The Collegian
Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Music Mondays: Welcome to 'Harry’s House'

<p><em>Graphic by YounHee Oh, The Collegian</em></p>

Graphic by YounHee Oh, The Collegian

Editor's note: The views and opinions expressed in this article do not reflect those of The Collegian.   

After a summer tour around Europe and the United Kingdom, Harry Styles is back in North America with another leg of “Love on Tour.” This time around, Styles is embarking on residencies in a few locations: Toronto, New York, Chicago, Austin and Los Angeles. 

He is currently in the middle of his 15-show New York residency at Madison Square Garden — a venue he has already sold out five times as a solo artist. A recent frequent collaborator, Dev Hynes, is supporting Styles’ NYC shows under his stage name, Blood Orange. “Love on Tour” was originally a celebration of Styles’ second solo album, “Fine Line,” released at the end of 2019. 

After delays from the pandemic, the American tour was completed last year. The European tour, with guests such as Mitski, Arlo Parks, Wet Leg and Wolf Alice, finally went ahead this past summer, but not before Harry released his third album, “Harry’s House.” To celebrate the album release in May, Styles played a one-night-only show in both New York City and London, with pop-up merch shops in London, New York, Los Angeles, Amsterdam, Berlin, Chicago, Dallas, Toronto and Paris. 

I happened to be in London the day “Harry’s House” was released and spent a beautiful day in East London listening to the album for the first time. 

May 20, 2022. London, England.

It’s an almost warm, cloudy Friday in London, and I’m sitting in a queer cafe in Bethnal Green, across the street from the “Harry’s House” pop-up shop. The rain from this morning has subsided, and the sun has made an appearance. It’s lucky for the fans that have been lining up for hours to get in, eager to experience the highly curated space and exclusive new merch to celebrate the release of Harry Styles’ third studio album “Harry’s House.” 

To some artists, it may seem daunting to follow up on the success of a previous album, especially if it was a worldwide phenomenon like Styles’ sophomore album “Fine Line.” However, Harry seems to have had a different approach for this album: He doesn’t care whether or not you like it and simply made the album he wanted to make. It certainly stands apart from his previous work; it’s more experimental and pushes into a different genre. Yet, the album is imbued with a sense of nostalgia, and there is a warm familiarity to it.

There are 13 tracks on the album, a lucky number perhaps. The album is aptly named, as there are plenty of references throughout to the literal idea of a home: “sit high atop the kitchen counter” (“Little Freak”), “maple syrup, coffee, pancakes for two” (“Keep Driving”), “now you’re halfway home” (“Boyfriends”). But more than just lyrically, this album sounds like it was created for listening in a small space. Warm, low lighting. An earthy scented candle. Sunlight streaming in through a window. 

The album opens with “Music For A Sushi Restaurant,” a funky amalgamation of a song. It’s fun and has a strong beat, and makes you want to dance along. It’s full of trumpets — one of Harry’s favorite instruments. The first few notes of the track conjure up the same joy that I felt listening to traditional Irish music on the radio during Saturday morning drives with my dad when I was little. 

“Late Night Talking,” one of the new songs he played while headlining Coachella in April, is sonically similar to the previous track, but a little less experimental. Instead, Styles shows off his vocals in this groovy, vibey song. 

Continuing with his fruity theme (“Kiwi,” “Watermelon Sugar,” “Cherry”), the third track on the album is “Grapejuice.” Throughout “Grapejuice,” the vocals are edited and stylized, while the lyrics describe some of the feelings tied to drinking wine with someone special, both in the past and present. Perhaps because Harry no longer has to prove his worth as a serious artist and strong singer, he feels the freedom to experiment more with the sound of his voice. Fans of Maggie Rogers will certainly like this song, which makes sense, since both Rogers and Styles have recently been working with Kid Harpoon to produce their new albums (Maggie Rogers’ album “Surrender” is out now). 

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The lead single from the album, “As It Was,” is an upbeat anthem about growth and learning to live with change. This single launched Styles into the top five most listened to artists in the world on Spotify and broke multiple records. It now holds the record for the most streamed track on Spotify in the first 24 hours, with over 16 million streams. It was No. 1 on the charts in over 34 countries, and holds the record for the most streamed song in a single day globally in Spotify history, with 21.6 million streams. For an artist not trying to chase a radio single this album cycle, he certainly created a hit that the general population loves, as much as his die-hard fans do.

One of my immediate favorites is “Daylight,” if only for the lyrics: “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.” The guitar and drum interludes elevate the song, breaking up the laid back, steady beat of the verses and pre-chorus. In “Little Freak,” Harry’s voice is very layered, creating a choral effect. It’s dreamy, and introspective and tapers off at the end with some soothing plucking on an acoustic guitar. 

“Matilda” is emotionally and lyrically one of the best songs on the album. It’s a love letter of support to all the people whose families haven’t supported them as they should. It’s a letter of encouragement to heal and grow past heartache and a reminder that you don’t always need to forgive those who have hurt you. Instead, you can build a life without them, one with people who “will always show you love.” “Matilda” is the most narrative song on this album, and one can’t help but think of the Roald Dahl character while Styles sings.

I always look forward to the eighth track of albums, but I was a little bit disappointed this time around. The last minute or so of “Cinema” is better than the rest of the song, but I expected more, especially in the chorus. Usually, the songs that I don’t care for originally end up becoming my favorites a few months later, but I’m not sure that is going to be the case this time. 

I’m still sitting in this cafe with a hot cup of tea, and the blue sky is finally visible, the sun fully out now. And it’s perfect timing, now that “Daydreaming” has just come on. This one is bright and flavorful. It is upbeat, with more horns and choral moments. This is a good power-walking song, so the next time you need to feel confident walking through a crowd, put “Daydreaming” on in your headphones. 

Unexpectedly, “Keep Driving” is my favorite song on the album. The title of the song didn’t jump out at me originally, but then, maybe you should never judge a song by the title. It’s one of the more love-y, tranquil songs on the album. The instrumental moments remind me a bit of the original music from the TV show “Heartstopper” (a recent obsession of mine). It’s a bit twinkly, with so many layered instruments. There’s a wonderful crescendo through the song, and it’s this steady build up that makes the song so compelling. 

Track 11, “Satellite,” was another track I didn’t expect would be in my top three on the album, but, so far, it’s definitely up there. It’s a perfect balance of the experimental and familiar. “Boyfriends,” one of the songs Styles performed at Coachella, is a stripped back acoustic guitar ballad. It’s one of the most intimate-feeling songs on the album. Styles is either singing the lyrics toward a person in his life who has had relationships that are not perhaps the healthiest, or it could be that he is singing to himself.

When the track list was first announced, and I saw that the album ended with a song called “Love Of My Life,” I let myself hope for a minute that it was a cover of the song by Queen. I’ve been saying for years that I wanted Harry to cover that particular song. Despite it not being the cover I hoped for, it’s a good final track, and it showcases the warmth of Styles’ voice. The last few notes in particular are the perfect close to the album. 

This is an intimate album, made for small rooms and afternoons that slip unnoticed into early evenings. Listening to the album a second and then third time was much more enjoyable than the first. So if you don’t like it right away, give it another chance. Then again, Harry doesn’t particularly care if you like the album or not, but that is almost the main appeal. The door is open, and you’re welcome to stay if you want to. 

Listen to “Harry’s House” by Harry Styles out now on all streaming platforms and on vinyl, CD and cassette. 

Contact columnist Claire Silverman at claire.silverman@richmond.edu.

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