Harry Styles’ latest album, Harry’s House, does what his other albums did so well. Very little. A self-titled debut with a shaky foundation and a follow-up, Fine Line, that lives and dies on its strong B-Side. Third times the charm for the former fifth of One Direction, with his third album innovating little but experiencing much favour. That is likely due to the general pop variety, the comfort found in the mainstream of Styles’ sound and clashingly plain themes. Work that well and the impossibly niche is possible. Styles can, undeniably, work the basics well, and does so with some differing notes to that of his debut, but not enough to let Harry’s House stand on its own foundation.
Opening track Music for a Sushi Restaurant is a cavalcade of noise. A mismatched desire to cover up the lyrics with saxophone solos and flittering drum beats. Styles’ track of “edible stars” is over before it begins, thankfully. Not until the third track Grapejuice does anything of interest occur, and that is only because Styles seems to have found a leftover vocoder from a Gorillaz recording session. His chorus is that solid, warbling tone Styles perfected on his previous albums, but here it sounds shallow and uncoordinated. Is Harry’s House a single with an album attached to it? As It Was is the clear highlight, and that is only on the grounds of how well the music meshes for an individual, or how placated they now feel when hearing it on the radio again and again.
Faded tracks are what Styles makes best. Endeavours that explore very simple song structures and topics but do them with a pull for a certain genre or audience. He is Bryan Adams without the rock and guitar solo senses. Little Freak for all its assertive title, is just another dull track thinking on generic themes of lost love. Every performer or artist has that track, it is how it comes together that makes the most important mark. Styles’ humbled track and slow climb for the chorus is an amicable moment that breaks up the fast and loose first few tracks of the album. It is a good midpoint, as the song is extremely middle of the road too.
That midpoint unravels rather fast, with Harry’s Style cementing itself as just another collection of tracks Styles thought up. No overarching tone to the album, no glue that holds them all together. An assembly of tracks that just happen of their own accord. A scattershot variety that leaves the best and worst of Styles’ nature as an artist out in plain view for all to witness. Light and breezy pop charms for some tracks, actively boring for others. Not the best of mixtures, and still not a shot anywhere close to the surprising experience and guitar-heavy contour of Fine Line, but an amicable release nonetheless. Another album where the B-Side picks up the slack, but not as much on his Watermelon Sugar-featuring predecessor. Pop charms come and go, Styles’ latest record clings to them dearly, but not for long. That ability to become an interesting pop artist is still out of reach for Styles, but he isn’t far off.