Harry Styles is listed as a writing credit on every track of his self-titled debut albumBiagio2103

This May marks the release of Harry Styles’ self-titled album – his debut solo release post-One Direction. Having already established a platform of millions of fans worldwide, this is no ordinary debut. With extortionate production costs and exposure, this is a rare case where the artist can create the record and sound they genuinely want. With such opportunity, however, comes high expectations and a certain degree of scepticism. People tend to have little faith in music produced by the Simon Cowell SyCo machine. This is largely due to song authorship. Ultimately, if you don’t write your own stuff, the bearded hipsters at Pitchfork won’t take you seriously.

However, Harry is listed as a writing credit on every track of this album. What does this say about the vibe of the album as a whole? It appears to offer an authentic insight into the musical mind of Styles, establishing his own place in popular music outside of the confines of a boy band.

Still, Styles has a lot to prove with this solo album. Evidently, Zayn Malik was clever to branch out early. Releasing Mind of Mine last year allowed him to establish an individual sound while the remaining members of One Direction were still touring the world together. The release of Harry Styles coincides with the debut singles of former bandmates Niall Horan and Liam Payne. Standing out has never been more important. Being the ‘alternative’ one in an X-Factor pop group isn’t very difficult. It all hinges on wearing a jaunty hat of some sorts. However, now the criteria are different. The first steps as a solo artist are crucial. The music must make a statement. And as an album, Harry Styles does this.

“The first steps as a solo artist are crucial. The music must make a statement. And as an album, Harry Styles does this.”

In his first single, ‘Sign of the Times’, Styles stakes his claim as an independent artist in the industry. It’s an old-school ballad, with what sounds like the highest production value out of all the tracks. It’s a strong and unexpected debut, but isn’t representative of the album’s general style. Overall, the album centres around an acoustic charm, balanced with a surprisingly earnest ‘rock and roll’ vibe. It’s pretty clear: Harry Styles wants to be a rock star. In fact, when you listen to the album, you get the impression he already is one. The tone of Harry Styles is the after-hours, hotel room reflections of a seasoned rock star. It seems a ridiculous thought, bearing in mind that Styles has just turned 23 – but he manages to pull it off.

That said, one must be cautious when throwing the term ‘rock star’ around; it can be used too generously. In One Direction, Styles was compared to Mick Jagger just because he had long hair. He’s now being compared to David Bowie – but where does this come from? There appears to be an overarching tendency to compare young artists to other people. Harry Styles has only just started off as an artist, so why not let him be himself for a while?

The album is a pleasant listen from start to finish, and it’s the consistent background of guitar strumming that gives it this sense of cohesion. ‘Sweet Creature’ mirrors the opening chords of The Beatles’ ‘Blackbird’, and is an understated but sincere little ballad. These endearing moments are scattered across the whole album, with ‘From the Dining Table’ serving as another poignant and stripped-down track. Whilst Styles does play around with instrumental style and tempo, these acoustic songs seem to be the most cherished parts of the album. More dramatic moments such as ‘Sign of the Times’, and the great song ‘Woman’, show his versatility. These are the album’s theatrical moments that promise to be a gem for any live show.

Harry Styles is an album that entices you. As an artist, Styles undoubtedly has established his own sound. Is it groundbreaking? Styles managed to make an album with an acoustic guitar and not sound like Ed Sheeran, so, maybe?