Last night, teenage girls all over the world stayed up way past their bedtime on a school night. The reason behind this sudden rebellion? Harry Styles' long awaited self-titled debut album appeared everywhere at midnight and nobody was going to force them to wait until the morning for their excited tears. Anyway, it's out now and i-D went to a special screening of the accompanying Harry Styles: Behind The Album documentary that you're supposed to watch on Monday via Apple Music after spending the entire weekend speculating about who the various songs are about. Luckily, we took notes and strongly believe that sharing is caring. Oh, Harry turned up too to tell us that he recorded the record at Abbey Road, that it was the first time he had been there, that his mate started out filming, that the footage was never going to be for anything in particular, and that he hopes everyone likes it, etc.
Turns out that after taking time off, going back home and forcing himself to get bored, Harry went off to Jamaica for two months to get a nice tan and attempt to write said album. It felt like his little secret, he says, calling the trip his happiest time ever — no pressure after five years of pressure — and the 360 writing experience he'd never had before. Working with serial Kanye producer Jeff Bhasker and songwriter Kid Harpoon, he got six songs written in the first week, telling the camera that "a lot happened." He explains that so often when leaving boybands, people talk of regret, that it wasn't really them, that it was all an act, but that it's the opposite for him. He loved every minute of it, he never felt like he was faking it, that he's so glad he went out on a high, and that, "if I never get to do it on that scale again, it's okay."
"I was the one with the hair," Harry says in another scene, explaining that he wanted to start afresh before covering his eyes as somebody cuts through his ponytail. Why didn't he sell it on eBay? Was he afraid of being cloned? Or cursed? He'd have made a fair bit of money from that. Maybe he keeps it in a box at home. Maybe he'll take inspiration from Jaden Smith and bring it to a party as his +1. There's a lovely story about how Mitch Rowland, housemate of the album engineer, skipped his shift at a pizza restaurant to stand in after their guitarist dropped out of a writing session in L.A. Mitch and Harry ended up being best mates and Mitch ended up co-writing a lot of the record and presumably quitting his job.
Other highlights include when Harry and Jeff have a slow motion fight where Harry seems to win by sticking his middle finger up at Jeff, when Harry sings one of his songs in the style of Dylan and it's actually not too bad of an impression, when Harry starts banging pots and pans while jamming "Carolina" before collecting them all up and putting them away in the kitchen.
So! The album itself. It makes so many musical references, in so many different voices, that it's sort of a Young Person's Introduction To Classic Rock, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Harry gives everything a go, and it's very refreshing for a boyband frontman to break off and do something other than R&B. But if some ugly old bloke was playing it live in the corner of a pub, would people like it as much? If you haven't already (or even if you have), make your way through the record with us.
"Meet Me in the Hallway"
If The OC was still running, they'd probably sync this to a rare rainy day where all the characters are sitting in their pool houses crying. It's one of our favorites from the record, and not just for that reason.
Sign of the Times
It's the biggie with the impressive video. And the song that got the Bowie comparisons flying about. We wouldn't go that far, but it has been in our head for days, so there's a reason it's the lead single. Harry said that this was written in just three hours and was the tune that really made this whole thing feel like an album and not just a collection of songs. FUN FACT: Harry's original lyrics included the line "fucking running from" (the bullets) before his manager persuaded him to "cheat the system" by switching to a more radio and teen friendly "stuck and running from." Crisis averted.
This one, which unfortunately has a little bit of Robin Thicke about it, is about a girl who can handle her drink, and was the last song Harry wrote for the album. While we're not ones to gossip, there's a big chance that it's definitely about Caroline Flack. From the documentary screening yesterday we can confirm that Harry admits with a smile that, "her name's in it, so I'm a bit fucked with that."
This is it. The Taylor Swift song. The response to T-Swift's "Style" with its red lips/white t-shirt lyrics. Harry makes it nice and obvious for us in the opening line by making those very same references. "Same red lips, same eyes blue, same white shirt, couple more tattoos," he reflects in this nice bit of slide guitar country rock. In the documentary, Harry says with a smirk that he's "unable to confirm or deny" whether anyone has written a song about him before, but that "now I've done that to her" and adding that it's "more fun" to not mention names. He literally didn't even need to.
The very Beatles "Blackbird" opening of this one sets things off in an acoustic direction with some nice harmonies. It's sweet. The kind of song you'd secretly like someone to write about you.
A positively heavenly start gives way to a Totally Rock And Roll screech after which Harry lets loose and gives in to those Jagger urges that he's clearly been having for a very long time. Bit of fun, isn't it? With the claps, woohoos, and the inevitable pout that'll come with it?
Quite Arctic Monkey's tbh. Presumably about the time that his one-time New Zealand girlfriend claimed she was going to have his baby?
Ever Since New York
Does anybody actually know what happened in New York?
"Shall we just search romantic comedies on Netflix and then see what we find?" opens the track, following the recipe for both a dull night in and the opening of a song about about love and jealousy. The lalalalas are good.
From the Dining Table
Did Harry just sing about waking up and having a wank? A melancholy ending with more harmonies than it needs about an ex moving on, before trying to move on himself. We couldn't really get past the wank though.
Text Frankie Dunn
Photography Molly Hawkins