By: Brendan Manning
If it weren’t already obvious from the excessive number of posters at every tube station, Harry Styles released a new album. While the album has already achieved number one on the billboard charts and carries plenty of radio-friendly singles, the album as a whole is more substantial than the pop music it is perceived to be.
The album, titled Harry’s House, conveys the feeling of home—wherever that might be. It creates a safe space to be vulnerable. While the highly anticipated tracks, “Music for a Sushi Restaurant” and “Grapejuice,” don’t disappoint, the album is a gold mine full of deep cuts. Below I will describe my personal favourites from the album.
This song, the album’s unspoken hero, initially paints a comfortable and lovely picture, only to destroy it with fears lurking beneath the surface. The bridge is the sound of anxiety kicking in at the end of a perfect day filled with maple syrup and yellow sunglasses. It’s the everything’s wrong type-beat that causes a spiral of worst case scenarios, that sometimes feels the same as FOMO (fear of missing out): “Riot America, Science and edibles, Life hacks going viral in the bathroom, Cocaine… bad move, Just act normal…” He responds to all of these fears with a question: “Should we just keep driving,” and lets the listener decide the answer while reaching the end of a crossroad. “We held darkness in withheld clouds.” That’s art.
“Stay green a little while.” If looking for a track to play while crying in the bathtub, it’s this one. It isn’t just his style that gets attention for breaking gender norms, it’s his delicate point of view that seeps through the cracks on songs like these that redefine what it means to be a man in pop music. Ironically, the lyrics of this song find Styles blaming himself for not being vulnerable enough in the said relationship.
As It Was:
The number one single is a song with many interpretations. Some believe it to be about his relationship with fame, his sister, his father, or old bandmates from One Direction. The same sentiment was applied to Styles’ debut single, “Sign of the Times,” and it makes for a powerful first single if it can be attributed to so many different ideas. While he may never share the true meaning, Styles doesn’t like to deny rumours either. In an interview about his first album, he said, “People are always gonna speculate what songs are about, and I don’t think I’d ever want to tell someone that they’re wrong for feeling what they feel about a song even when they’re not necessarily right.”
The beauty lies in its ambiguity.
This song sounds as if it were compiled from everyone’s confessional DMs on Instagram. He tells the story of Roald Dahl’s Matilda after she grows up, and he reminds listeners not to worry about disapproval from one’s family. It might be worth noting that while Matilda, Dahl’s famous character, is female, Styles does not assign a gender to the person he serenades.
Styles is known to have rejected sexuality labels; and while many listeners think this song draws inspiration from the experience of friends, others believe it to be about a previous relationship with his fellow bandmate, Louis Tomlinson. Regardless, it takes a strong melody and powerful lyrics to carry an acoustic song with minimal production. This is effortlessly achieved with lyrics like, “You lay with him as you stay in the daydream.”
Love Of My Life:
The mysterious and ominous F# notes of the chorus make listeners wonder why he would choose to close out the album with this one. For me it was the most memorable track. And what’s better, he said that it was inspired by England. After leaving home at sixteen to join One Direction, it’s no wonder he sings lyrics like, “It’s not what I wanted, to leave you behind, don’t know where you’ll land when you fly…” In an interview with Zane Lowe, Styles said: “To me, ‘Love Of My Life’ was definitely the most terrifying song for a long time because it’s so bare.” The stripped piano outro represents ascension onto another level as Styles sheds the popstar persona and moves on to something greater, while reminding us that there is no place like home.