No Direction Outside of One Direction
It’s easy to understand why it’s difficult to take Harry Styles seriously. He comes from one of the biggest boy bands to grace this planet. And while their sound explored naughty territory when they released Perfect, the group never got to disassociate themselves with What Makes You Beautiful and One Thing.
Having Harry outside of 1D is almost like watching Daniel Radcliffe outside of the Harry Potter Series. Or reliving the discomfort we experienced when Nick Carter belted out Bryan Adams-sounding materials like Help Me and Do I Have to Cry for You. But the 23-year old can take comfort in the fact that Emma Watson and Justin Timberlake did break out, the latter bigger than the identity his former band ‘N Sync established.
The Doubt from Sign of the Times
If your first encounter with his solo debut was Sign of the Times, concern was warranted. It would seem like a kid eager to prove he is more than the cheesy, bubblegum music his group used to partake in. The rock, anthemic, stadium-ready hit was a 180-degree turn and felt like an awkward fit.
But once I’ve given the album a listen (it’s been on repeat for hours), all of your worries will disappear. Imagine you were one of the judges in The Voice blind rounds. You have no conception of how this artist looks or feels like. And upon hearing each song, Sign of the Times included, it would feel like a dated masterpiece, struggling to find its place in the now EDM heavy, pop-rock music landscape.
The Old Soul in the Youngster
His debut effort sounds like it draws heavy inspiration from classic rock. And to think that even as the 90s ended, he was just a 5-year old kid. The homage in rock-n-roll to women has not stood the test of time. But he continued the tradition, and did it multiple times with Carolina, Only Angel, Woman and Kiwi, tracks that would’ve sent groupies flocking to concerts and fanatically chasing him to his trailer.
The use of repetitive phrases and words in choruses work well to depict his adoration. While it is risky to design it as such, his delivery drives home authenticity on the craziness and madness he sings of. The riffs vary and escalate to add flavor to what would otherwise be an annoying and simplistic play on lyrics.
Crooning Post What Makes You Beautiful
He is not the knight riding the white horse you might have mistaken him to be. Taylor Swift already broke that news for you. But even when you listen to his material, he doesn’t sound like the guy to take you on a candle-lit, rooftop, dinner date. Rather, he’d be the struggling, travelling, bar-hopping musician staring at you from the stage, doing his one-time gig and drawing you in to join his adventure.
There are moments you’d feel fragile and fall for him like in Sweet Creatures. But his music equally, if not more, explores his romantic defeats, such as in Meet Me in the Hallway, From the Dining Table and Ever Since New York. Who knew he could be so philosophic, challenging how overrated comfortable silence is. There’s nothing grand about their themes nor their compositions. And that’s what makes it work and relatable – how ordinary yet heartfelt his work is.
One Direction to the Right Direction
One of my favorite tracks from the album has to be Two Ghosts. It speaks of the unrecognizable characters he and his lover have become. I consider it the perfect song to describe the place he is in today. He sings of “We’re not who we used to be” and that summarizes how we as fans should embrace the album.
If this were any other breakout artist who we have zero profile on, we would be celebrating this release as a masterpiece and begin labeling him as an upcoming legend. But since we knew him since he joined X Factor, we let our past encounters get the best of our judgment. Let’s call his debut album for what it is – a shift from one direction to the right one.