Harry Styles
Harry's House


2.6
average

Review

by Mathias STAFF
May 20th, 2022 | 71 replies


Release Date: 05/20/2022 | Tracklist

Review Summary: And we danced all night to the ok-est song ever

Harry Styles has so much potential. His music is full of ideas that seem to want to push the borders of what pop music could be, much less the pop-music that comes from the solo outing of a former boy band member. When talking about his influences, he cites artists like Joni Mitchell, Pink Floyd, Tame Impala, and The Beatles, all of which isn’t just lip service - These influences are clearly found in his music, from the classic rock stylings of his self-titled debut or the 70s psychedelic pop tinge of Fine Line. His previous output showed a pop artist who wasn’t scared to take risks, but could still craft a hook that would dominate airwaves, with Fine Line pushing more boundaries than even his debut, but still staying comfortably in the pop accessibility wheel house.

Harry's House follows that chronology, finding Styles leaning into 80s synth pop and seemingly trying to take even more risks, abandoning the big choruses for detailed production and a vibed-out aesthetic. Where the issue lies, however, is that Harry's House takes the safest versions of all of those attempted risks. Whether this is because Styles is still trying to find his own voice, is being held back by his own artistic limits, or because this is still a major-label, carefully crafted pop album that has to make a large profit, Harry's House is a breezy, sanitized version of what could be a much more interesting album.

There’s no doubt that Styles will absolutely crush these songs live, but their recorded versions seem to be holding back and almost scared to take the next step into “experimental” (whatever that word means) pop. It’s easy to imagine crowds going crazy when the horns come out during “Music For a Sushi Restaurant”, but in the recording they’re so glossily produced as to sound almost fake. The opener features flourishes in production and background layered vocals that are fun and seem to be a natural if not fully fleshed out progression from “Watermelon Sugar” until “Late Night Talking” comes on and pulls from all of the same cues but in a much better-written song that still doesn’t inspire much excitement. “Little Freak” tries to pull some Bon Iver-inspired layered vocals at the beginning before immediately giving up and relying on the layered harmonies that are found on almost every song. This is the real thesis of the production - Just different enough for folks to be able to say “Hey, this is different”, without actually being all that different.

Rarely does a song go by on Harry’s House without some sort of groovy baseline, whispered falsetto from Styles, and assorted whimsical production assertions, all fun things that start to feel much less fun when you keep hearing them over and over and over. This is Styles’s most sonically consistent album, but largely because most of the songs putter along while framed with the same general production that takes a lot of interesting ideas and makes them sound sterile. The whole album is very stylish, as is to be expected, but also feels incredibly hollow. Even though there are a whole lot of bells and whistles, there just seems to be something missing in the execution itself. There doesn’t seem to be as much heart in Harry's House as there was in his past releases, almost as if it’s going through the motions of what Styles knows people expect him to make.

One of the biggest contributors to that feeling is that Styles himself doesn’t sound like he wants to be on his own album. Styles rarely lets loose or shows off his vocals at all on Harry's House. It could be the cool detachment of becoming a rock star, it could be that his vocals are understandably shot after performing non-stop since he was 16, it could be that these songs were made specifically with the idea of being performed at a festival where he would have to maintain vocal health, or it could be a distinctive vocal styling choice. No matter what the reason, it’s boring. Styles spends the majority of the album singing almost entirely in his head voice. the raw power of his vocals that was heard on songs like “Sign of the Times” or “Falling” are nowhere to be heard except for occasional moments of letting loose in the background of songs, like on the undeniable highlight “Daydreaming”.

Paired alongside the oddly muted lyrics is a lack of big hooks, which was a large part of the appeal of Styles in the first place. Again, with the pushing of pop boundaries that he likes to partake in and his musical maturity, it’s not necessarily surprising that Styles chose to play with song structure, but none of the stylistic choices he engages in make most songs on Harry's House memorable enough to justify the lack of choruses and the subdued vocal styles. It’s no surprise that the highlights of the album (“As It Was”, “Late Night Talking”, “Daydreaming”) are also the catchiest, as they’re also the songs that seem to have some sort of actual intent and excitement behind their writing.

