Breaking the Harry Styles Album Down into All the Songs That Influenced It


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Breaking the Harry Styles Album Down into All the Songs That Influenced It

Yer Dad's record collection and every band who sat on MTV’s brown couch in 2007 are all represented.
Emma Garland
London, GB

Guys, I have a very serious problem. I can't stop listening to Harry Styles' self-titled debut solo album which came out on Friday and, for the sake of appropriate grandeur, I'm going to henceforth refer to as The Harry Styles Album. Contrary to its two extremely misleading mobile phone advert-friendly lead singles, The Harry Styles Album has revealed itself to be the exact thing I want to spend my summer blasting at antisocial volumes while getting pissed on my sofa in a tank top that is glued to my back because I don't have air conditioning.


Unfortunately, though, that won't be happening. Soon—it could be mere minutes from now—I will be in the ground, cold and still, my face frozen in a permanent cocktail of elation and stress. "RIP Emma," my tombstone will say, "who was, on this day in 2017, bodied to death by the vocal prowess and breadth of 70s rock influence displayed by Harry Styles on his debut album that he named after himself."

Think of me during all future public appearances when he runs his hands through his hair like it's fucking nothing and says something painfully normal like, "Hi I'm Harry Styles and welcome to the Graham Norton show." Please read this—my final piece of content, my swan song, detailing what Harry Styles has obviously been listening to and miraculously made his own on The Harry Styles Album—at my funeral, and scatter my ashes on the side of that LA freeway he spewed on.


Based on the first 30 seconds—if I didn't know any better, or I hit my head on the corner of a kitchen cupboard and my entire knowledge of music became scrambled into a nondescript cloud—I would have assumed this was a young indie band performing an ill-advised, jaunty cover of Pink Floyd's "Breathe" in the BBC Live Lounge. That bass tone, that vocal reverb, Harry harmonising with himself—are you kidding me? I'm so sorry to both of my parents who will no doubt convulse when they read what I'm about to say, but: this is some early 70s David Gilmour-lite shit right here, from that viscid, heavy-eyed feeling down to the vague sense of ennui that lies in lyrics like: "Give me some morphine / Is there any more to do?"


Around the one-minute mark it rapidly develops into something resembling the Fleet Foxes album we all deserved and never got. But that's to be expected from the guy whose debut video as a solo artist featured him flying passionately through the forest in a cable knit jumper.


To collate everything we have previously identified in our not-at-all-overblown roundtable on Harry Styles' first solo single: this sounds like Chris Martin called Elton John for advice on how best to write a song that sounds like "Life On Mars" as watered down for an X Factor contestant to perform in the semi-finals. I still maintain this isn't a particularly exciting cut, but in context of the rest of the album its virtues as a rock ballad that will dismantle you psychologically on a comedown emerge a little more.


Ah yes, the force of "Stuck In The Middle With You" by Stealers Wheel is strong with this verse, with a smattering of Mick Jagger repeatedly shouting "I CAN'T GET NO" in the chorus. If a video is released and it isn't the precise centre of a Venn diagram for Robert Palmer's "Addicted To Love" and Rolling Stones doing "Satisfaction" live then I'm filing a lawsuit for crimes against erotica.


"AWWW I BLOODY LOVE THI- hang on…. What is… What???"

That's my mum, listening to this tune and trying to come to terms with the fact that it is not, actually, "Melissa" by The Allman Brothers Band.


The story behind Harry Styles crooning about a woman with "lips red, "eyes blue," and a "white shirt" (I WONDER WHOM) may not be as deep as Gregg Allman writing THREE HUNDRED songs while struggling with substance abuse until he landed on one he deemed good enough, titling it after a name that came to him in a shop late at night while he was purchasing milk (an image that makes me feel depressed for so, so many reasons), but still. It's an interesting touchstone for distance and longing, and in case you weren't already submerged in nostalgia, picturing yourself driving alone down an interstate at sunset with one arm on the wheel and the other resting on an open window and a battered suitcase full of belongings in the back, he's also thrown in a peak Lynyrd Skynyrd slide guitar for your woes.

Bonus reference: Real heads may also notice the resemblance in the lyric "We're just two ghosts swimming in a glass half empty" to Pink Floyd's iconic "We're just two lost souls swimming in a fishbowl" line in "Wish You Were Here", which probably isn't a direct nod but I'm going to take it as one anyway based on what we heard four songs ago.


tHiS sOuNDS LiKE blACKbiRd by tHE BeAtLES


The finesse with which this angelic choir and gentle piano opening—that suggests we're about to go into a full on Coldplay-style stadium anthem, but then introduces a fucked up vocal sample that could easily be interrupted by a trap snare roll and Harry rapping some nonsense about molly and katana swords—actually goes into "Get It On" by T-Rex, is unparalleled. This is Marc Bolan as hell. Harry already has a resplendent collection of scarfs; give the man a tube of lip gloss and let nature take its course.



This is every Queens of the Stone Age song. It also sounds a bit like "Are You Gonna Be My Girl" by Jet or "Icky Thump" by The White Stripes or pretty much any song by any band Zane Lowe interviewed on Gonzo in 2007 to a chorus of terrible hats and black Chelsea boots. Is the format vastly improved by the fact that it is former boyband member and audacious cheekbones-haver Harry Styles screaming about a woman who loves the sesh and claims to be up the duff with his kid, complete with a line about coke signed off with a dramatic sniff? Yes. Of course it is.


This has been already compared to Badfinger's "Baby Blue" but the joke's on Badfinger because I haven't watched Breaking Bad (which features the song in the series finale) and I had no idea who this band were until I saw all the news stories claiming people on Twitter were pissed about it. But yes, they do indeed sound similar. "Ever Since New York" also has heavy U2 vibes circa The Joshua Tree, and that's as specific as I'm going to get here because my relationship with The Joshua Tree begins and ends with Bono not playing his guitar in a leather waistcoat. Mostly, in my opinion, it sounds like a nod to any and all of Stevie Nicks' songs on Rumours.


Aside from opening with the single most #relatable mini-skit I have ever heard in my life (a YouTube person called FrankJavCee saying "Shall we just search Romantic Comedies on Netflix and see what we find?"), this is literally "Bennie and the Jets" and if you think putting an inexplicable honking duck noise all over it will distract from that then you are absolutely right.



There are probably loads of artists on The OC soundtrack that I could compare this to but all of that is made irrelevant by Harry Styles singing about wanking.

So there you have it, all of Harry Styles' influences AKA the best of the dusty vinyl collection your parents would point to after regrettably letting you buy a Limp Bizkit album and then spending the next three years telling you to "turn that shit off". Some would argue that all this retrospection and reappropriation of the past is derivative, that it's trying so desperately hard to be timeless that it becomes meaningless by virtue of being so performative. VICE writer Joel Golby took particular umbrage in regards to this, telling me, simply: "No. I've had enough of this shit. You can't just rip off 'Bennie and the Jets' and be called good. Elton John should sue Harry Styles so hard he dies. I want him to be destitute for this. I want Elton to sue him for millions and millions and spent it all on flowers and gak."

Personally, I think it's all par for the course. Did Bob Dylan forge an entire career off the back of mimicking Woody Guthrie or did he not? What are Oasis, former biggest band in the world, if not a value version of The Stone Roses guilty of prolific thievery from T-Rex to Stevie Wonder? The Jaws theme is actually Dvorak's Symphony No. 9. Everything has been done. Have a day off. Crack open a cold one with the boys and listen to The Harry Styles Album where he Sings About Wanking.

Follow Emma on Twitter . You can follow Joel too if you wish but brace yourself for wildly incorrect opinions about Harry Styles.