< Back to 68k.news US front page

Harry Styles: Harry's House

Original source (on modern site) | Article images: [1] [2]

Substance sometimes lacks, but style always abounds. Harmonies open like refracted light around the bright, decadent passages of "Daylight" ("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"). "Satellite" enters into conversation with Ariana Grande's "NASA" and features a wonderful bit of text painting: Styles sings about "spinning out" while the back half of the song builds momentum and nearly careens out of control. And on an album whose themes are largely generic, a few dots of self-reflexivity sparkle. The third-person talking-to Harry gives himself on "As It Was" invites a burst of empathy. On the slick, salacious "Cinema," he works in a coded boast about his union with a certain film actor and director—"I bring the pop to the cinema"—over an extended breakdown propelled by plucky rhythm guitar. It's a moment of ego indulgence, and a rare Easter egg from an artist whose personal life is closely guarded.

Striking a balance between aloofness and earnestness is something of a Harry Styles specialty. Though direct touchpoints with fans are limited—he is minimally active on social media—his keen sensitivity towards them is evident. In that 2017 Rolling Stone profile, Styles defended his young, predominantly female audience: "Young girls like the Beatles. You gonna tell me they're not serious?" he said then. Lately, he's commiserated with them. When he introduced Shania Twain, who made a guest appearance during his Coachella set last month, Styles deployed familiar pop feminist logic: "This lady… told me that men are trash," he quipped. In the same set, he debuted the Harry's House track "Boyfriends," opening by saying, "To boyfriends everywhere, fuck you."

Is this pandering? Maybe. Call it penance for the misogynistic rock tropes that Styles occasionally reproduced in earlier work. "They think you're so easy/They take you for granted," he sighs over finger-picked guitar on the song about boyfriends, voice multiplied into a chorus of soothing affirmations—an old folk lullaby for the spurned and exhausted. (Some—identity politics purists, Larry truthers—will wonder whether Styles' ode to the hardships of dating men is an output of imaginative empathy or of personal experience, but they're unlikely to get answers.)

Styles' "Treat People With Kindness" ethos radiates across Harry's House. "If you're feeling down, I just wanna make you happier, baby!" he insists on Passion Pit-approximate "Late Night Talking." One song later, he's "on [his] way to buy some flowers for you." In this way, Styles invites participants into his project of pleasure-seeking: He is a nice guy, so adoring him is uncomplicated and guilt-free. That the persona doesn't get grating—with the exception of "Matilda," a wan ballad whose namesake gets lost in Styles' abundant sympathy for her—is a feat. So what if Harry's House isn't especially bold; innovation is not a requirement of a solid pop album, and working too hard is out of fashion, anyway. Better to slip on your Gucci pajamas and just enjoy.

All products featured on Pitchfork are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

< Back to 68k.news US front page