Harry’s housewhile being written during the pandemic (Styles finished it last year before he could finally tour Thin line), to my relief, is not a pandemic album in the sense that the themes and lyrics are timeless. None of us need dwell on it, do we? And I certainly don’t want to dance to nostalgic pandemic songs as international artists finally return to Australia in the years to come, as Styles is expected to do in March 2023.
But, like all of us in lockdown, Styles has been spending a lot of time with his own thoughts. Away from his native England, while staying with friends in Los Angeles, he reflected on who he was without music and dwelt on the concept of home.
Like he said Best houses and garden magazine in a recent interview, “I’ve come to realize that that feeling of home isn’t something you get from a house; it’s more of an inside thing. You realize that when you stop a minute.”
The album references a physical home – the kitchen receives several mentions, from the wholesome concept of Styles making coffee and cooking pancakes for two, to the illicit; a former lover making lines of coke on the straw mattress, and the servant; another (or the same?) lover, sits on the same bench in a tracksuit ‘hiding the body that yoga has given [her].’
As you’d expect from one of the world’s hottest popstars, we spend a lot of time enjoying the bedroom; to see Movie theatera sexy striptease of a song with the lyrics, “You get wet for me, I guess you’re all mine, you sleep in this bed with me.”
Styles has repeatedly mentioned in interviews that he felt like he played too carefully on his debut record, metaphorically comparing it to “bowling with the lanes up”. It’s a sentiment confirmed by the much more risque songs that didn’t make the album – Medicine, baby honey and complicated monster (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 that the bowling alleys were well and truly dismantled.
Musically, the order of the tracks is more consistent than his previous record. The tempo remains largely sustained, with the exception of the heartbreaking ballad Matildaand self-reflecting slow track, Boyfriends. A conscious choice of Styles who said of B&G“[The album] seems to be the biggest and funniest, but it’s by far the most intimate.”
He further explores this concept with Zane Lowe in his Apple Music interview when he talks about the first single and current number one on the ARIA Singles Chart, “As it was to me, it’s like, bittersweet,” Styles says of his toe-tapping dance bop. “To me, it’s really devastating and it was really 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 confusing and emotional roller coaster. Is he heartbroken? Is he in love? Is he having the time of his life or is he sitting on the floor alone? Halfway through, Harry’s house party starts to look like the NYE party from Euphoria, and I love it.
Reverie is, for me, the weakest song on the album and a break in the momentum (the fault of John Mayer, who plays guitar on the track), but it is quickly followed by keep driving – an instant vibe and a quick favourite. ‘Cause when I finally get the forever album on Friday, I’ll cross Hawaii’s North Shore and play this track on repeat. Once I’ve had my dose, it will be directly for Little monster, daylight and Grape juicebefore playing it up and down.
Track 11, Satellite was a standout surprise. It starts slow, but shifts gears at the chorus, giving the emotionally heartbreaking lyrics a similar treatment to As it was.
Speaking of surprises, there are always weird little quirks on Harry’s records – Eponym heard YouTuber FrankJavCee ask leading to Women“Should we just search for rom-coms on Netflix and see what we can find?” ; Thin lineit is Cherry goes off with a distorted recording of a phone call from Harry’s former flame, Camille Rowe, speaking French (cou cou), and his current success As it was opens with a precocious kid’s voicemail expressing his disappointment that the star didn’t answer the phone and wishes him good night. There’s more to discover, starting with Music for a sushi restaurant; I bet you never thought you’d hear Harry Styles scat…and as you will hear, it totally works.
The penultimate track is Boyfriends, which Styles debuted while filming at Coachella last month announcing “boyfriends everywhere, fuck off.” What follows is a ballad that examines the generally shitty treatment anyone with an ex-boyfriend has endured. According to the singer, this was inspired by both his own past behavior as a boyfriend, as well as the way his friends and sister were treated. It strikes a chord and takes me back to hungover Sundays in my early 20s spent trying to make sense of an ex’s conversations and texts.
I almost lost friends saying this, but my least favorite Harry Styles song was the closing track of Thin line, which shares the same name as the album. I am pleased to announce the last track from Harry’s House, Love of my life, is rich, beautiful and left me wanting more. This is how all the best parties end.
After I leave Harry’s house for the first time a friend (who is arguably Australia’s finest music journalist and has interviewed Styles many times) asked me if this album was Harry’s 1989. “No,” I replied, “it’s his Red.”
I’ll let you know if he agrees.
Harry’s House by Harry Styles is available for purchase, streaming and download on Apple Music and Spotify this Friday. For more information, including viewing, go to hstyles.co.uk