With the inevitable end of One Direction, the question that remained to be answered (although the answer was assumed by anyone with a shred of insight) was which member of the group was going to go on to become the biggest solo star? Well, anyone who had been paying attention to the fabric of popular music even a little bit over the past few years knew that it was obviously going to be Harry Styles. He proves this true on his 2017 debut solo record. Right off the bat, he proves that he holds a level of maturity that his past group had never had and that he is light-years ahead of any of his old bandmates.
The opening track on the record is “Meet Me in the Hallway”, which showcases that Styles isn’t afraid in the least to let his influences shine through. It’s such a cliché to call something Beatles-esque, but hey, that shoe certainly fits with this track. It’s also worth the noting that the influence of Britpop is quite evident throughout this track and many of the following tracks on this record. The big hit single off the record, and the following track, is “Sign of the times”. This track, arguably more so than any other track on the record, illustrates Styles’ smooth transition from boyband heartthrob to mature singer-songwriter. This track hopefully had Ed Sheeran thinking twice about his motives (Seriously, am I the only who thinks there’s too much flannel floating around popular music right now?). Onto a completely different aspect of this record’s powers, believe it or not, it rocks. It really does. “Kiwi” is something off an off-brand Oasis-style hard rocker that features a dangerous level of strut and attitude. Styles has got just enough self-assurance to make a go at this whole rock star thing, should he consciously choose to go this direction fully in the future. This record’s got songs, no doubt about it. It’s got diversity. Just enough of it, in fact, to keep things mostly fresh right through to the end of it.
So, the big question has been answered going into this record’s release. Styles is without question going to be the superstar of the One Direction alumni. That’s out of the way and no longer an issue. The next question would be just how much does Styles have to offer? Can he build upon the successes of this debut record in order to make something truly magical in the future? Time can only tell. In the meantime, there is plenty to like about this record. The standout tracks represent some of the best of the year and this is without a doubt one of the year’s strongest records. This just misses being a flawless record, because the self-assuredness of “Kiwi” unfortunately isn’t persistent throughout the record’s duration. Styles’ nerves are apparent at certain points on the record, but who can blame him? You’d be a little nervous, too, if you were up against the odds that he was going into the recording of this record. He was in a race against his former bandmates to prove that he is the one who is going to carry the torch into the future. He won that race and did it relatively impressively. Get off his back. There will definitely be more good coming from him in the future. Beware, Ed Sheeran.