On a quiet, tree-lined street, there’s a party in full swing. The giddy sound of something like Studio 54 in its heyday seeps all the way down the street. Stragglers abuzz make their way onto the pavement, tottering down broken concrete slabs in towering heels. They’ve all come from 'Harry’s House'.
Push through the warm, beautiful bodies moving against seductive basslines, into a fantastic, garishly decorated abode. You are at the heart of the party and everyone’s been invited. Patrons pour over each other like tipsy girls in the bathroom on a night out. Someone covered in tulle or sequins drags you into the crowd by the forearms. A drink is shoved into your hand and someone bellows loudly into your ear: “Where have you been?!” If Styles’ third solo album is your first dive into the world of Harry Styles, then I’m inclined to ask you the same question.
'Harry's House' enters the world after one hell of an over-achieving elder sibling; ‘Fine Line’ – Styles’ behemoth of a sophomore success – gave the world singles that still threaten new releases for space on airwaves even three years on. A lot like her predecessor’s highlights, tracks like ‘Music for A Sushi Restaurant’, ‘Satellite’, ‘Cinema’, and ‘Daylight’ on ‘Harry’s House’ keep portraits of Harry’s longtime favourites like Prince, Fleetwood Mac, and 'Young Americans' era Bowie hanging on the walls – but in the gaps between them Styles has made room for the influences of some of his contemporaries. Titbits of Silk Sonic, Lizzo, Blood Orange, Tame Impala intertwine throughout. This new resume of Harry Styles 3.0 shows that he is now practically able to craft genre-hopping disco-dancing pop songs in his sleep.
The most striking thing, comparing this album to its former or even the self-titled debut before that, is it is full of love. Needing it, berating it, feeling it, drowning in it. Styles is dancing dreamily down hallways with hearts in his eyes, birds chirp as he flings open his windows and he screams out of them at the top of his lungs. It's authentic and charming, and impressively optimistic given the state of the world while he was creating it. Still, there are glimpses of the vulnerable, more lovelorn, reckoning-with-himself Styles too. He still exists on tracks like ‘Little Freak’ and the ethereally delivered ‘Boyfriends’, which debuted at Coachella last month, an interesting choice given the amount of catchy funk-pop bangers on this record practically dying to be played into the late-night febricity of a Sunshine State festival. Either way, it’s delivered by a limitless popstar who can still charm your mother with a spot-on cosplay of the boy next door.
An honorary mention should also be given to ‘Matilda’, a track dressed up in one of Roald Dahl’s most infamous monikers. “Imagine her grown up,” Styles explained the idea to Zane Lowe in his recent Apple Music Interview. ‘Matilda’ is a benevolent moment that plays around with a concept Styles hints is based off of someone from his own personal life. They’ll no doubt be touched by it. It provides a standout moment and a break from the hedonism to quietly ask you to consider someone else other than yourself for a second.
So if ’Harry’s House’ really was a home, what would it look like? The beauty of it is in its authenticity. It hasn’t been marketed as a dollhouse built for a synthetic version of a popstar, it wasn’t built from a flatpack and it straddles too many lines to possess something as boring as coordinates. The front facade would probably be exceptionally well-kept. Does this flowery, luscious lawn of perfect pop-funk and good-boy balladry belong to a madman or the most overachieving resident on Wisteria Lane? Either way, it’s beautiful, and it smashes the expectations its foundations were built upon.
For “his most intimate and ‘me’ album” yet (Styles’ own interpretation) it remains gated at times, but the front door is ajar and if you look closely, he’s there, in his brightest and most fantastical gladrags, beckoning you to come in. This body of work, much like Styles’ parallel existence in the lives of the fans who hold him so dearly, is up to your own interpretation. While retaining his mystique, as he probably always will, he hands listeners more than enough raw materials to build their own world full of magic. A body of work that will bring more comfort to longtime fans of his like a big fat hug around the middle, it’s packed with enough pop chops to rattle stadium floors, and dominate the kitchen radios of the casual listener for a while to come yet.
Words: Lauren Webb
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