I’ve had a few ideas for blog posts tumbling around in my head lately, and although this wasn’t the first one I came up with – that was some top tips for doing the IB, but given my current stress level it may be best to leave that until after my exams – this album has been on repeat in my head for the last few days and is a completely unexpected new favourite of mine. Partly unexpected because its very, very rare for me to listen to a full album (even more so for me to like everything on it) and partly because…well, it’s Harry Styles, of One Direction fame. I never loved One Direction – though equally I didn’t understand the depths with which some people hated them – and didn’t pay much attention to any of their debut stuff when it first came up. A couple of their solo singles made it onto my Spotify playlists, but I made no effort to go and listen to full albums or anything.
This began to change the other week, when I rewatched Dunkirk with some friends and remembered Harry Styles’ existence. In true procrastinating student fashion I then ended up watching his Carpool Karaoke with James Corden, which is pretty great (highlights include their rendition of Hey Ya! and recreation of Titanic). After watching that I ended up listening to all of his album and, completely unexpectedly, I loved it. It’s been in my head so much the last few days that I figured I’d write a blog post about it, breaking it down into each track and my thoughts, in the hope it’ll finally get it out of my head…
Meet Me in the Hallway
This is quite a chilled, laidback start to the album and wasn’t a track I particularly paid attention to start with but, though it’s not one of my favourites, has grown on me a lot. It’s easy to listen to and relaxing and I love the chorus – I think it does a really good job of livening the track up a bit without losing the dreamy feeling of the rest of it. It also opens up the album immediately showing that this is not going to be a One Direction clone, which is nice.
Sign of the Times
This song is probably what actually stopped me from bothering to look into his music before because I was profoundly unbothered by it when it first came out as his debut single. It was OK, a bit different from One Direction but nothing drastic. Listening to it now I definitely like it more than I did then but it’s probably one of my least favourites on the album. The dramatic strings from 1:33 onwards get a shoutout though, and I discovered that it is actually him being suspended from a helicopter in the music video, not a stunt double, which is pretty incredible.
Carolina’s the third track on the album and from its opening notes its showing a different side to ‘solo Harry’ – a bit funkier, a bit livelier, a bit less restrained. The opening riff’s the kinda thing you can’t listen to without letting your head bop along (bop is a fantastic verb and this song is very deserving of its use) and as the layers start to build it just gets funkier (I especially love the little ‘oh yeah’s). The vocals start off pretty laidback but quickly ramp up at the chorus, giving it more of a rock-y vibe than the first few tracks. Then the brilliant ‘la la las’ start up, giving the song a really fun vibe – Harry said in an interview that this was the last song written for the album and gave it a kinda missing piece of fun, which is definitely how it feels. The layers keep building up and, in my entirely objective opinion, the song just gets better and better – it definitely cheers me up in the middle of revision, anyway! Also, love the guitar on this.
If you’ve heard of this song, you likely know it as ‘the one about Taylor Swift’. This is another one I really like, and I can personally really relate to the lyrics. Musically, the little guitar riff throughout is beautiful, and the return to the more laidback vibe provides a really nice contrast to Carolina. I’d definitely say it’s more pop-y, more along the lines of some of One Direction’s stuff, but that’s absolutely not a bad thing.
Sweet Creature‘s another more chilled one, but a little more folk-y? (I’m not very good at identifying musical genres so feel free to tell me there is absolutely nothing folk-like about it at all haha) It’s similar-ish to Two Ghosts and just a really nice, laidback song for a Sunday evening, and I especially like all the backing vocal bits around 2:30.
So the opening to this track is pretty misleading about the overall vibe of it, as it quickly changes into being much more rock-like. This is one that kinda escaped my notice at first, but now I absolutely love it – it’s great for yelling along to in the kitchen while baking cookies (absolutely not that I was doing that ten minutes ago…). It’s veryyyy different to One Direction and more along the lines of Carolina, once again with great backing vocals and clapping bits, and the little instrumental bit around 3:15 is one of my favourite things in the world right now.
This is one of my absolute favourite songs at the moment, and it’s the most non-One-Direction like one on the album – Harry said himself that it started out as a joke but ended up as one of his favourite songs, which kinda explains the lyrics a bit! Similarly to Only Angel it’s great for just yelling along to (very handy stress reliever for a currently very stressed student with exams in three days) and has kinda become my personal hype song? I don’t know how either, but I’m not disappointed. For the optimum first listening experience, I recommend playing it as loud as you can. Side note – I really love the bridge.
Ever Since New York
I wouldn’t say this is one of the stand-out memorable tracks on the album, but its got a lot of good stuff going on (even if the very opening does remind me of the music they use at the start of lots of programmes about schools on TV – just me?!) It’s apparently thought to be about his stepdad’s cancer diagnosis which adds a whole different level of poignancy to the lyrics – my favourite is probably ‘There’s no water in this swimming pool’ (I always love a good water metaphor). It’s obviously quite a sad song, but in a way that feels chilled out rather than full-on make-you-cry, which is nice.
Woman perks the album up a bit again, going back to the heavier sound of Only Angel and Kiwi, but a bit more chilled out. It starts with a nice bit of piano and guitar, soon followed by some duck-style sound effects (don’t sound as bad as you think they would). Yeah, not sure what else to say except I like it…
From The Dining Table
First things first – I LOVE the opening guitar motif. I know I’ve said that about basically every track on the album but its all true, okay?!? This is definitely one of my favourites, and like Two Ghosts, I can really relate to the theme of the song. This is definitely not one to cheer you up, but its the kinda song that makes me really think and gets me in the feels, as the ~youth~ say. I also love the change in melody around ‘maybe one day you’ll call me and tell me that you’re sorry too’ – there’s just something about it that I really love, as well as the poignancy with ‘but you, you never do’. I just think the whole song does a really good job of capturing heartbreak without trivialising it or being clichéd.
A Few Final Notes (Musical Pun Absolutely Intended, sorrynotsorry)
I feel like you can split this album fairly easily into ‘chilled out, a bit sad’ and ‘jump around and sing along’, though somehow it still manages to feel pretty cohesive. I just really like it to be honest, hence the fact its got a whole blog post to itself, especially as I never thought I’d be such a Harry Styles fan. I’m also impressed by how true to thestudio versions all his live versions sound – I never realised he could actually sing so well. I also now firmly believe pretty much everything he sings ends up golden – see his cover of Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain, Rihanna’s Wild Thoughts (which I don’t even like the original of) and One Direction’s Stockholm Syndrome for proof…
What are your thoughts on Harry Styles’ solo music?