By Jasmyn M. ’23
Whether it was one of the tens of millions of devout fans that have been following him since he was sixteen on The X Factor, or it was someone who had never heard of him before ‘Watermelon Sugar’ exploded on the radio two years ago, there is no doubt that the whole world was eagerly anticipating the release of Harry Styles’ third album, Harry’s House, which debuted May 20. The album’s title implies that listeners will get a clear glimpse into Styles’ mind and inner emotions, but instead, it creates a scrapbook of simple memories and emotions that come together to reveal his refreshed attitude after the rollout of his last album was rudely interrupted by the pandemic. Each album he releases peels back the curtain a bit more to reveal his true musical style; one which he has been in the process of discovering since his boy-band days back in 2015. Little by little, Styles has diverged from the sounds of mainstream pop. Harry’s House’s loungey music oozes charisma, somehow letting his raw voice shine through while piling on the retro vocal effects.
The energy of the introduction to the album, ‘Music for a Sushi Restaurant,’ immediately strikes as a continuation of Styles’ previous album’s ‘Treat People with Kindness.’ After all, starting an album with the lyrics, “green eyes, fried rice” would likely immediately confuse people if the album was anyone but Styles’. The first song’s chaotic euphoria sets the tone for Harry’s House as a force to be reckoned with and perfectly encapsulates Styles’ playful personality. The funky bass, random screams, scatting, and harmonies lay the foundation for the album as a burst of sounds transcending genres rushes in from all angles. ‘Late Night Talking’ continues the offbeat aura of the album, quickly taking the number two spot in popularity after the album’s leading single. Although keeping some consistency with roughly the same beats per minute as ‘Music for a Sushi Restaurant,’ ‘Late Night Talking’ has a more relaxed feel to it. From the first two songs alone, Harry’s House establishes itself as a set of tracks that will create the perfect summer playlist.
“Kiwi walked so Watermelon Sugar could run,” Styles tweeted in October 2019. In keeping with the fruit theme, Grapejuice’s mellow and filtered sound draws the listener in as if they are listening from underwater. Styles told his fans at a recent concert that the creation of this album got him through the pandemic, and it is clear to see what role ‘Grapejuice’ plays in this feeling. Its steady drumbeat and mellow heavy auto-tune paint a picture of de-stressing at a relaxing picnic with a loved one without even needing the lyrics.
‘Grapejuice’’s whispering outro fades out as an audio recording from Styles’ goddaughter, disappointed after he missed her goodnight call, announces the beginning of Harry’s House’s first and only single. It’s hard to believe As It Was was released only two short months ago; it already has the familiarity of an old comfort tune. It is deceptively peppy, yet the most lyrically revealing song on the album as it pertains to Styles’ heartbreak. This is what sets Harry’s House apart from Styles’ last two albums – instead of dubbing each song pop-rock, a ballad, et cetera, Harry’s House doesn’t let the listener decide if it is something to dance or cry to. The next two tracks, ‘Daylight’ and ‘Little Freak,’ begin to mellow out even more. ‘Daylight’ gives a floating feeling, and ‘Little Freak,’ despite its misleading title, is bittersweet, dreamy, and self-reflective. The layered vocals segue into the album’s most heartbreaking track: the empathetic and gently encouraging ‘Matilda.’ This is the most sonically simple song on the album, yet is found by many to be the most emotionally provoking. Styles comforts his audience, encouraging them to move on from unhealthy relationships, be they romantic or familial, and essentially telling listeners, “I’m here for you.” Although ‘Matilda’ is the last song on Side A of the physical record, it feeds nicely into the new, fresh outlook, beckoning for listeners to enjoy a decidedly more upbeat tune that comes with the beginning of Side B.
“I dig your cinema,” croons Styles on the opening track of Side B of his album. ‘Cinema’’s inviting introduction and the twangy chords that follow swoop the listener back up into the feel-good mood that kicked the album off, and ‘Daydreaming’ follows suit triumphantly, its upbeat desire perfectly encapsulating Styles’ joie de vivre. The next track, ‘Just Keep Driving,’ seems at first to be a nonchalant song with a lethargic tone of voice that, true to its title, is easy to sing along to in the car. When listened to more closely, though, the lyrics are disconnected images that he sews together to create a patchwork quilt of memories. Through the simplicity of his lyricism, Styles is showing us that it is the seemingly insignificant little experiences that are what really make up love.
‘Satellite’ and ‘Boyfriends’ are two more songs that show the listener that Styles is there to support them through hardship. The conclusion to Harry’s House, just like every other song on the album, makes a dramatic entrance. Like his sophomore album, Fine Line, which ends on a melancholy note, the powerful undertones that introduce ‘Love of My Life’ are thoughtfully woeful.
Styles has always known how to make a radio hit, but his latest assortment seems more effortless than his past songs. Now that his name has been established in the pop music industry and he has gained a solid base following, he is free to experiment and be sure that more avant-garde songs will still be successful. Harry’s House makes it clear that Harry Styles will not be put into a box; although still in his twenties, his creations already transcend genres and decades and emotions like a more experienced songwriter. His evolution from telling a story through sentences to telling a story through snippets somehow makes his story even more raw and vulnerable. Styles’ maturing artistry shines through as he invites his audience to explore the indescribable thrill of a new relationship. Although the world may have expected a large emotional reveal from Harry’s House, perhaps it was Styles’ intention all along to provide a sense of summery comfort imbued with enigmatic flair.
Categories: Arts & Culture