Inside 'Harry's House', A Delicious Party Record From A Big Romantic
Nods to A-ha and Prince are scattered through this gorgeously gooey album that'll have you thinking it was written for your ears only
“It doesn’t feel like my life is over if this album isn’t a commercial success,” Harry Styles told a recent interview with Better Homes & Gardens magazine.
Who is he kidding? The third solo album from the former One Direction member — and actor, heartthrob, and international style icon — will sell by the truckload. And so it should: Harry’s House is a party album with a heart, and precisely the kind of record that the world needs right now.
The difference between Harry’s House and its predecessor, 2019’s Fine Line, is immediately clear. While that album revelled in the classic rock sounds of the seventies, the new one is firmly rooted in the eighties. Wham! and Prince influences can be found everywhere.
Harry’s House is custom built for stadiums and arenas, which is lucky, since the 28-year-old is in the middle of a gargantuan tour that takes in two nights at Wembley Stadium next month.
He sets out his stall unequivocally on opening track Music for a Sushi Restaurant, a full-on funk-pop workout. There are flicks of the tom-tom drum sound from Michael Jackson’s The Way You Make Me Feel, bursts of When Doves Cry-like electric guitar, and horns that could have come straight from Wham!’s Young Guns or Wham Rap.
The synth in the intro of Daylight brings to mind George Michael’s A Different Corner while the mid-tempo Grapejuice sounds like late-seventies Paul McCartney. But, working with long-time collaborators Kid Harpoon and Tyler Johnson, Styles has given these sounds a modern sheen.
So what if single As It Was bears a passing resemblance to A-ha’s Take On Me, as has been widely noted? These influences are largely moot anyway: many of Styles’ fans weren’t even born the first time around.
This is music with a big, gleeful smile on its face. And it is accompanied by clever and compassionate lyrics. They are intimate in numerous senses of the word. Styles is often overtly sexy (in Daylight he sings about the listener being a spoon dipped in honey so he can stick to her) but he is also personal.
Perhaps aware that he’s a widely-adored multimillionaire rock star, Styles goes to great lengths to break down perceived barriers: both geographical and lifestyle. On Late Night Talking he sings about following his lover “to any place — if it’s Hollywood or Bishopsgate.”
In Little Freak he says he’s not worried about where his lover is, he just wants them to know that he’s thinking about them. The songs revel in tiny details: pancakes for breakfast, bike rides, tea, toast and spilt beer.
The sole instance where Styles fully returns to the sixties and seventies is on penultimate track Boyfriends, which has an acoustic guitar riff and multi-tracked vocals that echo Simon & Garfunkel’s I Am a Rock (with shades of Fleetwood Mac’s Landslide).
Again, Styles circumvents obstacles to sing directly to the listener (“Boyfriends/ They think you’re so easy/ They take you for granted.”) Unlike me, he seems to be saying.
Indeed, on final track Love Of My Life he tells the listener that they are The One, despite him reluctantly having to leave them behind. Romance over distance is unfortunate, he says. But — hey — they’re just coordinates. He’ll find you.
And this is Styles’ great trick with Harry’s House. Despite his fame and riches, despite his unattainability, and despite the mammoth tour that will see him play to hundreds of thousands of fans, he communicates as though there’s only one listener.
And he does this in a big-hearted and tactile way. There’s a party at Harry’s House. The door’s always open, but he’s only waiting for you. Just make sure he wakes you up before he go-goes.
The Daily Telegraph