Rock the North

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Album Review • Harry Styles • Harry Styles (Self-Titled)


I think it’s worth mentioning how we got to this point, and I think it’s also worth mentioning that there’s no real way to discuss this debut record without placing it context of the other One Direction debut projects that have been released or are launching as we speak. Because when I reviewed Mind Of Mine by Zayn, I made the commentary that it hard to ignore how much history was repeating itself, a boy band breakaway making a sleek, sexy R&B project that was already eclipsing the band in terms of success…

But this is where things get complicated, because while Zayn may have gotten that #1, the critics were not exactly kind to him, and he spent the rest of 2016 with steadily diminishing returns. But the larger surprise was that unlike previous boy band projects, the other members were splitting off in wildly different directions. Louis split towards modern pop, a direction that seems to be echoed by Liam given his upcoming single release in a week with a feature from Quavo – kind of fascinating, given that for as much as these two were the main ‘songwriter’ types in One Direction, the one who pivoted towards the acoustic folk version of that type was Niall Horan, who has been making music I’d argue is way better than it’s been given credit.

And then there’s Harry Styles, who many people thought would be the breakout star as the face of the band and easily its most popular and recognizable member – even though, unlike Justin Timberlake, he wasn’t one of the bigger contributing songwriters in One Direction. So I think everyone was blindsided when he released ‘Sign Of The TImes’, which was a direct callback to 70s classic rock – and it also was really good! Granted, if you look behind the scenes, it’s not that surprising – Styles had pulled Jeff Bhasker on board, along with Tyler Johnson, who was the main producer behind the criminally underrated pop country debut from Cam in 2015. This is a team of producers and writers who know how to put together a strong album, even if it probably would feel like a shameless throwback. Still, while he might have won over the critics who have been desperately looking for reasons to praise something connected to One Direction, I was a lot more skeptical, because if you’re going for that brand of rock, eventually the edge would have to materialize and I hadn’t heard it yet. So okay, what did this self-titled record deliver?


Overall Rating: 7/10


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