Harry Styles: Harry Styles (Sony)

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Carolina
Harry Styles: Harry Styles (Sony)
There is a saying around Elsewhere's way which we deploy against ourselves when confronted with certain kinds of music, and we pass it on sometimes to correspondents who are railing against an artist, usually in the teen pop idiom.

It is this: “Just remember, they aren't making music for you”.

When Lorde released her new single a few months back, my end of Facebook lit up with people who were real happy to dump on it (some blaming the influence of Taylor Swift?) and none of them that I could see had ever felt the need to write about new songs by Sia, Ciara, Ariana Grande, Zayn Malik or many others.

Everyone seemed to have their opinion about Lorde but you do wonder why these voices weren't being similarly exercised on other artists in that demographic.

This is not to say you can't comment or criticise an artist, but in that instance it did seem like the white noise came from the same people old enough to be his parents when they poured scorn on Justin Bieber.

We here defend Bieber (and think Taylor Swift's show we saw at Vector was one of the best we've experienced in any idiom) and try to keep an open mind.

We remind ourselves that these people aren't making music for us . . . but that didn't stop us from thinking Malik's solo debut Mind of Mine outside of One Direction was damn good.

And now comes this one from another One Direction guy – “the one with the hair” who went out with Taylor if it helps identify him – and it is pretty terrific.

In places here it seems Styles and his fellow writers are grounding themselves in dramatic pop balladry of the Seventies (Sign of the Times) or the singer-songwriters of that period (the slightly country-influenced Two Ghosts, the finger-picking folk of Sweet Creature). There's no denying he not only has the vocal range to carry these off but also brings emotional depth to what he does (Ever Since New York).

But then he will confidently veer off in another direction as on the looped undercurrent and production of Carolina which brings to mind a more moderated Devil's Haircut (by Beck), or deliver a guitar driven, crunching and angry rocker Kiwi (with its lines “I'm having your baby, it's none of your business” which raises interesting questions to ask him here if he tours).

There are stadium-sized songs here (Only Angel, Sign of the Times), references to classic rock from a 21st century perspective and a trajectory from the understated opener through the changing moods to the reflective, string enhanced closer From the Dining Room Table.

And everywhere lyrics – some seemingly sensitively autobiographical – which actually stand scrutiny.

In many ways this is an album of the old style in that it is a coherent collection of songs which are discreet but also slightly disparate to showcase a breadth of the artist's vision.

Somewhat alarmingly, especially for him at 23, Harry Styles seems to be making music for me.

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Your Comments

Fraser - Jun 19, 2017

Well said Graham, as always I like where you are coming from. I hope that you enjoy where you are going to for the next month. Bon Voyage... :-)

Brian Holland - Jun 19, 2017

Great perspective Graham! I think Sign of the Times surprised a few people when they found out who was singing it.

As for Lorde - I instantly loved the new album on first listen! It's wonderful.

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