Label: Columbia / Erskine Records
Released: 20th May 2022
“Every spirit builds itself a house; and beyond its house, a world; and beyond its world a heaven. Know then, that the world exists for you: build, therefore, your own world.”
This quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson is printed between the song lyrics and the dedication for ‘Harry’s House’. The cover of the book it’s taken from was the first image to appear on You Are Home (a website created to promote the album, it displays an opening door that’s been revealing a new image every day). Referenced repeatedly throughout his album promotion, it seems safe to say that these are words Harry Styles holds near to his heart.
For someone who’s been in the media spotlight for over a decade, he’s pretty adept at keeping his cards close to his chest. “I love what I get to do as a job [but] I’m very protective over my personal life, and compartmentalising them is a boundary I feel okay setting,” Harry stated in a recent radio interview (when prompted to reveal who a song was about, he simply responded “well, you will always wonder”). But just because he holds back on divulging his songs’ meanings doesn’t mean he’s entirely closed off – he just prefers to let his music do the talking. With the release of his third album, the superstar is opening the door to his own world in an open invitation for listeners to come inside and explore.
The welcome you’re given when you do is gleefully bombastic: rippling melodies, crescendoing vocals, and some straight-up delightful panning on the percussion herald in a new era for a musical sensation who’s taking the world by storm (lead single ‘As It Was’ broke a world record in its first day). Opening number ‘Music For A Sushi Restaurant’ is bold, brash, and verging on nonsensical. There are brass stabs a plenty, food references galore, and there’s even some absolutely delicious scat singing (SCAT SINGING!!!). Honestly, we don’t know what more you could ask for.
From there, the record treats its audience to a series of domestic portraits painted through funk, folk, and every degree in between. There are falsetto vocals that’d make Prince proud, stadium-ready sing-a-longs that’d thrill Arcade Fire, and did we mention the scat singing? Throughout it all, at its core, ‘Harry’s House’ is an album about love. Whether you’re in love, longing for it, loathing it, or content as you are, this is for you.
With his third record, Harry Styles explores love in all of its aching wonder. From sitting at home on the floor (‘As It Was’) to making tea and toast (‘Matilda’), from spilling beer on a significant someone’s friend but not being sorry (rude, but relatable – ‘Little Freak’) to taking a walk on Sunday through the afternoon (‘Love Of My Life’). ‘Daylight’ meanders through obsession on fairytale-romance-ready refrains – complete with swooning-Disney-princess-sigh-esque backing vocals – while ‘Grapejuice’ is a devoted ode to an object of affection that remains unclear (is it a person? Is it an emotion? Is it a drink? We don’t know).
The album’s emotional highpoint arrives in ‘Matilda’, a song that’s had fans feeling hysterical even before they hear it. A story in third person, the song is an earnestly heartfelt ode to consideration for others and the resounding strength in self-acceptance. (A side note has to be made here in appreciation of the brilliant tracklisting that has ‘Matilda’ followed by ‘Cinema’ – the experience of listening to the two tracks in succession has a visceral emotional impact that mirrors stepping into bright light after hours in a dark room).
Lyrics often take on a stream of consciousness esque quality. With its steadfast rhythms, ‘Keep Driving’ might feel like one of the most grounded tracks on the record, but listen closer, and you find such wonderful turns of phrase as “cocaine, side-boob, choke her with a sea view” (is this the checklist from heaven or hell? We’ll leave that to you to decide – Ed) and “wine glass, puff pass, tea with cyborgs” (this might be the dinner party of our dreams and we want an invite – Ed). ‘Satellite’ feels almost like the opposite: stratospheric in scope, while the lyrics keep their feet firmly on the ground. There’s something endearingly profound in hearing a world-renowned icon sing, “am I bothering you? Do you want to talk?”
Surreal in places, but always sincere, ‘Harry’s House’ ventures through the everyday in all of its vivid technicolour glory. Because that’s what this album is for – it’s for every day. It’s for hairbrush karaoke while you do your make up. It’s for dancing while you cook, for singing while you clean, for late-night drives, and for lazy days in the garden. It’s a comforting voice for those moments when you need to break down and reset on your kitchen floor, and it’s a soundtrack for the sunshine while you walk to the shops or to the bus stop. These are songs for living and breathing, and thriving in the moment that you’re in. As Harry sings on the opening track, this is “music for whatever you want.”
Because it’s yours now. As it’s released into the world, these songs are yours to sing to, dance to, cry to, laugh to. It’s yours to travel to, to make a home to, to do “whatever you want” to. This isn’t just Harry’s home anymore; it’s ours.