Musically and vocally, Styles uses his personality in these songs to evoke different moods and emotions, and does so to his advantage to keep the album interesting. With slow jams like “Sign of the Times,” cocky rock songs like “Kiwi” and soft ballads like “Two Ghosts,” he does a good job of changing it up along the way, while still staying in the realm of one genre.
Despite his fun performance within this genre, it is still important to note how obviously he wears his influences on his sleeve, and that the sound of this album is in no way original. He is directly channeling the work of classic rockers and singer-songwriters of the 1970s, like Harry Nilsson, Elton John and, of course, his idol Mick Jagger.
So much so, that “Only Angel” feels eerily similar to “Brown Sugar,” and “Ever Since New York” even reappropriates part of the main riff from “Baby Blue” by Badfinger. Styles is not the only person creating music so reminiscent of classic rock, but he is the only pop star with this much popularity doing it, and that certainly adds some points in his favor.
Much like what you would expect from a pop star and former boy band member, the lyrical themes on the album are entirely romantically-focused. What it does well, though, is fitting the lyrics to the mood of each song. Rather than cheesy, overly-gushy romance in every song, the lyrics turn more aggressive, more insecure and more dramatic when the mood of the song calls for it, which is yet another trait that the album shares with its stylistic predecessors. However, there is one major issue with the lyrics that keep this album from feeling true to its influences.
While I am almost never someone to harp on songwriting credits in pop music, a major part of the genre that Styles is grabbing from is the personal element of the lyrics. The main difference between Harry Styles and his influences is that Mick Jagger, Harry Nilsson and Elton John all wrote their own songs, and because of that, were telling personal stories from their own perspective, and making their music feel so much more genuine and evident of their lives. When Styles works with a large team of writers on an album like this, he is eliminating the factor of genuine storytelling from his own perspective. Lyrically, it is impossible for him to stack up to his idols with this method.
Overall, this is definitely not an album that will change the world of music in any way; but it just might change the way some of Styles’ critics perceive him as an artist. While it is easy to brush off his efforts by saying it’s all been done, there is no denying that this is just a fun, comfortable album, yet still a pretty bold move by someone who could have made a straight-ahead pop album and moved on. Despite its flaws, Harry Styles’ debut album is worth a listen, and may change your mind about this pop star.
In the wake of the split of One Direction, the world’s biggest modern boy band, it was the nearly-unanimous public opinion that Harry Styles was going to be the Justin Timberlake of the group. Between his incredible singing voice and natural charisma, he had always been the undeniable breakout star. However, what was up in the air was the style he would take on as a solo artist. With the other members’ solo debuts each going in different directions, the possibilities were endless for Styles.
When he released his debut single, “Sign of the Times,” just over a month ago, he showed the world his new direction towards 70s rock n roll. The guitar-driven ballad was certainly a surprise, especially to those who wanted nothing to do with him during his time in One Direction. While his self-titled debut album is certainly not anything new, and derivative of a bygone era, Styles will continue to pleasantly surprise his critics with his charismatic performance in this classic rock style.
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