Back in 2016, the hearts of a thousand teenage girls were broken after the outbreak of the news that teen pop phenomenon One Direction would be ‘taking a break’ to focus on their own individual work.
This is something that has been done before with the likes of Westlife and Take That, splitting and then reforming following the release of each member’s solo material. It usually goes one of two ways. Either we get to see a more artistic and liberated side of the member or they end up releasing something that is no different to what they usually performed when they were part of their collective that propelled them into stardom.
With the case of the lads from 1D, Bad boy Zayn was the first to drop his solo material after departing from the band back in 2015 and went for a grittier, RnB falsetto induced record that was Mind of Mine, an album which I actually enjoyed. Next was lovely Niall from Mullingar with his sweet acoustic guitar ballad about his hometown and Louis Tomlinson followed with his club anthem collaboration with acclaimed DJ Steve Aoki. Liam is expecting to drop his record at some point this year. The point is, they have all ventured off and done their own personal pursuits with mixed results. So, getting on the topic of Mr Styles, how does his album compare with the other lads and is it any good? The short answer is yes. It is surprisingly pretty damn good.
From my initial exposure to the first few opening tracks I realised that this was something completely different. Harry has gone for a more indie rock, folk vintage vibe. If I were to compare it anything there is definitely a Jackson Browne influence here with some The Eagles and a dose of Bon Iver. Harry not only manages to prove here that he has a serious amount of talent when it comes to songwriting, but he actually can sing. He demonstrated this on his lead single Sign of the Times (which featured our New Music Sunday’s playlist), a stand out track which begins slow and quiet with simple piano chords but just builds until it reaches an epic climax equipped with a large and booming orchestra. Other highlights include Ever Since New York which sounds remarkably similar to a U2 track. Also tracks like Carolina and Kiwi are so full of energy and one gets the sense Harry is really throwing his all into these tracks. I can definitely see these playing in the background of a bar or party situation. He also shows his stripped back and softer side to his voice with tracks like Two Ghosts, From the Dining Hall and, one of my favourite tracks from the record Sweet Creature. I really admired the sound of this, and it definitely doesn’t evoke the typical ex-boyband member solo effort. This is very unique stuff.
If I were to have any criticisms of the album, some of the tracks that I liked were a little to short. Meanwhile, there’s other songs like Woman which would have been slightly better if they were just a little bit shorter. Also there’s short bits of dialogue before some of the tracks (such as the opening of Meet Me In The Hallway which has someone talk about romantic comedies on Netflix) that were a little strange. While it’s a unique feature I didn’t feel like it needed to be there. But that’s just a little nitpick. Overall, I was really impressed with this album. Harry has proved that he is a serious talent to look out for and he has crafted something of his own style (if you’ll pardon the pun). I’m now really interested to see what direction (ok I’m really sorry) he goes in with his next album. Sean Moriarty