Harry’s Housewhile written during the pandemic (Styles completed it last year before he finally was able to tour fineline), to my great relief, is not a pandemic album in the sense that the themes and lyrics are timeless. None of us need to dwell on it, am I right? And I certainly don’t want to be dancing to wistful pandemic songs as international artists finally make their way back to Australia in the coming years, as Styles is set to do in March 2023.
But, like all of us in lockdown, Styles spent a lot of time with his own thoughts. Away from his homeland of England while he stayed with friends in Los Angeles, he thought about who he was without the music and dwelled on the concept of home.
as I have told Better Homes and Gardens magazine in a recent interview, “I realized that that home feeling isn’t something that you get from a house; it’s more of an internal thing. You realize that when you stop for a minute.”
The album makes references to a physical house – the kitchen gets several mentions, from the wholesome concept of Styles making coffee and cooking pancakes for two, to the illicit; a former lover doing lines of coke on the benchtop, and the domestic; another (or the same?) lover, sits atop the very same bench in a tracksuit ‘hiding the body yoga gave [her].’
As you’d expect from one of the world’s hottest popstars, plenty of time is spent enjoying the bedroom; see Cinemaa sexy striptease of a song with the lyrics, “You’re getting yourself wet for me, I guess you’re all mine, you’re sleeping in this bed with me.”
Styles has mentioned several times in interviews that he felt he played it too safe on his first record, metaphorically comparing it to ‘bowling with the lanes up’. It’s a sentiment confirmed by the significantly more risqué songs that didn’t make the album – medicine, babyhoney and Complicated Freak (yes, I know the last two were leaked, which we don’t condone, but anyone with a TikTok account has heard them on repeat for weeks). On Harry’s Houseit’s safe to say the bowling lanes have well and truly been dismantled.
Musically the track order is more consistent than his previous record. The tempo remains largely upbeat, except for the heartbreaking ballad Matildaand self-reflective slow track, boyfriends. A conscious choice by Styles who said to BH&G“[The album] sounds like the biggest, and the most fun, but it’s by far the most intimate.”
He explores that concept further with Zane Lowe in his Apple Music interview when talking about lead single and current number one on the ARIA singles chart, “As It Was to me is like, bittersweet,” Styles says of his toe-tapping dance bop. “To me it’s like, really devastating and it was very much written that way. I have the voice memo that it was written and it’s very… it’s a death march.”
As a result, lyrically and thematically, the narrative is a perplexing and emotional rollercoaster. Is he heartbroken? Is he in love? Is he having the time of his life or is he sitting on the floor alone? Midway through, the party at Harry’s House is starting to feel like Euphoria’s NYE bash, and I dig it.
daydreaming is, for me, the weakest song on the album and a break in momentum (let’s blame John Mayer, who plays guitar on the track), but it’s swiftly followed by Keep Driving – an instant vibe and a fast favourite. Indeed, when I finally get the album for keeps on Friday I will be driving through Hawaii’s North Shore and playing that track on repeat. Once I’ve had my fill, it will be straight to Little Freak, Daylight and grape juicebefore playing it top to toe.
Track 11, Satellite was a surprise standout. It gets off to a slow start, but shifts gears at the chorus, giving the emotionally heart wrenching lyrics a similar treatment to As It Was.
Speaking of surprises, there are always odd little quirks on Harry’s records – Self Titled heard YouTuber FrankJavCee ask leading in to Woman“Should we just search for romantic comedies on Netflix and see what we can find?’; fineline‘s Cherry peters out with a distorted telephone call recording of Harry’s former flame Camille Rowe speaking French (cou cou), and current smash hit As It Was opens with a voicemail of a precious child expressing disappointment that the star had failed to answer the phone and wish her goodnight. There’s more to discover, starting with Music For a Sushi Restaurant; bet you never thought you’d hear Harry Styles scat… and as you’ll hear, it totally works.
The penultimate track is boyfriends, which Styles debuted during his Coachella set last month announcing, “to boyfriends everywhere, fuck you.” What follows is a ballad that examines the generally crap treatment anyone with an ex-boyfriend has endured. According to the singer, it was inspired by both his own past behavior of him as a boyfriend, as well as the way his friends and sister have been treated. It touches a nerve and brings me back to hungover Sundays in my early twenties spent trying to make sense of conversations and texts from an ex.
I’ve almost lost friends over saying this, but my least favorite Harry Styles song was the closing track on fineline, which shares the same name as the album. I’m pleased to report the final track on Harry’s House, love of my life, is rich, beautiful and left me wanting more. Which is how all the best parties end.
After I left Harry’s House for the first time, a friend (who is undoubtedly Australia’s best music journo and has interviewed Styles on several occasions) asked me if this album is Harry’s 1989. “No”, I replied, “it’s his Red from him.”
I’ll let you know if he agrees.
Harry’s House by Harry Styles is available to buy, stream and download on Apple Music and Spotify this Friday. For more information, including tour go to hstyles.co.uk