Rachel Manning | June 19
In his Apple Music Interview with Zane Lowe, Styles described the intent of Harry’s House as “making the music that I want to make”, rather than getting stuck in the “hell” of trying to reproduce his previous successes in order to regain commercial appeal. I feel that this sentiment transcends the entire record; although each song may not always be everyone’s taste, every song is uniquely Harry.
The album commences with the joyful ‘70s-soul-esque ‘Music for a Sushi Restaurant’. The eclectic mix of ravishing brass and fun scatting makes for a lively welcome through the doors of Harry’s House. Coloured with food references (expanding his horizons from his usual fruit-only rule), the track loudly exclaims Harry’s love for his date, who he has taken to a—you guessed it—sushi restaurant.
‘Late Night Talking’, which I anticipate will be Harry’s House’s own ‘Watermelon Sugar’, encapsulates all the best parts of the album—the gloriously funky disco track’s unique synths make for fun straight-from-the-’80s listen. Into the mid-tempo groove of ‘Grapejuice’, Styles details the hangover he experiences both emotionally and physically in this love-letter to his ‘bottle of rouge’. Although on the surface one of the simplest tracks of the record, ‘Grapejuice’s depth lyrically as Styles pleads ‘there’s just no getting through, without you’ and ‘You’re always there, so don’t overthink, I’m so over whites and pinks’ makes the song carve a deeper emotional wound each listen.
Although Styles explained that intent of the album was not an attempt at immediate further commercial success, the single ‘As It Was’ saw enormous chart success since its early April release, and for good reason. Although the lyrics are not largely ground-breaking and were even evidently the safer choice for the record’s lead single, it offers a perfect transitional piece from 2019’s Fine Line. When you listen to the two albums back to back, the cultural and artistic changes that not just Styles, but the entire world has been through in the last two and a half years is evident. Production wise, ‘As It Was’ is probably the most similar to that of ‘Fine Line’, whilst also teasing many elements that are prominent throughout Harry’s House. In a literal sense, he is letting his audience know that the music is “not the same as it was”.
The core section of the album is home to some of the strongest songs lyrically. The tender ‘Matilda’ takes inspiration from the Roald Dahl book of the same name, as Styles offers comfort to a friend whose family did not treat them well, as he delivers reassurance in the form of lines such as “You showed me a power that is strong enough to bring sun to the darkest day”. In another display of Styles’ dazzling lyricism, the soft yet atmospheric ‘Little Freak’ showcases his vulnerability as he reflects on what could have been in a relationship that never was, conceding that he “jumped in feet first and I landed too hard” and “your gift is wasted on me”.
Styles also explained that he “wanted to make music” and “stopped ‘singing’”, further reiterating that he used to feel like a “singer” rather than a musician. It seems to me as a mere listener that Styles may have wanted to immerse himself in all aspects of the album rather than just lyrics and vocals. This is evident through the clear emphasis on effort towards production throughout, much exceeding that of Fine Line and his 2017 self-titled album. Of course, Harry’s House is not void of outstanding vocals with the euphonious ‘Satellite’ and ‘Daydreaming’ staking their claim as the clearest stand-outs off the 13-track record.
Coming in at less than a minute and a half in duration, ‘Keep Driving’ makes up for its short length by packing a massive punch in terms of emotional depth. Beginning with mellow and stripped-back instrumentation, the production cleverly builds as lyrics take a darker turn, yet all is pulled back when he asks, “Should we just keep driving?”
The track list’s structure feels occasionally jarring; the most evident example of this being the transition from the melancholy of ‘Matilda’ directly into the upbeat synths of ‘Cinema’, which upon first listen felt as though it was meant to offensively devalue the lyrical weight of the former.
The penultimate track ‘Boyfriends’ sensitively delivers a “fuck you” (direct quote from Styles) to the boyfriends of the world. Although displaying more tender lyrical moments like “You love a fool who knows just how to get under your skin” and “you lay with him as you stay in the daydream, you feel a fool’”, the track falls slightly flat overall; this is shown through the fact that the highlight of the song is an indecipherable message encoded within its opening moments, which when played backwards says “fool you’re back at it again”. Styles was clearly trying to keep the instrumental and production aspects as minimal as possible here to emphasise its lyrical content, however you can’t help but feel as though much of the song is building up towards nothing. Even slightly more depth in instrumentation during the final minute of the track could have remedied this.
Closing track ‘Love Of My Life’ is an ode to Styles’ home in England, and more importantly, making peace with the inner conflict of saying goodbye. The minimal ambient piano that wraps the album up leaves the listener in a reflective dream-like state. This was a perfect note to end on, tying together the theme of home, whether its meaning be that of a place, a person or a feeling.
Ultimately, the Harry’s House album did not grab me on first listen the way Fine Line and his self-titled album did. However, upon several follow-up listens and a keener ear to its lyrics and production, the work’s core begins to shine through more and more. That’s where the strength of Harry’s House lies. It demands the listener’s time to be taken for the tracks’ layers of intimacies to be slowly but surely peeled back; it demands you take it slow for a moment for you to look past its surface-level elements. The more time you spend with it, the more you begin to feel at home.
Listen to Harry’s House on Spotify below: