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Harry Styles finally finds his way back home on 'Harry's House'

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harry styles harry's house press photo
Harry Styles.Lillie Eiger
  • Harry Styles released his third solo album, "Harry's House," on Friday.

  • The infectiously fun tracklist, sprinkled with empathetic ballads, shows Styles' growth as an artist.

  • The best songs are "Music for a Sushi Restaurant," "Grapejuice," "Daylight," and "Cinema." (No skips.)

Harry Styles released his third solo album, "Harry's House," on Friday.

Styles has emerged as one of the year's defining musicians. The 28-year-old singer scored his first No. 1 debut with the album's lead single, "As It Was," and debuted two new songs at his show-stopping Coachella performance.

Insider's music team (reporter Callie Ahlgrim and editor Courteney Larocca) listened to the new album on our own, jotting down our initial thoughts track by track.

Here is what we thought of each song on "Harry's House" upon first listen. (Skip to the end to see the only songs worth listening to and the album's final score.)

"Music for a Sushi Restaurant" is the most fun song Styles has ever released.

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"Music for a Sushi Restaurant" is the first track on "Harry's House."Harry Styles/YouTube

Ahlgrim: For no particular reason, "Green eyes, fried rice, I could cook an egg on you" is a genius way to kick off this album. After all, many of Styles' best lyrics are whimsical, vaguely horny food references.

Seconds later, we get this gem: "blue bubblegum twisted round your tongue." It's giving "strawberry lipstick state of mind."

The songs aren't stylistically similar, but "Music for a Sushi Restaurant" echoes "Watermelon Sugar" in that I can tell how much fun Styles is having, and his audible grin is absolutely infectious. I'd even venture to say "Sushi" is more delightful than his sophomore album's most beloved track. I'm a sucker for bursts of brass in a pop song.

Larocca: Styles recently revealed that he was worried about making "fun music" post-One Direction. "I'd come out of the band, and it was like, if I want to be taken seriously as a musician, then I can't make fun music," he told Better Homes and Gardens for its June 2022 issue.

Styles has come a long way since the British boy band went on hiatus in 2015. In the seven years since, he's released three albums, sold out tours, and headlined Coachella earlier this spring. If you're not taking him seriously as a musician now, that's on you.

But it's clear Styles feels like he can let loose again: "Music for a Sushi Restaurant" is the most fun song he's released since starting his solo career. The bassline! The horns section! The excitement in his voice as he yells, "You know I love you, babe!"

Everything about this one screams "I'm having a good time!" and I can't get enough of it.

"Late Night Talking" is a great contender for the album's next single.

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Styles performed "Late Night Talking" at Coachella.Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for ABA

Ahlgrim: We first heard "Late Night Talking" about one month ago when Styles premiered the glossy track at weekend one of Coachella. Given the crowd's enthusiastic reception, it was immediately obvious that Styles had a hit on his hands.

He also told Zane Lowe that he wrote the song with Kid Harpoon during the very first studio session for his third album, so it makes sense for "Late Night Talking" to help set the scene for "Harry's House."

The swooning hook, "Now you're in my life, I can't get you off my mind," acts as both a confession and a dare, as if he's goading listeners to put his new music on repeat.

Larocca: When I first heard this in the desert during weekend one of Coachella, I turned to Callie about halfway through the song and went, "this one's sexy."

After hearing the polished studio recording, I stand by that assessment. It's a sassy little hit.

"Grapejuice" is a sexy standout.

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"Grapejuice" is the third track on "Harry's House."Lillie Eiger

Ahlgrim: As soon as Styles' whispered countdown hit my eardrums, I knew it would be one of my favorites on the album. The industrial beat and filtered vocals recall early Paul McCartney compositions, but using the phrase "grapejuice blues" to communicate wine-drunk yearning is pure Styles.

Just drop the needle on this song, pop open a bottle of 1982 Pinot Noir, and you'll be feeling sad and sexy in no time.

Larocca: On "Grapejuice," Styles gets drunk on red wine to ease the pain of a breakup: "There's never been someone who's so perfect for me / But I got over it and I said, / "Give me something old and red."

With some vintage editing effects, Styles' voice sounds far away and nostalgic in the verses but comes through crystal clear on the chorus — seemingly mimicking the contrast between clouded judgment and clear-headedness; a drunk state and a sober one.

"As It Was" made for a brilliant lead single.

harry styles as it was music video
"As It Was" was released as a single on March 31, 2022.Harry Styles/YouTube

Ahlgrim: Although there are several songs on this tracklist I prefer, "As It Was" has been proven as the ideal introduction to Styles' new era.

Styles told Lowe that he originally wrote the song at a much slower tempo, comparing the tone to a "death march." He said the song is about "metamorphosis," a shift in "perspective," and the duality of change: "You get to decide whether that is devastating or brilliant, and accept the fact that it's probably both."

"That's always been the fun part about music," Styles said. "It's so interesting — a bunch of people dancing to your most devastating experience."

"Harry's House" brilliantly toes that very line, exploring the intersections between growth and regret; lust and loneliness; "kiss her and don't tells."

Styles gleefully catalogs his own contradictions and dares us to sing along, even if it's not what we were expecting to hear. "You know it's not the same as it was" applies to the audience as much as the narrator.

Larocca: Based on the constant state of replay I had "As It Was" in after it was released as the lead single, there's a very real chance it'll be my top song on Spotify Wrapped later this year. This should suggest that it's easy listening — and it is.

But it's also the second track on a playlist I made, consisting solely of songs about the contemplation of aging, the passage of time, and the crushing realization that you need to accept changes that have already been put into motion. Think Taylor Swift's "It's Time to Go," Lorde's "Stoned at the Nail Salon," or Bo Burnham's "That Funny Feeling."

That's where "As It Was" has found its home in my head, among depressing songs about how life isn't what it used to be. It's a multifaceted, pensive, upbeat track that makes me want to dance while I cry. That's the best kind of song in my book.

"Daylight" is bouncy and lyrically beautiful.

harry styles as it was music video
"Daylight" is the fifth track on "Harry's House."Harry Styles/YouTube

Ahlgrim: On top of its rubbery synths and crunchy guitar breaks, "Daylight" has some of the best lyrics on the album. "Reading your horoscope / You were just doing cocaine in my kitchen" is particularly juicy, though I'm partial to the image of Styles as a fluffy-chested bluebird. It just makes sense.

Larocca: Styles told Howard Stern this week that "Daylight" was born out of a stream of consciousness, and a rumination about a relationship with a woman who brushed him off, leaving him frustrated.

With this understanding of the song, it's especially intriguing that it doesn't come off as angry or annoyed. Instead, Styles sounds more tender than ever as he croons, "If I was a bluebird / I would fly to you / You'd be the spoon / Dip you in honey so I could be sticking to you."

Styles confesses to his regrets and shortcomings on "Little Freak."

harry styles as it was music video
"Little Freak" is the sixth track on "Harry's House."Harry Styles/YouTube

Ahlgrim: "Little Freak" feels like a direct descendant of the confessional, Laurel Canyon-inspired tracks on "Fine Line," including "Cherry" and "To Be So Lonely."

Just as he owned up to his jealous hallucinations ("Does he take you walking 'round his parents' gallery?"), to being an "arrogant son of a bitch who can't admit when he's sorry," Styles embraces his conceit and contempt on this stripped-back serenade: "I spilled beer on your friend, I'm not sorry, " he sings, adding later, "I disrespected you, jumped in feet first and I landed too hard."

These admissions should be unflattering, but they're humanized by pain. Though Styles can hardly bear to make it explicit, "Little Freak" is thick with unsaid guilt and quiet longing: "Karma rules," he laments. "You never saw my birthmark."

Larocca: I might get some flack on the internet for saying this, but I could not for the life of me form an opinion on "Little Freak." Every time I tried to figure out how I felt about it, I came up short.

To be fair, there's nothing here that offends me. There's just not a lot that's grabbing me, either. The exception being this line: "Red wine and a ginger ale / But you would make fun of me for sure."

"Matilda" was named after the Roald Dahl character, a supernaturally gifted child who is mistreated by her family.

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Mara Wilson stars in the 1996 adaptation of Roald Dahl's "Matilda."Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Ahlgrim: "Matilda" was inspired by a real person who disclosed a traumatic experience to Styles. He decided to write an ode to their resilience, dressed up as an ode to Roald Dahl's beloved heroine.

"It's not necessarily my place to make it about me 'cause it's not my experience," Styles told Lowe. "Sometimes it's just about listening. I hope that's what it did — if nothing else, that it just says, 'I was listening to you.'"

The lyrics themselves aren't particularly profound, full of simple affirmations like "You can let it go," and "Make your tea and your toast." But that simplicity belies a deep well of empathy, from which the song draws its power. Listening to "Matilda" feels like taking hold of an outstretched hand.

Larocca: Right away, I gravitated toward those plucky guitar strings. "Matilda" is like a long hug; familial and warm.

If I were to name a fault here, I think it can drag on a bit, especially in the outro. It is the longest song on the album.

Styles said he wrote "Cinema" on the treadmill because he wanted something that "felt really fun."

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Harry Styles and Florence Pugh in the trailer for "Don't Worry Darling."Warner Bros/YouTube

Ahlgrim: Perhaps "Cinema" is a nod to Styles' budding film career or a certain Hollywood starlet with a knack for generation-defining comedy, but it truly doesn't matter when the song is a stone-cold banger.

Styles has always been a vibes-first, specifics-second songwriter — a formula that rarely benefits from speculation about his personal life. And it must be said that the slick, '70s vibes of "Cinema" are immaculate. It could've been inspired by Jar Jar Binks from "Star Wars" and I wouldn't care. I'd still be playing the song on a loop.

Larocca: I got full-body chills the second I heard Styles croon "I just think you're cool" directly into my ears.

Now, I understand the impulse to question who Styles is singing about upon hearing jarringly intimate lines like "If you're getting yourself wet for me / I guess you're all mine / When you're sleeping in this bed with me." But frankly, I don't care and you can read about those theories somewhere else.

I'm not even a fan of the literal translation that "I dig your cinema" must mean that the person Styles is singing about works in film. Is that likely? Yeah, maybe. But the listening experience is made infinitely better (and more accessible) when you interpret "cinema" as a metaphor for visual aesthetics.

Styles is entranced and engaged, watching his partner go about their daily routine as if its an Oscar-worthy performance. He's just happy to be the supporting character, the audience member, or the composer crafting this sensuous soundtrack. I just think that's cool.

"Daydreaming" is a funky slice of optimism that's impossible to resist.

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"Daydreaming" is the ninth track on "Harry's House."Harry Styles/YouTube

Ahlgrim: "Daydreaming" is this album's "Golden." If you don't find yourself at least tapping your foot, check your pulse.

The song's bright, nostalgic charm is intensified by the Brothers Johnson sample. Styles reshapes the duo's 1978 soul classic "Ain't We Funkin' Now" into a Glinda-esque bubble that seems to shield him from the rest of the world. There are times to fret and self-reflect, but this is not one of them.

Larocca: I'm really loving how much fun Styles is having on this album. "Daydreaming" is a three-minute shot of straight serotonin.

"Keep Driving" is stuffed with evocative lyrics.

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"Keep Driving" is the 10th track on "Harry's House."Harry Styles/YouTube

Ahlgrim: If you're not careful, the spacious sound of "Keep Driving" will lull you into a thoughtless head-bob. If you actually pay attention, you'll be treated to some of the most vivid imagery of Styles' career.

True, on paper, "Hash brown, egg yolk / I will always love you" looks like pop-song babble. But compare that to friction of "choke her with a sea view," or the restlessness of the chorus. Styles craves peace and domesticity, but doubt tends to creep in, "a small concern with how the engine sounds."

When he asks, "Should we just keep driving?" it doesn't sound hopeful. He sounds like a man trying to outrun his fate.

Larocca: I'm such a sucker for a driving motif, and Styles employs it perfectly on "Keep Driving." There's a constant forward momentum on the track, with each mundane activity and passing thought building off the last until you suddenly find yourself speeding 75 mph across the bridge.

But then Styles asks, "should we just keep driving?" as if there's any other option. There's no turning back once you hit "cocaine, side boob, choke her with a sea view."

"Satellite" is a massive-sounding song with perfect pacing.

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"Satellite" is the 11th track on "Harry's House."Harry Styles/YouTube

Ahlgrim: "Satellite" offers two distinct dopamine hits: when the drums arrive at the one-ish-minute mark and then, about 90 seconds later, when Styles kicks it up another notch, throwing himself into reckless space-pop. The song's momentum mirrors the story: "Spinning out, waiting for you to pull me in."

Larocca: "Satellite" gives the initial impression that it's going to be slow, sad, and spacious. But then he starts spinning up and out, crashing into little pockets of joy like they're bumpers in a game of pinball.

"Boyfriends" is a folksy rebuke of men who "take you for granted."

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Styles performed "Boyfriends" at Coachella.Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Harry Styles

Ahlgrim: People are bound to speculate about the lyrical narrative of "Boyfriends," which laments the damage inflicted by men of all flavors — distant, manipulative, self-destructive, clueless.

