In May, just as the sun was coming out, a certain someone dropped their first solo album and the internet went nuts. But so far we've had very little insight into how the man himself feels. Which is probably why I believe that Harry Styles' Carpool Karaoke performance on The Late Late Show tell us a little something about his solo career.
The short opened on a moment of insight: host James Corden noted how things had changed and asked the former One Directioner how he felt about sitting alone in the front rather than being wedged between his bandmates in the back, as he was last time he appeared on the segment. Styles responded, “I feel like I have more control over the buttons” — a statement which I'm sure you'll agree works on all the levels.
Given how radically different his rockier debut album is from his previous musical offerings, it felt like a comment about the joys of having more creative control in his life and getting to showcase influences like The Beatles, Fleetwood Mac, and the Rolling Stones on his new record. But he was quick to stress that, despite this new stage in his career, he's every bit as capable of the emotional sensitivity that fans love the "Sweet Creature" singer for.
We saw this when, after their rendition of "Sign of the Times," the Redditch native confessed "It makes me cry performing it sometimes. I find it quite emotional." And if you were in any doubt that this young man is still, let's be real, uniquely sensitive for an excessively good-looking dude in his early 20s, he then went right ahead and cited The Notebook as his favorite film.
I know, I know, Corden actually asks for a favorite rom-com, but, since he states “I feel like it should be Fight Club, but it’s just not” (and that surely nobody could class the dark Brad Pitt classic as a rom-com), I'm calling it: he loves Ryan Gosling as much as you do.
Much of Harry Styles (the album, not the man) showcased songs that you could interpret either way. Women featured heavily and there were some sexy parts — but whether or not they were romantic was left up to the listener. The emphasis on the stuff that happens between the sheets over what happens in the heart took me somewhat by surprise, given the claim that the album was intended as a "song cycle about... relationships."
But after watching the most fashionable man in music act out scenes from major rom-coms with the greatest expertise ("No, that's a different scene"), it's given me a whole new perspective on his solo songs. It's hard to believe a man who's so deeply invested in the romance genre would pen songs that are purely about bodily desire and zero about emotions.
Even when they're sexually charged, that doesn't take away from the romance. In songs like "Kiwi," he paints a picture of a girl's physical attractions, a "pretty face on a pretty neck." But now listening to lines like "She's driving me crazy," I'm more tempted to conclude this is just as much about a feeling of love as of lust. Similarly, while "From The Dining Table" opens on our protagonist enjoying a moment of, ahem, self-love, this doesn't mean that his missing the woman he addressing is just about missing their sex.
So re-watch the above and then give the record another shot. You might find you've discovered a new perspective on it.