Harry’s House

When a teen idol becomes a rock star, he announces it with a Rolling Stone spread. Five years ago, in the run-up to his debut album, Harry Styles got that quintessential rock’n’roll treatment: A sprawling 6,000 words by the celebrated journalist and filmmaker Cameron Crowe. They had lunch in Laurel Canyon; Cameron likened Styles’ voice to Rod Stewart’s, his crew to the Beatles, and his recording studio to Big Pink.

When a rock star becomes a lifestyle influencer, he announces it with a Better Homes & Gardens cover. Styles’ appearance in the June issue of that publication—which runs articles about organic fertilizer and Meyer lemons and rarely profiles musicians at all, much less those of Styles’ stature—brushes off the music press and cleverly promotes Harry’s House, his third album. Harry is pictured in Gucci pajamas carrying a breakfast tray; the story’s very existence signals his hard turn into comfort and leisure. Meanwhile, he’s got Mick Fleetwood peddling his nail polish. On TikTok, Harry’s House single “As It Was” is a go-to soundtrack for supercuts of curated domesticity. The state of the boy brand is strong.

On Harry’s House, pleasure is the aesthetic proposition. The album oozes the easy charisma that lifted Styles head and shoulders above his former One Direction colleagues and makes him one of pop’s more compelling live acts. Its sounds—which move through funk, folk, and 2010s Tumblr-pop—are friendly and familiar enough to satisfy passive listening, but deftly executed, with a surplus of style and whimsy that rewards a more active ear. Styles’ previous albums seemed preoccupied with a desire to demonstrate taste and legitimacy via retro-rock pastiche, but here he wears his influences more lightly. The mood is light, too: Opener “Music for a Sushi Restaurant” kicks things off with scatting, scene-stealing horns, and a litany of food references (fried rice, ice cream, coffee on the stove) that conjure a state of goofy, sated bliss. “I could cook an egg on you”: Harry Styles lyric or Denny’s tweet?

Styles kept this record in the family, working primarily with returning collaborators Kid Harpoon and Tyler Johnson. For some artists, an intimate writers’ room can draw out vulnerabilities or create a foundation for risk-taking, but little here suggests that Styles is looking to tap into anything overly profound. The emotional stakes are low: Harry is either wistful for past love, but not too pressed about it, or else drawn to someone new, but not effusively so. He’s “not worried” about who his ex is going home to, despite the nostalgic halo she wears on “Little Freak”; he’s not wine-drunk and despondent, he just has the “grape juice blues.” “Daydreaming,” a skin-deep but richly textured sex fantasy that borrows from the Brothers Johnson, articulates what’s felt on much of the album: Styles is writing inside a reverie, blissfully insulated from life’s extremity.