Many Directions

Harry Styles’ debut album is a tour through every type of rock-n-roll.

When One Direction put their band status on indefinite hiatus, it really wasn’t difficult to predict that each member would go his separate way and start a solo career. What he did at this point was the less obvious part. One Direction was, during its existence, a predictable, industry-run pop band, churning out album after album and tour after tour. The hits were formulaic but catchy and the fans loved it. While the thought of changing the winning plan can be exciting to critics, it is risky if anything to the star himself and leaves people wondering: what will change?

Zayn Malik, the first band member to fly solo, turned from jubilant radio-pop to brooding R&B. Niall Horan took the acoustic, folksy route. Harry Styles, arguably the band’s most well-known member, let people wait in suspense for what would inevitably be the biggest shocker of the group but the one that paid off the most; Harry went rock ’n’ roll.

His debut album, Harry Styles, is an expansive work that shows not just the one direction but the many that he is trying to take with his budding solo career. While all rock at heart, we see epic ballads (“Sign of the Times”), groovy stompers (“Woman”), and all-out bangers (“Kiwi”). One second he’s vulnerable and the next he’s raging, both a testament to his before-now-unseen talent and a hint that he possibly didn’t have a clear vision of where exactly he wanted to land with this album so he tried a little bit of everything. The end result is a collection of 10 songs — some decent and some very, very good — which function well on their own but fail to really make an impression as a full album.

Harry Styles shows signs of a bright future but an uncertain present, one in which Styles knows the general feeling he’s trying to go with but hasn’t fully honed in on it just yet. The album contains songs that will surely be on playlists and radio stations, and will be commended for its adventurousness and quality of standout songs, but is not as polished or cohesive as other great albums are. In the end, though, his risks are worth it and his sound is best when he goes full rock-n-roll, like on “Kiwi” and “Only Angel.” Anyway, it’s 2017: time to branch out. It’s no longer *cool* to pretend that One Direction isn’t. Go give Harry Styles a listen; you may be surprised.

Grade: B+

Best Songs: Sign of the Times, Kiwi, Ever Since New York

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