Harry's very fine house
3 June 2022-
Harry Styles is back with a third album that delivers on its promise: show an already remarkable artist grow to become a central force in the industry...
We recently wrote about how hip hop is the de facto dominating genre in music, and that Kendrick Lamar currently stands as its brightest ambassador. We definitively stand by those statements; although, as is always the case with any human-led endeavour, things are never absolutely straightforward. Case in point: we recently got a one-two rock punch with Red Hot Chili Peppers and Machine Gun Kelly consecutively topping the charts earlier this year. However, the biggest musical challenger to hip hop is and remains pop in all its iterations, from Bad Bunny’s Latin electro pop to Stray Kids’ K-pop… and then there’s Harry Styles.
Many things have already been written about Styles — and many will undoubtedly be written in years to come. Arguably, the man’s trajectory is quite remarkable and unique, with one exception being Robbie Williams a couple of decades ago, albeit not quite reaching the same head-spinning heights. Indeed, the transition from being part of a (record-breaking) teen boy band to becoming a bona fide rock star in a matter of years can only be applauded.
The sheer fact that Styles seems to be more and more assertive in his artistic universe as he gets older is an obvious reason why, but also a tremendous accomplishment: moving away from the demonstrably mainstream stylings One Direction was all about to an ethereal take on contemporary synth pop was not something everyone would have predicted to happen. And then there’s the overall aesthetic that comes with it, down to an interestingly androgynous look that Styles was in many ways a pioneer of… All in all, remarkable stuff.
And then there’s the music.
Starting with lead single “As It Was” and its incredibly simple yet terribly infectious hook, this album is a masterpiece in spectacular minimalism. In other words, Styles succeeds in making his new crop of songs look evident, effortless, seamless even though it comes down to extremely tight, subtle and well designed production work. Nothing bombastic here, no saturated guitars or Adele-esque vocal prowess, just tight tracks based on beautiful compositions, excellent electro-pop arrangements and the man’s singing, which often feels quite intimate, although many of the parts are actually overdubbed.
On the infectious side of the balance, you will also get “Late Night Talking” which will have you humming the chorus as you wake up in the morning (purely theoretical scenario) — when it’s not “As It Was” your mind is still toying with. On the acoustic, raw side of the balance, you find a song like “Matilda”, whose maturity stands in stark contrast with the singer’s still relatively young age (28). Then you have final track “Love Of My Life”, i.e. Harry Styles’ idea of an anthem: subdued yet grand, beautifully sung with just enough keyboards to create the required atmosphere…
Let us dare make yet another comparison: Harry Styles is to pop what Drake is to hip hop — a masterful artist who manages to make his incredibly subtle work sound utterly effortless. And will leave the listener with a head full of hooks that will play in said head on repeat. Not all that unpleasant…