. Its popularity never dropped from its peak and the gradual shift from bubblegum pop to something more developed was apparent. On his own record, however, the 23 year-old channels pop embellished rock.

On his self-titled debut, Styles shows that he’s in control of his record. Choosing the color pink to solidify his very rock and roll album, he channels his inner Mick Jagger. The ten songs range from classic rock to mellow acoustic, a sharp departure from anything he has sung before. One Direction fans will remember “Stockholm Syndrome,” “Something Great,” and “Little Black Dress” across the album, but Harry’s style of music is undoubtedly soft British rock and nothing like the R&B urban pop produced by former bandmate Zayn Malik.

“Sign of the Times,” the debut single, runs for almost six minutes, and is Prince in the name, Bowie in reality. It’s not all that different from a typical One Direction ballad and is a comprehensive introduction for what’s to come on the album.

“Meet Me In The Hallway” and “From the Dining Table” are the first and last tracks respectively. Styles is most vulnerable in these two, where he begs to be heard and to have someone again. The effects used on Style’s voice create an echoed and stand-alone style. It’s mellow, almost haunting, which makes you forget he’s only twenty three.

“Carolina” is the opener to his venture into retrograde rock, and “Kiwi” shows it off as the crescendo. “Woman” is Elton John-esque, but is admittedly a weak attempt. “Only Angel” starts as an apparently angelic instrumental and immediately descends into something very punk-rock that might not be the most appealing. It takes several replays to get used to the shift and is slightly unsettling.

“Two Ghosts” (dubbed the Taylor Swift song for all the wrong reasons) is something that would fit perfectly into a new One Direction album. Arguably the best song on the album, it’s about reflection and wishing to turn back time—a recurring theme in almost all ten tracks.

“Ever Since New York” is an acoustic pop recording and is nothing like the live version Styles debuted on Saturday Night Live. The live version sounds much more harsh in tone, while the studio version is wistful and melancholy. “Sweet Creature” is an ode to his “special person,” and is one of the most personal songs on the album. It has a Pink Floyd vibe to it and the melody gives a quick summary of the album as a whole.

Styles falters a bit with his songwriting about women, however. One would expect more than lyrics like “Couldn’t take you home to mother in a skirt that short” (“Only Angel”) and “Pretty face on a pretty neck” (“Kiwi”) from a man that so easily defies typical masculinity. Other than that, Styles jumps at the chance to show that he’s no longer the curly dimpled teenager from One Direction, but an adult who has experienced heartbreak and wants nothing more than to go back home.  

In his album, Styles subtly shies away from the music typical of the charts. He has a carefully curated image and isn’t stopping anytime soon. It’s a promising debut and proves he’s here to stay. What sets Harry Styles apart are the vocals: undertoned, echoed, and loud. His record is about failed communication and heartbreak, typical subjects nowadays, but Styles strives for more of an authentic twist on them—and succeeds.

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