When I started This Noise Of Mine, the focus was to write only about good music. Of course, that’s an extremely subjective standard, but the idea is to maintain that canon throughout several collaborators, and create a diverse space with lots of good music for different kinds of people and tastes. Still, I never thought to write a post about anything related to One Direction, and still, here I am. Music is here to surprise us.

Harry Styles, former member of teen boy band One Direction, released his debut solo album earlier this month. I started hearing and reading of people whose opinions I respect talking about how this album is worth a shot. So I gave it one. It’s not easy to come into this album without preconceptions and escepticism. After all, steering clear of boy bands is the only common agreement among us rockers.

So, leaving a boy band for a solo career must be a tricky move. Not only does one have to fight a made-up persona, probably famous, within, but also the ravenous horde of teenage fangirls, ready for blood, for “betraying” or “abandoning” them. Or something. Then one must steer clear of bloodthirsty producers trying to squeeze every ounce of juice out of what’s left of said persona. Finally, you have some rebuilding to do, especially if your solo career sounds a wee bit too different than said persona’s previous sound. So, for all this, Harry Styles has my respect.

That being said, there’s no escaping that, for a rock album, Harry Styles‘s Harry Styles (2017, Columbia) feels overproduced, overthought and overall insecure. It hints tribute to bands like Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, Pink Floyd, maybe even The Clash and The Rolling Stones. It’s an homage to great, great rock and roll. But it feels like maybe it’s all crammed forcefully into 10 songs, and one can’t help but feeling this is more of a producer’s than a songwriter’s album. A carefully and meticulously crafted album, as is typical in pop music. The hooks are almost too catchy, the vocals are too in tune. All this poppyness manages to drown Styles‘s true sound, and we’re left wondering if this is really it. If, deep within, a rocker lies. BUT, it’s still a homage to great rock and roll. And that’s worth a listen.

Hey, you might take me up for it. You might not. But all I’m saying is, for what it’s worth, Mr. Styles made an interesting debut album. He has a long way to go in terms of rock and roll credibility. He has homework to do. He has to convince us, album after album, that he’s in it for the music and not the fame. It’s “easy” when you have an army of producers, publishers, RP guys, marketers, writing and scripting your every move. In rock and roll, it’s not as easy. You have to prove yourself before the applause comes, you have to earn it. And this is a nice first step towards it.

At the end, it’s good music.

Catch Harry Styles on tour.

Listen to Harry Styles below.

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