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The Dartmouth
February 21, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

“Harry’s House” is an intimate diversion from Styles’ previous work

Released just in time for summer, the artist’s third album explores heavier topics with a new, funky sound.

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Driving back from New York on the morning of the album’s release, “Harry’s House” was the soundtrack of my return to campus. With nothing but long highways and sleeping passengers — coupled with Waze occasionally interrupting the soft crooning of Harry Styles — I was able to give this album the attention it deserved, which is what has made me appreciate its many nuances and subtleties so much.

“Harry’s House” was released on May 20 after its unexpected announcement on March 23. After the release of single “As It Was,” it was abundantly clear that this album would be a diversion from his previous albums — his 2017 eponymous debut and 2019’s “Fine Line” — but I was still shocked by the completely new sound. The perfect album for summer, its dreamy and ethereal sound masks a mixture of either sexually charged choruses or somber lyrics. “Harry’s House” is a perfect continuation of the image and attitude he has spent years sculpting, demonstrating not only his musical talent but his ability to adapt to the public’s wants while still maintaining his individuality.

Aptly titled “Harry’s House,” the entire album feels like the listener is a guest in Styles’ mind. The album is not as radio-friendly as his past work and diverges from the stereotypical pop formula, but Styles has garnered such fame and notoriety that he is no longer beholden to the procedural writing that taints much modern music. This album oozes the easy charisma associated with Styles, creating a pleasurable listen that scratches the aesthetic itch in my brain. This type of sound is not revolutionary — every indie band has attempted something similar at some point in their career — but with a funky sound and pseudo-rock attitude, “Harry’s House” does it better.

Starting the album is “Music for a Sushi Restaurant” which immediately sets the tone with an electronic sound and vocalizations used as instruments. Loud repeated horns and a jazzy bass sound immediately pull the listener into the ambiance of the album. The song continues Styles’ trend of food-related innuendos, singing that “Green eyes, fried rice/I could cook an egg on you” which is followed by “you're sweet ice cream/But you could use a flake or two/Blue bubblegum twisted 'round your tongue.” It is a fun and charismatic introduction to the album that perfectly encompasses the attitude of this new era.

“Late Night Talking” and “Cinema” continue this upbeat trend with a groovy style and positive sound, with a loose and relaxed attitude that makes for an easy listen. The lyrics —  cute, airy and romantic — are somehow incredibly personal, as the listener feels a part of the intimacy of Styles’ bedroom. He isn’t shy about divulging the little details of his life, singing in “Cinema” that “you got, you got the cinema (Cinema)/I bring the pop to the cinema/You pop when we get intimate.” Lead single “As It Was” was made for radio play; it is an easy song to love and perfect for sunset drives and days by the river. These songs are inoffensive ­— bordering on safe — but nonetheless enjoyable to listen to.

My love for “Harry’s House” blossomed after listening to “Matilda,” and only grew after that. “Matilda” is a uniquely powerful song; anyone with a tumultuous relationship can relate to the heartbreak of growing apart. A truly gorgeous ballad, Styles whispers in the listeners ears that “you can let it go/You can throw a party full of everyone you know/and not invite your family because they never showed you love/You don't have to be sorry for leaving and growing up.” There is something innately reassuring about the comfort Styles is providing, being told that “you don’t have to be sorry” and “you don’t need a reason.” Whether hurt by family, friends or a partner, Styles’ song feels like he is pulling you into an embrace, and telling you that everything is going to be okay — something we aren’t always told enough.

My favorite songs off the album are “Keep Driving” and “Love of My Life,” for vastly  different reasons. “Love of My Life” — the final song on the album — sounds like the kind of affection you spend your whole life dreaming of, the kind of love that transcends location, time or situation but just always exists in your heart. While Styles claims that the song is about his birth place of England, when he sings that “Baby, you were the love of my life, woah/Maybe you don't know what's lost till you find it/It's not what I wanted, to leave you behind/Don't know where you'll land when you fly,” this song could be about anything the listener wants it to be. There is something beautiful about the ambiguity of this album: Every song can be transformed into whatever the listener needs to hear, whatever their heart aches for which makes it all the better to enjoy.

“Keep Driving” is a song of juxtapositions. Rapidly listing the various parts of his life, Styles maintains the sexual nature of the album as he sings “Cocaine, side boob/Choke her, with a sea view/Toothache, bad move/Just act normal” but the chorus that precedes it “there's more concern without the engine sounds/We held darkness and we've held clouds/I would ask, ‘Should we just keep driving?’” creates a contrast. The juxtaposition between the risqué lyrics and the wholesome chorus creates a tangible distinction that the listener can grasp onto. As Styles sings about the distractions and pleasures of his life, the repetition of “should we just keep driving” proves the comfortable monotony about the passage of time; no matter what surrounds us, life goes on. As college already feels to be slipping from my fingers and my future is impending, “Keep Driving” is a welcomed realization that many feel the same as me.

“Harry’s House” is not a revolutionary album: Similar styles have been attempted and successfully done before, but Styles does it with a charisma and artful flamboyance that make this album something special to behold. With masterful lyricism and a funky sound, the album is the perfect soundtrack to the incoming summer and will be the background music to many of my impending adventures. While the first listen may come across as a young man in sappy love, the underlying nuances and raw emotionality of “Harry’s House” make for a powerfully intimate album that comforts the listener, no matter the struggles we face.

Rating: ★★★★★