At this year’s Brit Awards, British artist Harry Styles took home the most coveted award of the night, album of the year, for Harry’s House. He beat the likes of grime artist Stormzy, indie group The 1975 and the other big winners of the night, indie band Wet Leg. Styles also took home the awards for British artist of the year, song of the year (for As It Was) and best pop/R&B act.
Styles swept all categories in which he was nominated. He also found great success at this year’s Grammys, winning three of the six awards he was nominated for, one of which was the ceremony’s most sought-after award, Album of the Year – beating Beyoncé.
Styles has found worldwide success with Harry’s House. It is a well crafted pop record that inspires joy and comfort through its breezy nature. This sort of happy, easy listening is exemplified in the album’s three singles – As It Was, Late Night Talking and Music for a Sushi Restaurant.
It’s difficult to pinpoint what makes a good pop song. The features that come together to make a hit are often elusive to most song writers. The sociologist Antoine Hennion (1983) suggested that it was a combination of musical style and technique, the producer, the media, and the public. All combine to create a successful song.
However, I think this approach makes music clinical, as if it is a formula to be followed. Sometimes what makes a song or an album popular is simply the way it makes us feel.
The album’s first single As It Was leans toward a more pop-focused sound paired with a catchy chorus and euphoric instrumentation, featuring church bells. The lyrics discuss a romantic relationship and mental health issues, while also hinting towards the end of the pandemic.
The song represents people’s need for escape and is purely enjoyable, danceable pop music. Variety called the song an “effortlessly joyful lead single” which “bursts through like the sun after a summer downpour”.
Styles’ second offering, Late Night Talking, also falls into this pop-focused sound. The song discusses the experience of talking about absolutely nothing with someone you have a crush on, something we can all relate to.
The lyrics sometimes don’t make sense but the punchy chorus is perfect for singing at the top of your lungs with friends. The instrumentation is simple but draws on 80s synth-pop and leaves you with a feeling of nostalgia.
These songs make you want to dance and sing with your friends and I think that is where the magic of this album comes from and why it was received so well by the public. One reviewer commented that the album was full of “songs that blast to the heart of old-school funk, disco and soul, but never strays into pastiche, homage or cheap retro knock-off territory”.
Harry’s House is simply just fun pop music at the perfect time. We are coming out of a pandemic and are in a cost of living crisis – we need some easy and joyful listening.
Music for a Sushi Restaurant best fits into this category of fun, frivolous pop music. The song draws from pop significantly but is accented by jazz-like scatting and horn blasts throughout, again adding to the joyous nature of the song.
The music video echoes the strange lyrics, portraying Styles as a merman who becomes famous for doing performances in this sushi restaurant. But just as his fame is wavering, the restaurant owners become annoyed with his diva-ish behaviour and Styles ends up meeting the sharp end of a cleaver.
The joy of Styles’ music and visual accompaniments solidifies his place as a purveyor of excellent pop music, one of which the British music industry can be proud.