Let’s just put all of our cards on the table, shall we? No one expected Harry Styles to amount to much more than a punch-line after his One Direction departure. This wasn’t an album that many were chomping at the bit for, or that the hype machine was fully backing, so expectations were somewhat muted. However, how many of us tuned in to see what Styles had been up to since he opted to go solo? I know that as soon as it appeared in the New Release category on Spotify, I popped in my headphones and hit play.
In the lead up to this eventual release, Harry Styles appeared on Saturday Night Live and performed the lead single “Sign of the Times” and “Ever Since New York” in what could be only called a success. That performance certainly gave hope that his solo debut wouldn’t be a total and abject failure, and indeed it is anything but. With the opening track “Meet Me in the Hallway”, and the lead single, the album starts off strong, but when the notes of “Carolina” hit, you know that Styles is taking us in an unexpected direction. He has eschewed his former Tiger Beat persona, and has managed to infuse elements of Sir Paul, and John, while incorporating a little Mick Jagger and Richard Ashcroft.
This album is an absolute revelation, in the sense that it would have been easy to put out another album of saccharine, vapid pop tunes, and rest assured he would have been swimming in a Scrooge McDuck pool of loot, but instead Harry Styles crafted one of the best albums of the year in his eponymous debut. There isn’t one track that feels like a misstep, or a patronizing lifeline for those aging 1Ders; instead, this is an album that brims with the cool confidence of an artist that was forged under those searing spotlights of stardom, and now just wants to enjoy his time in the shade making his own retro-tinged folky-pop tunes.
In the past, with an album such as this, we would have been gagging on the amount of press coverage for months leading up to the release. Instead, the buzz has been almost nil and, as such, this album appeared to quietly drop without much fanfare at all. It seems almost as if the record company simply opted to say “I’ll Just Leave This Here” and slink away, which is almost unheard of. Apparently, the joke is on us; this album is fantastic and soon enough that non-existent buzz will become the roar of appreciative fans of Harry Styles, the solo artist.