The singer-songwriter gives domesticity a try in his inventive third studio album
Long gone are the days when Harry Styles was bouncing around a beach lamenting that the girl of his dreams didn’t know she was pretty. But Styles still has a talent for making his fanbase – overwhelmingly female and queer – feel seen.
“Boyfriends/They think you’re so easy/They take you for granted,” he sings in the albums penultimate track, ‘Boyfriends’, a sad unpicking of an imbalanced relationship that empathises with those who stay regardless. “You can start a family who will always show you love/You don’t have to be sorry for doing it on your own,” he promises in ‘Matilda’, an ode to found family and the ability to heal from past trauma. Harry’s House is a safe space, into which Styles weaves cosy domestic details – tea and toast in ‘Matilda’, pancakes and hash browns in ‘Keep Driving’, red wine in the garden in ‘Grapejuice’ and walks through the park in ‘Love Of My Life’. It’s a place where his listeners can expect to find an empathetic voice.
Harry’s House is also a romantic record, charged with Styles’ brand of respectful sensuality and absorbed with how the domesticity of its setting changes the narrative. Upbeat track ‘Cinema’ describes two people managing high-profile careers around an intense new relationship. ‘Daydreaming’ follows, in which the lovers are temporarily separated but both still mentally caught up in the other. ‘Keep Driving’ brings them back down to earth – Styles describes “a small concern with how the engine sounds” – and sees them uncertainly agree to keep things moving forward beyond the initial excitement of it all: “I would ask, “Should we just keep driving?” This is a more grounded romance than any Styles has written of before, and appropriately so – both he and his audience are growing up.
Architecturally, it’s a carefully-constructed thing, but it helps to think of Harry’s House less in terms of construction and more in terms of home décor – room to room, the style varies, but the overall effect paints a pretty clear picture of who lives there. Styles employs the furnishings of different genres at different points. ‘Music For A Sushi Restaurant’ is an explosively funky opening that sees Styles assume the voice of a rock’n’roll star. “It’s cos I love you babe/In every kind of way,” he sing-shouts with an inscrutable accent before an entire brass section erupts onto the chorus. Four tracks later, he’s phased into somewhat-familiar indie pop for lead single ‘As It Was’. ‘Little Freak’ and ‘Matilda’ see him layering dreamy vocals over plucked guitars and gentle droning basslines, before the futuristic disco track ‘Cinema’ bursts onto the scene. It all feels cohesive though, and never as if we’ve turned up at the wrong address. Harry’s House is what its title promises – an invitation into something inventive, warm, and quintessentially Styles.
Harry’s House is out on Friday 20 May, and selected tickets are still available for Harry Styles’ 2022 tour here.