Along with a lack of truly engaging or interesting production choices, there are just some downright bad ones. Just in case the vocal styling wasn’t already puzzling enough, the suppressed vocal effect that exists on the verses of “Grapejuice” takes what is already the most boring song on the album and basically begs listeners to zone out while it’s playing. There is also a very annoying tendency for songs to have a “quiet” moment that is not at all deserved and, more often than not, disrupts the momentum of the song. The incredibly tepid closer “Love of My Life” goes absolutely nowhere and then suddenly drops away to a single piano line without any sort of emotional pay-off. “Cinema” seems to be building into an explosion of noise, but as soon as the song gets to the moment where said explosion should happen, we instead get another drop out of sound and a cliched guitar line. While this could have been done in a “subvert expectations” kind of way, it instead just takes away all of the momentum in a song that has some of the best production and most potential on the whole album. Only three songs actually broach the 3 minute and 30 second mark and many songs seem to end just as they were getting interesting. “Daylight”, while not a particularly compelling song, is one of the few songs that actually has some sort of musical catharsis with it’s crunching, distorted guitars over the poppy production, making it feel like there is a purpose to its ending, as opposed to just ending because, well, the song is over.

The other aspect that is truly holding back Harry's House (and, arguably, Harry Styles in general) is some absolutely horrendous lyric-writing. There is something to be said for his lyrical approach, which is more focused on simple vignettes and anecdotes of everyday life, a style does create a sort of emotional mundanity that can be genuinely moving, such as in the acoustic ballad Matilda, easily the best written song on the album. However, lyrics like “You pop when we get intimate”, “Tracksuit and a ponytail, you hide the body all that yoga gave you”, and “Cocaine, sideboob” can take a listener entirely out of a song. The last example comes from “Keep Driving”, a song in the style of a chiller “As It Was”, and also a rare example of a good song almost entirely ruined because of bad lyrics. Styles has never necessarily been known for stellar lyrics, but they were at least fun, creative, or at least serviceable. On Harry's House, he seems to be trying to write less juvenile lyrics, but they come across as either forced, lazy, or, again and perhaps most worriedly, just simply the best that he can do.

As hinted at, Harry's House does have some strong highlights. Lead single “As It Was” is the best song Styles has written, a driving pop song with purpose that is somewhat of a misleading single, as no other songs really match its urgency. “Daylight”, “Daydreaming”, and “Satellite” are three songs that actually go somewhere and whose production does lead to sonic and emotional payoffs, even if the actual songwriting might be less than memorable. However, ultimately, Harry's House doesn’t really go anywhere or do much of anything at all. It breezes by with songs that seemed designed for the festival circuit and that are interesting and experimental enough that they’ll fit with Harry’s aesthetic without being too alienating for radio, almost as if he and his team couldn’t decide which was more important to them, so they went with neither. Ultimately, Harry's House is festival music that is otherwise best enjoyed as perfectly enjoyable background noise in a coffee shop. What remains to be soon though, is if Harry's House has any sort of the staying power that Fine Line possessed. While obviously he was a well known artist before, that album is what launched Styles into superstardom. For better or worse, Harry's House likely does just enough to ensure he stays there.



Recent reviews by this author
The Dear Hunter AntimaiValleyheart Heal My Head
Orville Peck BroncoHailey Whitters Raised
Lack the Low God-CarrierCMAT If My Wife New I'd Be Dead
user ratings (96)
3
good
other reviews of this album
ghostalgeist (3.5)
Gravity's holding me back....

related reviews

Harry Styles

Fine Line


Comments:Add a Comment 
dmathias52
Staff Reviewer
May 20th 2022


1743 Comments

Album Rating: 2.6

Am a genuine Harry Styles fan, was genuinely excited for this, and am genuinely very let down by it. Thinking more and more that he'll never actually hit those peaks that are expected of him. Surprised to see the positive critical response to this, I think his previous two blow it out of the water.



Feedback is always welcome! I think this somehow became the longest review I've ever written

Purpl3Spartan
May 20th 2022


4090 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Awesome review, this is pretty much how I feel about this album and Harry styles as an artist in general. So much potential, but still no fruit from the tree.

