About as vibrant as the new albumFLICKR/Nathan Congleton, https://www.flickr.com/photos/32279598@N02

As we might expect from a singer whose first taste of the industry was being eliminated from The X Factor, Harry Styles again fails to impress with his most recent commercial product, Harry’s House. The album is a thirteen-track torture chamber, another festering pustule on the withered corpse of the music industry, and it has – of course – already broken records on Apple Music. Styles left One Direction in 2015, and has since focused on solo projects such as 2019’s Fine Line, a far better project than this newer output.

Styles’ career has, up to and including now, been predicated on creating the largest possible cultural splash while inciting the smallest risk to his public image. Despite accolades such as using gender non-conforming attire to become the first man to appear solo on the cover of Vogue magazine, Styles is ultimately a corporate beast, one governed entirely by following trends and trendsetting, and, with this newest album, he proves that his cultural influences and exploration have already worn incredibly thin, and are assumably only going to grow shallower with time.

“Breaking down this album track-by-track is reminiscent of pouring away a pungent gallon of stratified milk”

Styles clearly took it upon himself to create this album in the most efficient way possible. To this end, he only included a handful of definable ideas across the 42-minute runtime. Almost every song deals solely with the same cliches – lover-turned-hater, nostalgia for love, unrequited love – that pop music has drained to the dregs for decades: moreover, the instrumental palette hardly varies from track to track, to the point that anyone suffering from audio-visual synesthesia might start seeing in grayscale.

Although we should learn to expect such shenanigans from the increasingly incestuous pool of pop music today, where every second song borrows heavily from music made by a more-deserving artist, Harry’s House has a few notable instances of plagiarism. The opening of “Music for a Sushi Restaurant”, for example, is practically identical to the opening of “Exceptional” by China Anne McClain: then there’s “Satellite”, the lyrics of which – “Spinning out, waiting for you” – are a direct ripoff of the same lyrical flow from “Accidentally in Love” by Counting Crows. There is a marked difference between paying homage – as Dua Lipa does on her brilliant album Future Nostalgia – and overcompensating for blandness, and Styles falls on the wrong side of this fine line.

“Each track loses all identity, blending in with the beige drudgery of the rest of the album, a monochromatic canvas”

Even if breaking down this album track-by-track is reminiscent of pouring away a pungent gallon of stratified milk, it’s an important exercise in demonstrating the sheer vacuum of ideas that this album, against all odds, manages to subsist on. The synthesised horns and inappropriate scat music of “Music for a Sushi Restaurant” fail to compensate for the facade of lyricism beneath, and the track ultimately feels like a hollowed-out shell of a sub-standard pop song, combined perhaps with excerpts from an Itsu’s menu. “Late Night Talking” provokes, if nothing else, a troubled sense of hilarity, exposing as it does the fact that Styles has become so detached from the day-to-day, real-life problems of his non-famous fans that he believes a stubbed toe is worthy of deep emotional support.

Any unintentional outburst of genuine emotion is, however, masked before the end of the song by utterly mind-numbing lyrics, such as the repetition of "I can’t get you out of my mind”. Tracks such as “Grapejuice” and “Keep Driving” demonstrate Styles’ troubling struggle to construct half-decent rhymes, to the point that he needs to alter the words themselves to compensate for this inability (“Red / rouge”, or the third syllable on “sunglasses”). The lead single from the album, “As It Was”, is a decent track. However, it succeeds in being mediocre only by way of being derivative. For those of you who are not too familiar with Coldplay or this track in particular, here’s an experiment: find the instrumentals for any recent Coldplay album, put them in a playlist, add this song, and see if you can differentiate between the two artists when it comes up on shuffle. Lyrics from the track “Little Freak” (such as “Did you dress up for Halloween? / I spilled beer on your friend. / I’m sorry”) delve into the unintentional absurdism of drunken improvisation, or even a bad attempt at lip-reading. “Matilda” has a soothing instrumental, but even this glimmer of hope soon stales under a stark lack of variation. Towards the end of the album – further than Harry thought a sane person would dare to reach, it seems – the tracks lose all identity, blending in with the beige drudgery of the rest of the album, a monochromatic canvas.


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What’s next for Harry Styles? It hardly matters, but, on balance, he should continue forging ahead with his solo career. Any further project he creates can only be an improvement. What’s more, the announcement of a hiatus or his retirement would only accrue waves of unearned sympathy. What’s next for Harry Styles? What’s next for dry rot? What’s next for swine flu? It’s only by becoming complacent with these unimaginative practices that albums such as Harry’s House, these barren wastelands of thought, have dominated the industry, and will continue to rule the charts long into the future.