So I think maybe the ground is up and the sky is down. I was listening to Radio 1 the other day. Maybe I needed a taste of what the devil’s serving. I stumbled upon a song that I liked. Shock. Horror. It had some lyrics in it that I’d thought I’d look up, to see if I could track down the anomaly that Radio 1 had earthed up. Perhaps a lucky artist that had gotten a big break from those up top? But no, when I looked up the lyrics I found it was none other than Harry Styles, with his new single “Sign of the Times”. I almost had a mini heart attack. But why should I be surprised? Someone needed to break the horredeous cycle of Ed Sheeran songs that have dominated the charts. And lo and behold, it was ex-One-Direction star Styles, who has enlisted a team of writers to write some of the best pop music I’ve heard since I wrote that article about Bruno Mars not too long ago.
It’s nothing other than a rock album, sung with actual passion by Harry Styles himself. He was thrown together with a bunch of misfits in 2010 to spawn the painfully pop-y boyband One Direction. Simon Cowell had them by the balls and induced them to produce 5 albums of boisterous bollocks. They toured and waved until they simply couldn’t anymore, and one of their heartthrobs threw in his microphone and gave up (Zayn Malik, need I even say). After this, One Direction took a hiatus with an unspecified time limit. To them I say, as I’m sure few One Direction fans will read this, please don’t get back together. Harry’s hair looks way better shorter (yeah I said it). And fuck it, he sounds way better alone.
Apparently, he has some knowledge of the old classics. I’m talking Fleetwood Mac, The Rolling Stones, John Lennon. He’s had a dad-esque musical education that appeared to be lost on One Direction’s teeny bopper hits. And now he’s bringing that classic dad music to the charts. Good bloody on him.
His new album sounds like an indie breakout with some actual talent. Helped by his team of writers, Styles has managed to make something that sounds strangely honest. Gone are the painfully catchy choruses of his youth. Here are some actual lyrics that tell of love and sex and lust and passion. It sounds weirdly like… music? Those influences he cites are there. You’ve got some badass rock-y stuff on “Only Angel”, which I would very much like to see live, provided there was a good dose of crowd surfing and guitar bashing. You’ve got some Arctic Monkey’s sounding stuff on “Kiwi”, which you can imagine screaming from the crowd at a festival. You’ve got “Sign of the Times”, which you could easily cry to in the car – not that I have. HAHA. Ha. ha.
And even the slower tracks are still some flipping good ballads. “Ever Since New York”, with its rock-y chord progressions and active beat sounds like a road-trip song if ever I heard one. “From The Dining Table” could be taken straight from the next big indie artist’s new album. It’s harmonies and strings galore, but with some actual bite behind it. It’s got what I think a lot of the songs on the album have, authenticity. So, he had a big fat team behind him, including Jeff Bhasker off-of Bruno Mars, Taylor Swift, Drake, Jay Z, The Rolling Stones and Kanye West. But in context, we can forgive Styles. Why? Because he’s not pretending to be the next Bob Dylan. He knows where he’s come from, and he knows what he has to prove.
Instead of producing an album of sultry, quasi-trap (ZAYN, we’re looking at you), he’s done something he actually wanted to do. He’s not pandering to his pop-obsessed teeny bopper audience. His ideas may not be shiny and new and he may not even be the only one behind them but at least he has the balls to stray far away from anything Simon Cowell would have dreamed up. I’m far happier with Styles in the charts than I am with the blithering Sheeran, who can’t seem to eek a modicum of truth from his battered acoustic. At least Styles sings with passion, at least he moulds the songs of his writers into something energetic.
I’m won over by his seeming sincerity. Even if you don’t like his music, you’ve got to admit, he has charisma. And by gosh, he’s trying. So keep trying Hazza, and fuck those interviewers that keep asking you about Taylor Swift. We don’t care about your private life, we care about your music, which is pretty darn good if you ask us.