Review: Harry Styles makes himself at home on Harry’s House


Clara McCourt

Musical artist Harry Styles’ much-anticipated third album Harry’s House brings a new, intimate sound to the singer’s repertoire. Styles performed songs from the album at a concert with fans Friday.

Clara McCourt, news staff

What do a two and a half year hiatus, a Better Homes and Gardens spread and a bona fide rock star have in common? Welcome to Harry’s House. 

Harry’s House, Harry Styles’ hotly anticipated third album, is certainly worth the wait. The singer adopts a mature sound far beyond his One Direction days, growing with his audience in a way that eclipses his former bandmates’ post-band careers. Harry’s House is an homage to a living room record player that has seen everything from Joni Mitchell to A-Ha, the Beatles to Justin Timberlake.

The album opens with “Music For a Sushi Restaurant,” where Styles’ falsetto vocals float above a triumphant chorus of horns and a rich bass line. This song expertly sets the tone for the album, marking that this is a distinct new sound for Styles. Harry’s House leans into the vintage sound that is closer to his cover of Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer” on the promotional tour for his sophomore record, “Fine Line,” than that album’s pop anthems.

The singer rose to astronomical success through his record-breaking Love on Tour, a production which is set for two more legs later this year. Playing raucous live shows is a large part of Styles’ appeal, which isn’t lost on Harry’s House. Styles played Harry’s House start to finish (“the way it’s supposed to be played,” he heralded) at his “One Night Only” concert in New York’s UBS Arena Friday night, celebrating the album’s release with 18,000 fans. There’s a certain art to the order of the album, with the songs making up distinct sections, both sonically and thematically. 

On the album, Styles then transitions into “Late Night Talking,” a disco-reminiscent ode to living room chats, a similar topic to the the dreamy “Grapejuice” that comes next. Styles’ muted vocals abound on both tracks — a small sound that takes up a big space as Styles croons catchy melodies that will surely worm their way into listeners’ heads.

Some reviewers have said the lyricism in Harry’s House lacks substance, that “Harry’s House” lacks furniture. Styles’ matter-of-fact falsetto vocal delivery certainly spotlights some uncomplicated lyrics. However, the album doesn’t shy away from simplicity — in fact, it delights in it. It’s rare that a pop phenom is able to bring light to the little things, like sharing a bottle of wine in “Grapejuice” or driving up the coast in “Keep Driving.”

The album’s next track, lead single and runaway hit “As It Was,” pairs ‘80s-inspired snares with an indie-pop synth and percussive wedding bells. The song, which Styles played twice to thunderous applause at One Night Only, is a bittersweet ode to love and change. The funky syncopated “Daylight,” builds on the theme of long-distance connections through cozy metaphors. (“If I was a bluebird, I would fly to you/You’d be the spoon, dip you in honey so I could be sticking to you.”)

“Little Freak” and “Matilda,” the next two tracks, are the emotional core of Harry’s House. The two ballads express love in different ways. The former is an ode to a previous relationship — while Styles’ high-profile relationships often make headlines, “Little Freak” feels personal and heartfelt, combining broad declarations of care (“I was thinking about who you are/Your delicate point of view”) with more specific references that perhaps only the song’s subject will understand (“Red wine and a ginger ale/But you would make fun of me, for sure”). “Matilda” is a song for the mistreated through the lens of Roald Dahl’s classic character. While Styles confirmed the song is about a specific person, the lyrics will surely connect with a broad audience. 

“If there’s anyone in the audience tonight that feels like it applies to them, it does. This is for you,” Styles said as he introduced the song at One Night Only. 

But in pure Styles fashion, the album swings back to crowd-pleasing upbeat tracks with “Cinema,” “Daydreaming,” “Keep Driving” and “Satellite.” On stage, Styles performed with the ease of an entertainer who has been playing these songs for years. These songs boast some thinly veiled risqué lyrics — Styles is no stranger to sex, drugs and rock n’ roll — paired with homey references to “pancakes for two” and soda at the movie theater. It goes to show that all of Styles’ profanities are included with double entendre and a cheeky wink, as only a pop star can do.

The album’s final two tracks, “Boyfriends” and “Love of My Life,” harken back to the album’s acoustic hits. “Boyfriends,” a ballad Styles teased at Coachella earlier this year, is a genuine apology for missteps a partner may take. The song is rich with harmonies and simple, “Blackbird”-like guitar.

“Anyone who’s ever had a boyfriend, anyone who’s never had a boyfriend, anyone who’s ever been a boyfriend — this is for you,” Styles said.

“Love of My Life,” a song about Styles’ native country of England, is a wistful goodbye to his home as he embarks on a journey of worldwide fame. (“Baby, you were the love of my life/maybe you don’t know it’s lost ’til you find it”). Styles grounds himself in the meaning of home, a fitting end to the album but also a representation of his public persona — Styles is the type of artist to pick Better Homes and Gardens over Rolling Stone, to stop a live song midway through to thank its co-writer. The song’s beauty is in its simple piano outro, which is sure to ring through stadiums for years to come.

Both live and recorded, Styles pulls off this ambitious album with his signature wit, charm and finesse – but also makes a genuine case for the power of humility. 

“Did you like the album?” Styles asked the crowd at One Night Only, which was immediately met with whoops and cheers. “Thank God.”