But whether "Boyfriends" is a practice in compassion or a personal anecdote, it's one of the most sonically stunning moments on the album. Styles' angelic harmonies, backed only by Ben Harper's acoustic guitar, recall the folksy allure of Simon & Garfunkel or Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide."

Larocca: "Boyfriends" debuted about a month before the album as Styles also performed this one live at Coachella. That should've given it a bit more time to resonate, to burrow inside my psyche. But honestly, I don't find myself reaching for this one at all.

"Love of My Life" is a tender ode to Styles' native England.

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"Love of My Life" is the 13th and final track on "Harry's House."Harry Styles/YouTube

Ahlgrim: Styles told Lowe that he "always wanted to write a song about home and loving England," but found it difficult without getting into silly specifics, like how he misses popping down to the "chippy" (slang for a fish-and-chips shop).

Instead, he disguised his homesickness as lovesickness, an ingenious solution that allows the song to resonate on several levels.

Styles grapples with the consequences of his lifestyle, how isolated it can feel when all your wildest dreams come true: "Take you with me every time I go away / In a hotel using someone else's name."

To the casual listener, it sounds like a standard breakup ballad, though it works equally well on both levels. I've found that longing to return to a physical place, wherever I feel safe and most "myself," can sting just as much as traditional heartbreak.

Larocca: The central refrain of this one kept getting stuck in my head. "Love of My Life" is sweet, vulnerable, and the perfect note to end "Harry's House" on — especially considering it's about aching for home.

Final Grade: 8.8/10

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"Harry's House" consists of 13 tracks.Erskine/Columbia Records/Sony

Ahlgrim: "Harry's House" is the most adventurous album Styles has ever made and the most compelling he's ever sounded.

On his self-titled solo debut and, to a slightly lesser extent, his sophomore release "Fine Line," Styles could sometimes get lost in his tangled array of influences and the frantic rush towards acclaim. It's obvious that Styles wants to prove himself as a serious musician, and he deserves that reputation.

But there's more than one way to become a legend, and with "Harry's House," Styles allows himself to imagine new avenues of intrigue and splendor instead of following the familiar paths of his idols.

Being less precious about the creative process has apparently allowed Styles' instincts to flow more freely, transcending the pressure of who's allowed to make "fun music." On "Harry's House," he finally sounds more influential than influenced. The bangers are bigger and bolder; the ballads practically bleed with compassion. (I was never a fan of the melodramatic "Falling," whereas songs like "Little Freak" and "Boyfriends" communicate pain with undeniable authenticity.)

I've seen some criticism of Styles as a songwriter, particularly when it comes to his whimsy and fierce protection of personal details. But I would argue that Styles' magic is the open invitation to interpret — even to project your own needs, whims, and fantasies onto the canvas he earnestly offers.

If it's diaristic, open-heart-surgery-style music you're looking for, there are other artists who are happy to oblige. But if it's fistfuls of charisma and fruity allusions you're looking for, there's no one doing it like Styles.

Larocca: Styles may be cursing the daylight on "Harry's House," but that's exactly what his third solo album sounds like. Listening to these 13 tracks feels like being bathed in sunlight — warm, free, and like you've just been dosed with some much-needed vitamin D. They'd be at home in a convertible on its way to the beach, at a picnic in Central Park, or playing through your speakers on a sunny Sunday afternoon in June.

On "Harry Styles" and "Fine Line," his influences came through loud and clear; it was obvious Styles was trying to emulate iconic rock stars or musicians he grew up with. That's not inherently a bad thing — music isn't made in a vacuum; trying to remain uninfluenced is an impossible task — but even after leaving One Direction, Styles remained associated with other acts.

Now, he's finally making music that is distinctly, and only, Harry Styles. He seems completely at ease here: he's having fun, he's invoking some of the most intimate imagery of his career, and he's playing around with new instruments, textures, and effects. He also knows when to double down on his own signatures — no one but Styles could get away with labeling being wine drunk as having the "grapejuice blues."

So if "Harry's House" is where Styles is heading when he asks if he should just keep driving, say yes.

Worth listening to:

"Music for a Sushi Restaurant"

"Late Night Talking"

"Grapejuice"

"As It Was"

"Daylight"

"Cinema"

"Daydreaming"

"Keep Driving"

"Satellite"

"Love of My Life"

Background music:

"Matilda"

Split decision:

"Little Freak"

"Boyfriends"

Press skip:

N/A

*Final album score based on songs per category (1 point for "Worth listening to," .5 for "Background music," .5 for "Split decision," 0 for "Press skip").

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