Graham Reid | | 1 min read
When the former One Direction singer Harry Styles embarked on his solo career the odds – given the lack of success of so man boy band singers – were stacked largely against hi. Most such soloists from girl groups and boy bands get away a hit single and maybe an album before retiring to the wings or watch the diminishing sales returns for a while before giving up.
In some ways, because of his high profile, it wasn't unexpected Styles self-titled debut album in 2017 – which included the enduring hit Sign of the Times-- went to number one in Britain, the US, Australia and a dozen other places.
We only gave it the number two spot, despite one of the songs being titled Kiwi.
What was a surprise however was just how good it was: it was a sophisticated and well-crafted album which had roots in classic Seventies pop-rock with touches of hard rock and ballads. Needless to say it was the result of Styles working with half a dozen other songwriters, but it delivered.
And as we noted you could hear discreet echoes of early solo McCartney/Wings, America, Crosby Stills and Nash, and other subtle reference points
His equally successful 2019 follow-up Fine Line confirmed he could command a number of styles and – almost like the young Elton – was at ease in them. However unlike Elton, Styles made his songs about personal matters, obviously love, heartbreak and doubt, but sometimes delivering slippery sexual content.
His third album Harry's House – a title referencing a track on Joni Mitchell's Hissing of Summer Lawns, and of which she has tweeted approvingly – is accomplished and diverse pop with Latin horns, As It Was is pure 80's synth-pop owing a debt to A-ha's Take on Me but with insightful personal reflection . . .
Musically it's also into funky soul but lyrically Styles – now 28 – sings of a woman from a loveless family (the empathetic and acoustic Matilda), a hangover (the McCartney/Wings-like Grapejuice), Marvin Gaye-like allusions to sexual intimacy (Cinema), his life in the fast lane (Keep Driving) and more.
Harry Styles -- who also appears in movies, tours and plays coy with social media -- is a clever artist and over three albums he's barely made a misstep in increasingly sophisticated pop for his demographic. But also for older heads who should give him a fair hearing.
You can hear this album at Spotify here.