With the release of his self-titled album earlier this year, Harry Styles officially kicked off his career as a solo artist, taking charge of his post-boy band sound and making it clear that he doesn’t want to cater his music exclusively to teenage girls.
Reminiscent of the Beatles era in its instrumentals, Styles’ album takes incredible risks in its surprisingly mature combination of electric riffs and heart-melting falsettos. Without being too all over the place, it brings a Revolver-esque sound back to the forefront of mainstream pop while maintaining relatable themes like love, lust, and everything in-between. The percussion-based lead in to “Carolina” especially is so Beatles-like that you’re left half-expecting John Lennon to chime in.
But Styles is also quick to distinguish himself: he shows off a unique drawl in “Carolina,” then seamlessly transitions into softer vocals and oxymoronic lyricism in “Sweet Creature.” He even goes on to surprise us with healthy doses of rock in “Only Angel” and “Kiwi.” Rebellious and overtly sexual lyrics like, “Couldn’t take you home to mother in a skirt that short / But I think that’s what I like about it,” and, “I’m having your baby, it’s none of your business,” introduce us to the new, grown-up Harry Styles.
Don’t worry, though — bits of the old Harry are still nestled throughout the album. In “Two Ghosts,” the record delves into singer-songwriter territory with its emotionally wounded tone and minimalist instrumentals. By the time we get to “Sweet Creature,” Styles shifts his focus to a rocky relationship that persists despite its issues — such thematic elements in the record are subtle reminders of projects like You & I and More Than This from his time in One Direction.
The softer side of Styles is definitely still in there, but he’s matured. His recent appearance on James Corden’s Late Late Show and live performance on Saturday Night Live reflect a newfound connection to the music he creates. The way Styles speaks about the album and the way he performs each song shows he truly cares for the art — and the genuine happiness radiating from him makes listeners like me anticipate future projects with optimism.