Almost everything we know about Harry Styles’s upcoming third album Harry’s House surrounds the idea of home. From the album cover to the promotional slogan “You Are Home,” all signs point to Styles coming home to himself. I plan to do the same when the album releases on May 20: I’ll be in my childhood bedroom with my life-sized cardboard cutout of the singer, listening to the album from start to finish.
Over two years have passed since Styles released Fine Line, his second and most recent studio album. When Fine Line came out in 2019, I was deeply entrenched in the ups and downs of high school — the ACT and young, unrequited feelings — and I listened to the final track of the album while laying on my bed, crying in the dark and staring at the ceiling. Since then, I’ve aged out of my cultish following of Styles, but I’ve kept up the cardboard cutout of him I got for my 15th birthday. He’s a fixture when I come home from college now, a reminder of the changes I’ve endured over the years.
Styles has famously said Fine Line is about “having sex and being sad” — in that album, he wanted to break free from the creative constraints he’d placed on his production and express himself freely. His sound has changed from the bottled pop of his boy band origins to incorporate diverse elements: a more mature voice, electric guitar, soft rock and choral singing. After two successful solo albums, Styles has more than proven that he is an artist in his own right, beyond his One Direction years. Hopefully, Harry’s House will find more of the same freedom and introspection that he began to explore in Fine Line.
Harry’s House will mark a new era for Styles, both in the sound of his music and in the presentation of it. The era began with his performance of his hit single “Watermelon Sugar” at the 2021 Grammys, for which he wore a leather Gucci suit and nothing underneath. The suit raised speculations that his third album would lean into more of a rock sound, which Styles has dabbled in previously. As a classic rock fan, I would love nothing more than for Styles to embrace his closeness with Stevie Nicks and resemblance to Mick Jagger and release a rock album. However, “As It Was,” the first single released off the new album on April 1, has quickly changed my expectations for the project.
The single is pop all the way through, but it’s more experimental than Styles’s previous pop hits like “Watermelon Sugar” and “Adore You.” Styles incorporates more synth than he has before, which could suggest that the album is going in the direction of a new wave sound. The song’s introduction — children’s voices saying “Come on, Harry, we want to say good night to you!” — at first struck me as odd, but after listening to the song approximately a thousand times, I appreciate how the introduction previews the song’s reflection on childhood. The chorus repeats the line “You know it’s not the same as it was,” and the song’s music video is supposedly about Styles’s transformation, with images alluding to his childhood.
Styles really leans into the home imagery with his promotional photo shoot in “Better Homes and Gardens,” and he also released the album’s tracklist with song titles that allude to intimacy and introspection, like “Late Night Talking” and “Keep Driving.” It seems that Styles is looking back on how he has changed, and so am I. I’ve grown with Styles’s music, from rejecting One Direction in elementary school because “I’m not like other girls” to admitting to The Cornell Daily Sun that my Harry Styles cardboard cutout lives in my room. I can’t wait to hear how Styles has grown in Harry’s House — the lyrics, sound and imagery to come will clue us into Styles’s personal journey, as well as help me reflect on my own.
Kiki Plowe is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected].