Global Harry Styles day has officially arrived. Fans everywhere are likely savoring the British heartthrob’s self-titled solo debut effort, like one of Willy Wonka’s everlasting gobstoppers. The record officially dropped today and Harry Styles serves it up like a sweet chunk of ‘70s rock candy that slowly changes colors and never loses flavor. Most notably, there’s not a single trace of pop-star bubblegum on any track. Instead, Styles boldly takes his place among soft rock heroes, bringing a distinct retro vibe back to a new generation of hungry fans that are poised and ready to devour it. Let’s break it down track-by-back.
Styles kicks off his highly-anticipated record with some gooey-delicious glam. There’s a little finger-picked guitar and some shimmery synth tones. His reverberating vocals fade in from a distant dream-state, soft and floating. He pleads to his lady love “Meet me in the hallway/Meet me in the hallway/I just left your bedroom/Give me some more/Is there any more to do?”
This track sets the tone and theme for the record: Love on the rocks. He pines for lost love in several tracks, which explains his submersion in a pink bathtub cover. He’s immersed in longing. His deep ache resonates for the world to hear.
The world already knows and loves this track in a mad way. Bowie influences stretch across this grand anthem. Styles sings of “breaking through the atmosphere” and he does with this song. He makes his art-rock arrival here. He told Rolling Stone he’s singing it from the perspective of a mother who is dying at childbirth who is telling her child to “go out and conquer.” That’s exactly what he’s aiming to do with this album and ultimately, he nails it.
Styles unveiled this at his “Today Show” concert and fans loved it. It’s blues-rock, reminiscent of The Beatles. Maybe even a little Chuck Berry “Twist and Shout.” The beat is infectious. We want to just keep singing “la la la” along with him. We don’t know who it’s about. But she’s a lucky girl.
We’re going with the fans, 100 percent here. This song has to be about Taylor Swift, in direct response to her 1989 song “Style.” The lyrics “Same lips red, same eyes blue/Same white shirt, couple more tattoos” play off of Swift’s “red-lip classic thing that you like,” “long-hair, slick back white t-shirt.” The song is somber, though, as Styles sings of two former lovers who are just “two ghosts swimming in a glass half-empty.”
Who else hears the Beatles’ “Blackbird” all over this song? He released this last week as the album’s second single. This track stands out as the most likely track not being sung to a lover. In fact, it could arguably be directed at his sister, Gemma. “When I run out of rope, you bring me home.” He’s very candid about his love for his family and his desire to separate “home” from his professional life. This song could easily be a musical tribute to his sis.
Harry Styles rocked his hilarious Mick Jagger impression on SNL and Rolling Stones influences are all over this track. He really channels Jagger here, complete with “woo hoos” in the beginning. He unleashes full-blown rock swagger as he belts “I got splinters in my knuckles crawlin’ across the floor/Couldn’t bring you home to mother in a skirt like that/But I think that’s what I like about it.”
This track just sort of jumps out at you in an edgy, raunchy kind of way. A bad girl works her way “through a cheap pack of cigarettes/Hard liquor mixed with a bit of intellect.” But, then, wait for it: He tells us on multiple repeats, “I’m having your baby/It’s none of your business.” It’s loud, hard-rock, with a fist-pumping beat that will undoubtedly play well at live shows.
“Ever Since New York”
We know this track too, courtesy of Styles’ SNL solo debut performance. He dials it way down here and pulls back on the reins after the foot-stomping nature of the previous two tracks. He takes another ruminating look at a struggling relationship. His “Today Show” crowd loved belting “Oh, tell me something I don’t already know” back at him. This song ultimately begs that kind of sing-a-long.
We can’t help but think of John Lennon’s tribute to Yoko Ono just looking at this track’s title. That said, the two songs are nothing alike. There’s a neat bit of opening dialogue “Shall we just search for romantic comedies on Netflix and then see what we find?" Then he launches into a song busting with jealousy about a former lover moving on with another guy. He’s in so much pain he’s a “howling beast!” We don’t really care for the repeat squawking sound, though. Is it a sick bird? A deflating balloon? Irritating noise aside, though. We catch a little bit of an Elton John vibe here, maybe even some Prince.
The tousled-hair crooner slows it down quite a bit with this ending track. He pines for his lover while waking up alone again in another hotel room. Vulnerability and longing courses through the song. “Even my phone misses your call,” he notes. The harmonies and strings in the middle of this are lovely. The ethereal, feather-light tone of the opening track reappears here like a perfect, stylistic bookend to the album.
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