I’ve not written an album review for this blog before, mainly because I lack the necessary music knowledge to add anything insightful to the conversation beyond ‘this is a bop’. But last year I taught myself to play guitar so I figure I’ve got qualifications now so why not use that tiny amount of credibility to cry about Harry Styles because I was going to do that anyway so may as well inflict my feelings on anyone that happens across this blog. Probably my mum. Hi mum.
WARNING BIASED UNFOUNDED IRRATIONAL OPINIONS AHEAD!
Picture this, it’s just about to turn midnight on Thursday 11th of May 2017, I’ve run a bath with an unreasonable amount of bubbles and a bunch of candles. I’m ready to hear Harry Styles self titled debut album for the first time… actually you know what don’t picture that. Neither of us wants to be picturing me in the bath and now I’ve made it weird. And I didn’t have a bunch of candles, that was a lie, I only had three and they were almost all out of wax because candles are expensive (not all of us are on a boybander budget Harry) also it might not have been midnight because I maybe got a copy before that but I would never.
That is not the point, the point is that you understand the dramatics I engaged in to have the best possible first experience with this album and honestly I think Harry would a appreciate my extreme devotion to the aesthetic. It was totally worth it by the way, listening to this album, by candlelight surrounded by bubbles was the kind of embarrassingly transcendent fan experiences I usually only reveal to other fangirls. But Harry’s all about honesty these days so I’m gonna commit.
My first thought after the final moments of ‘From the Dining Table’ was that this album felt like moving to a new city and falling in love. Not necessarily falling in love with a person, just that overwhelming weightless lack of control that comes with falling for something or someone new. Throughout my second listen, which was as I lay in bed the next morning trying not to regret staying up half the night to listen the first time, I realised this album was about falling in love with rock music.
It’s a love letter to rock and roll. It’s an ode to all those musicians we discover like they’re brand new when we’re fifteen and trying to figure out who we are. Bowie, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Fleetwood Mac, it’s all there in a loving pastiche. Lying in the bath listening to these songs made me feel nostalgic for something I’d never heard before. Like coming home and discovering something new at the same time.
Anyone that frequents this blog will notice the unusually sincere tone of this review. That’s because that is what this boy does to me. Harry Styles turns my stone cold jaded shell of a heart into something open to new possibilities. It’s ridiculous, because I should hate everything about him. He should be that super intense hipster art dude that only uses overused cliches but won’t admit they’re unoriginal. But Harry’s so sincere that somehow it’s endearing. Of course he hasn’t reinvented rock, he just enjoys it the same as we do and it’s hard not to be won over by that.
This album is bathed in nostalgia, but it also feels like discovery. Listening to the whole thing, cover to cover, is something I can’t recommend enough because while there were some songs I liked more than others (‘KIWI’ ‘KIWI’ ‘KIWI’) there’s an overall journey of musical discovery that only comes through when listening the album as a whole. It could be easy to dismiss an individual song as derivative, but when you hear it in context it makes sense. This album is Harry’s journey of musical discovery and it’s worth going on that journey with him.
Not that I have any idea what Harry was thinking when he made this album. It could all be some cunning master plan invented by a committee of money driven marketers for all I know. But it wouldn’t matter. Music is about how it makes you feel and these songs make me feel good, sometimes sad but still good. Especially Kiwi. I had a dance party in the middle of the library because Kiwi came on shuffle and it’s been less than I week and so far I am incapable of maintaining my calm when Kiwi comes on.
Gosh this has been a bit of a gushfest hasn’t it? I’d apologize but you really should have seen that coming. Let’s be real if he’d released forty minutes of him farting into the mic I would have been like ‘yes gold have all my money’. The fact that the album’s good is just icing on the cake. Not that I didn’t think it would be amazing because I haven’t been living under a rock for the last five years unlike everyone writing a hot take about the sudden discovery of rockstar Harry Styles. He’s always been a rockstar. I swear to goodness all those folks out there acting surprised that Harry’s actually talented are testing my last nerve.
Alright here’s where it’s gonna get a bit difficult because while this album is a delight, and it was made by one of my favourite people in the universe, it’s still not above criticism. It sucks I know, but I have a reputation for angry ruining your fave things with feminism and I would hate to lose it.
It’s like this. Harry created this wonderful pastiche to the rockstars of old. Unfortunately most of those rockstars were misogynist shitsticks and our Haz has dragged a couple of their problematic ideas in along with the aesthetic. Like the one line in ‘Only Angel’ where he’s like “couldn't take you home to mother in a skirt that short” that made me roll my eyes so hard I almost drowned in the bath.
To be fair to Harry he’s doing pretty well on the fuckboy scale over all. That quote from Rolling Stone where he excitingly defended his young female fanbase literally made me cry. And he’s even putting his money where his mouth is hiring TWO women for his band. Drummer Sarah Jones and Clare Uchima on keyboard, (I am in love with both of them already Harry so thanks for that). He’s out there giving us the content we deserve, which is I guess what makes the way his songs seem to treat women as some unknowable muse so disappointing.
This is a tiny tiny criticism, one that probably stems from my expectations more than anything else. Harry seems so very grown up, but he’s still only 23 he’s got a lot to learn. Like maybe next time he could have a woman on his writing team, someone to roll her eyes every time Harry writes something like the short skirt line. (Let my new faves Sarah and Clare be your feminist eye roll testers Haz! While you’re at it get Robin in there to check for ducks before you go to print. Hehe.)
That’s it though. That’s all the angry feminist critique I have in me because despite a couple of eye rolls this album is just generally a good time. Seriously it’s genuinely good (not surprising for anyone that didn’t dismiss One Direction but a lot of folks did so I gotta say it). And it’s gonna be popular too. I know that for sure because my sister liked “Sign of The Times” and my sister is an amazingly accurate gage of what the general public is going to like. Seriously it’s uncanny. Marketers should replace all focus groups with her… not really relevant whoops.
Reviewing music is strange, there’s a reason I don’t do it because it’s just so personal. Without the skills to critique the production or musicality all I can really say is that it made me feel and that’s all I wanted. Good music for me feels like it’s the soundtrack to the movie of my life. It feels like someone hand picked it to express a particular emotion or feeling or moment and that’s what this album did that for me. Also Harry Styles made me dance in a bathtub and let's be real that’s the highest praise I’ve got to give.
Anyway by //Harry.Styles// by Harry Styles it’s a bop.