HelloJoe
May 20th 2022


628 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Harrington Styles. I think his music is good in the sphere of pop music but I suppose when you cast the net further to include the artists and music aesthetics that some progressive pop artists draw from, you inevitably reach a point where you're comparing a form of the work that is bolder than the other.



SteakByrnes
May 20th 2022


27072 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

Damn this is pretty scathing but I do agree overall, this has bits and moments of greatness bogged down by a sea of lifelessness, but songs like the opener, Late Night Talking, As It Was, and Satellites really are great and I wish he could've made something more along those lines. It feels like such a huge step down from Fine Line which is a shame, I thought he would build more on that and produce something fantastic.



Also small little error here in the second to last para: “[/i]Tracksuit and a ponytail, you hide the body all that yoga gave you[/i]”, just with the bb code, make that a [i] in front of tracksuit :]



Great review dude

Digging: Earthists. - Have A Good Cult

HelloJoe
May 20th 2022


628 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Man, this website has a weird way of processing code tags sometimes. Good catch though, Steak!



Also, during an hour-long interview Zane Lowe did with Styles for Apple, Lowe mentioned that the opener had like Jacob Collier-esque harmonies. Which is sort of true but also like again... a very simplified version of what Jacob Collier is doing. It was funny watching Styles nod along in a way that made it appear like he had no idea who Collier was, though. XD



It's a long interview but it's interesting to hear how Styles almost sounds like he took on Lowe's accent. https://youtu.be/3L4m5ZMzf3A

alamo
May 21st 2022


5002 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

"One of the biggest contributors to that feeling is that Styles himself doesn’t sound like he wants to be on his own album. Styles rarely lets loose or shows off his vocals at all on Harry's House."



very true and it sucks bc fine line had many of those great vocal moments

vult
May 21st 2022


809 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

"One of the biggest contributors to that feeling is that Styles himself doesn’t sound like he wants to be on his own album. Styles rarely lets loose or shows off his vocals at all on Harry's House."



That is one huge thing that holds him back. He has the range but the songs never actually test them to their fullest. Also the repetition on here is pretty evident compared to his other stuff. Debut is still the best thing he’s put out.

HelloJoe
May 21st 2022


628 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

He talks about his vocal delivery on this album in the Lowe interview. Although admittedly, I didn't grasp much of what he actually meant by it other than his timbre and lack of modulation here was the intent.



Timestamped: https://youtu.be/3L4m5ZMzf3A?t=2353

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
May 21st 2022


48911 Comments


Hosono House 3 (will assume this is a direct ref until someone finds hard proof otherwise)

Good review, although good lord does that dead horse get flogged in your middle paragraphs

"When talking about his influences, he cites artists like Joni Mitchell, Pink Floyd, Tame Impala, and The Beatles,"

gave me an inevitable chuckle

GiaNXGX
May 21st 2022


4998 Comments


Giving this a 5

granitenotebook
Staff Reviewer
May 21st 2022


1140 Comments


great descriptions of the music in this review + excellent examples of awful lyrics, particularly the yoga one

BurnedMaps
May 21st 2022


14 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Good review I completely agree with. Might give the whole album a spin again, but for now I have a few favorites I'll just pop onto a playlist.

Tunaboy45
May 21st 2022


18069 Comments


for someone who presents himself so flamboyantly, his music is aggressively mediocre

Parallels
May 21st 2022


9695 Comments


thank you pitchfork very cool

Heythereman
May 21st 2022


272 Comments


One direction has better songs

zakalwe
May 21st 2022


35965 Comments


There isn’t an authentic bone in this saps body.

“You’re a cunt Harry”

Sowing
Moderator
May 21st 2022


41307 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

3 songs into this and I actually quite like it

Digging: Shinedown - Planet Zero

Sowing
Moderator
May 21st 2022


41307 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Still loving this on Little Freak lol

Colton
May 21st 2022


15678 Comments


"3 songs into this and I actually quite like it"

as if that's surprising

Sowing
Moderator
May 21st 2022


41307 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I thought his debut was excellent but the last album was just okay. This feels like his most consistent one thus far.



On Cinema and still haven't heard anything I've hated.



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





FAQ // STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2019 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy