It’s no wonder “As It Was” has remained viral on TikTok since its release two months ago. It’s the perfect soundtrack to the idealized teen summer—but that’s all it is.
Former One Direction member Harry Styles just released “Harry’s House,” a 13-track album that only offers us background music for the summer, and nothing else. “As It Was” is currently the go-to audio choice on TikTok. It’s the ideal soundtrack for compilations of summer travel adventures, or videos reviewing a graduating seniors’ school year recap.
Fortunately for Styles, this means the song is trending and only mounting higher on the streaming charts. But unfortunately, that’s all the song is good for.
This album offers funk jams and perfect pop songs that pair well with a drive home in the summer heat, but these songs don’t stand out. There’s no striking creativity and no sign of musical maturity.
Take his opener, “Music For A Sushi Restaurant,” an odd title for sure. I wondered if this track would just be an instrumental intro. But no, there are lyrics. And they’re weird: “Green eyes, fried rice, I could cook an egg on you.”
Maybe Styles tried to take a shot at creativity with this exotic route, but it doesn’t land. I wouldn’t be surprised if sushi restaurants actually play this song in their buildings, seeing as it’s perfect background noise.
But that’s not something Styles should necessarily be proud of. Would he really rather have his songs remain in the background? “Music For A Sushi Restaurant” is just another cliche, steamy love song. In fact, the majority of his songs are sitting on the cliche love song train.
As I re-listened to this album, the majority of it merged into the background of the coffee shop I worked in. “Late Night Talking,” “Grapejuice,” “As It Was,” “Daylight,” and “Little Freak” didn’t strike a chord. Sure, it was perfect for focusing on writing this, but I was hoping for something more.
Then “Matilda” came on, and what I had been hoping for came to life for four minutes and 55 seconds. Styles presents his musicality with a beautiful finger-picking intro. He sings to Matilda, “You don’t have to be sorry for leaving and growing up.”
“Boyfriends” is another exception. Styles apologizes for all the poor boyfriends in the world: “Boyfriends, are they just pretending? / They don’t tеll you where it’s heading / And you know thе game’s never ending.”
For a moment, there are glimmers of something beautiful and something deeper. But we head right back into the cliche synth-pop sound he consistently percolates in, perfect for the thoughtless Instagram scroll.
Some artists relish in the fact that their lyrics remain thoughtful and cryptic, but Styles has leaned much more into the cliche rather than the thoughtful. This album doesn’t give us a look into Styles’ house or personal life, which may have been what fans were expecting.
I wouldn’t recommend Styles to reveal every detail of his hidden life; he’s in a public relationship, after all. But you can be masterfully intentional and personal without oversharing.
Styles also doesn’t have to do something completely new with his sound in order to wow fans. Since he’s a former member of One Direction, it’s hard to imagine a world where Styles has to convince someone to listen to his music. Whenever he releases a new album, plenty of people will automatically listen to it.
But maybe that’s the deeper problem. This album is underwhelming because, although many of us have been relentless fans of Styles for years, it seems he’s just riding on his fanbase. There’s nothing surprising or invigorating about this piece of music.
I won’t say this album is a complete trainwreck. A few of these songs may make it onto my summer drive playlists, seeing as they are perfect background noises. But that’s all the album really is.
Styles will undoubtedly remain on the charts with “Harry’s House,” but for those looking for something deeper and more creative, head in a different direction.