Harry’s House by Harry Styles
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Harry Styles’ third solo album, Harry’s House, is the product of a chain reaction. Had the pandemic not thrown his world into a tailspin in early 2020, he would’ve continued to tour behind Fine Line, his critically adored sophomore album, and played its songs hundreds of times for sold-out crowds around the world. A return to the studio was planned, of course, but when COVID-19 canceled those plans too, Styles faced an empty calendar for the first time in a decade. The singer opted to use this free time carefully, taking a solo road trip through Italy and visiting with family and friends for rare long, drawn-out stretches. It was an important moment of reevaluation. “You miss so many birthdays,” he told Apple Music’s Zane Lowe. “And eventually it’s just assumed you’re unable to be at stuff. Finally I was like, ‘I want to balance my life out a bit. Working isn’t who I am, it’s something I do. I want to be able to put that down.’” His upbeat, lightly electronic third LP riffs on the concept of home, viewing it less as a geographical location and more as a state of mind—his mind. “Imagine it’s a day in my house, a day in my mind,” he said. “What do I go through? I’m playing fun music. I’m playing sad music. I have doubts. I’m feeling stuff.” Because of the pandemic, Styles recorded the songs with a small handful of longtime friends and close collaborators who gathered in a single room to drink wine, write, and play. That intimacy is reflected in the songs, which are conversational and casually confessional, as if he’s thinking out loud. Blending vintage folk rock with flickers of disco and a generally more relaxed sensibility, they illustrate a turning point in Styles’ career as he transitions even further towards career singer-songwriter. “For a while it was, how do I play that game of remaining exciting?” he says. “But I finally had a moment where I felt like, ‘Okay, I’m not the young thing, so I would like to really think about who I want to be as a musician.’” Read on for the inside story behind a handful of standout selections from Harry’s House. “Music for a Sushi Restaurant” “After Fine Line, I had an idea of how I thought the next album would open. But there’s something about ‘Sushi’ that felt like, ‘Nah, that’s how I want to start.’ It becomes really obvious what the first song should be based on what you play for people when they’re like, ‘Oh, can I hear a bit of the music?’ It’s like, how do you want to set the tone?” “Daylight” “We were like, ‘We have to find a way to stay awake and finish this, because if we all go to bed, then this won’t turn out the way it would if we finished tonight.’ So we powered through, finished it, and went down to the beach as the sun was coming up and it was like, ‘Okay. Yeah.’ It felt correct that we’d finished it in that place. Life, and songs in particular, are so much about moments. In surfing, for example, sometimes you don’t get the wave and sometimes the wave comes and you haven’t practiced. But every now and again, the wave comes and you’re ready, you’ve practiced enough that you can ride it. Sometimes when the songs write themselves like that, it feels like, ‘Okay, there’s a reason why sometimes I sit out there, falling off the board a bunch. It’s for this moment.” “As It Was” “‘As It Was,’ to me, is bittersweet. It’s devastating. It’s a death march. It’s about metamorphosis and a perspective change, which are not necessarily things you have time with. People aren’t like, ‘Oh, we’ll give you a couple more days with this moment and let you say goodbye to your former self,’ or whatever. No. Everyone is changing, and by the time you realize what’s happened, [the moment] is already gone. During the pandemic, I think we all at some point realized that it would never be the same as it was before. It was so obvious that it wouldn’t. You can’t go backwards—we can’t as a society and I can’t in my personal life. But you learn so much in those moments because you’re forced to face things head-on, whether they’re your least favorite things about the world or your least favorite things about yourself, or all of it.” “Matilda” “I had an experience with someone where, in getting to know them better, they revealed some stuff to me that was very much like, ‘Oh, that’s not normal, like I think you should maybe get some help or something.’ This song was inspired by that experience and person, who I kind of disguised as Matilda from the Roald Dahl book. I played it to a couple of friends and all of them cried. So I was like, ‘Okay, I think this is something to pay attention to.’ It’s a weird one, because with something like this, it’s like, ‘I want to give you something, I want to support you in some way, but it’s not necessarily my place to make it about me because it’s not my experience.’ Sometimes it’s just about listening. I hope that’s what I did here. If nothing else, it just says, ‘I was listening to you.’” “Boyfriends” “‘Boyfriends’ was written right at the end of Fine Line. I’d finished the album and there was an extra week where I wrote ‘Adore You,’ ‘Lights Up,’ and ‘Treat People With Kindness.’ At the end of the session for ‘Lights Up,’ we started writing ‘Boyfriends,’ and it felt like, ‘Okay, there’s a version of this story where we get this song ready for this album.’ But something about it just felt like, no, it’ll have its time, let’s not rush it. We did so many versions of it. Vocal. Acoustic. Electric guitar. Harmonies on everything, and then we took them out for chunks and put them back in for chunks. You try not to get ahead of yourself when you write a song, but there was something about this one where I felt like, ‘Okay, when I’m 50, if I’m playing a show, maybe there’s someone who heard me for the first time when they were 15 and this is probably the song they came to see.’ Because I’m learning so much by singing it. It’s my way of saying, ‘I’m hearing you.’ It’s both acknowledging my own behavior and looking at behavior I’ve witnessed. I grew up with a sister, so I watched her date people, and I watched friends date people, and people don’t treat each other very nicely sometimes.” “Cinema” “I think I just wanted to make something that felt really fun, honestly. I was on a treadmill going, ‘Do-do-do-do-do-do.’ I tend to do so much writing in the studio, but with this one, I did a little bit here and then I went home and added a little bit there, and then kind of left it, and then went into the studio to put it all together. That was a theme across the whole album, actually: We used to book a studio and be like, ‘Okay, we’ve got it for two months, grind it out.’ But some days you just don’t want to be there, and eventually you’ve been in the studio so long, the only thing you can write about is nothing because you haven’t done anything. So with this album, we’d work for a couple of weeks and then everyone would go off and live their lives.” “Love of My Life” “‘Love of My Life’ was the most terrifying song because it’s so bare. It’s so sparse. It’s also very much in the spirit of what Harry’s House is about: I wanted to make an acoustic EP, all in my house, and make it really intimate. It’s named after [the Japanese pop pioneer Haruomi] Hosono, who had an album in the ’70s called Hosono House. I immediately started thinking about what Harry’s House might look like. It took time for me to realize that the house wasn’t a geographical location, it was an internal thing. When I applied that concept to the songs we were making here, everything took on new meaning. Imagine it’s a day in my house or a day in my mind. What do I go through? I’m playing fun music. I’m playing sad music. I’m playing this, I’m playing that. I have doubts. I’m feeling stuff. And it’s all mine. This is my favorite album at the moment. I love it so much. And because of the circumstances, it was made very intimately; everything was played by a small number of people and made in a room. To me, it’s everything. It’s everything I’ve wanted to make.”
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