Discography Deep Dive: Harry Styles

March 7, 2023

After dominating the Grammy 2023 nominations and taking home both the Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Album and Album of the Year, Harry Styles is arguably the most talked-about male solo artist on the planet at the moment. Starring in both ‘Don’t Worry Darling’ and ‘My Policeman’ additionally in 2022, Styles has certainly had his fair share of the spotlight in the last year, claiming that ‘music and acting really aid each other.’ Styles’ success skyrocketed after One Direction’s announced its hiatus in early 2016, with a ground-breaking comeback to the music industry in 2017, with ‘Sign of the Times’ receiving incredible critical acclaim as a lead single. My personal favourite album is ‘Fine Line’, as not only do I find the structure engaging but the overall pop-rock sound versatile, capturing a range of emotions from euphoria in ‘Adore You’ to the sorrowful despair of ‘Falling’ to the hopeful and poignant title track ‘Fine Line’.  This article is a collection of my favourite Harry Styles lyrics from his three published albums, explained and analysed. 

There’s a piece of you in how I dress, take it as a compliment’ (‘Cherry’, Fine Line, 2019)

Written about his break-up with French model Camille Rowe, Styles has been spotted wearing some of her clothes such as a striped jumper and her ruby ring. However, the lyric itself can be interpreted further. Although the couple is no longer together, the speaker attempts to capture the memory of the lover through fashion, by either wearing similar or inspired clothes. This can be seen as a sign of grief or comfort, that wherever the speaker may go, their ex-lover will always be a part of him too.

‘We’re just two ghosts swimming in a glass half empty,’ (‘Two Ghosts’, Harry Styles, 2017)

In a relationship that has lost its heartbeat, Styles likens him and his partner to ‘two ghosts’, implying that any past passion or excitement between them has died and in their place stand their current, apathetic selves- ‘ghosts’ of their previous characters. They no longer possess feelings for one another and thus their future together looks bleak, as Styles views it through a pessimistic ‘glass half empty’ lens. This links directly to a lyric by Pink Floyd- ‘We’re just two lost souls swimming in a fishbowl’ from Wish You Were Here; the relationship has turned endlessly cyclical and repetitive, with the ‘swimming’ associating this once exciting feeling with drowning suffocation.

The fridge light washes this room white, moon dances over your good side’ (‘Two Ghosts’, Harry Styles, 2017)

Styles transforms the domestic setting of the kitchen into a dancefloor, with the fridge offering a ‘white’ light in the darkness. The image of the moon, a symbol of purity, ‘dances’ over the subject’s face, or her ‘good side’, suggesting her beauty is highlighted by moonlight. This song is rumoured to have been about Styles’ ex-girlfriend of 2012 Taylor Swift, which links directly to her lyric ‘dancing in the kitchen in the refrigerator light’, although that song is likely to have been about Jake Gyllenhaal rather than Styles. In ‘Sunflower Vol 6’, Styles touches upon a similar setting- ‘kiss in the kitchen like it’s a dancefloor.’ Portraying a domestic room in such a glamorous way highlights the beauty in everyday objects and moments, a theme also captured in ‘Keep Driving.’

‘Maple syrup, coffee, pancakes for two, hash brown, egg-yolk, I will always love you’ (‘Keep Driving’, Harry’s House, 2022)

Styles creates a simple, quotidian morning scene and highlights the joy in spending everyday moments with a loved one. It is the simplicity of the listing of the breakfast foods that makes the ‘I will always love you’ so poignant. The speaker relishes the everyday moments with his lover- he does not need grand gestures to experience love at its fullest. Doing little and basic things together rather than alone is what makes being in love so special, hence the repetitive listing of the breakfast foods reflecting the mundane. Even the ‘pancakes for two’ instead of ‘for one’ is a small but noticeable detail in indicating the closeness that Styles feels in this relationship. 

‘If I was a bluebird, I would fly to you. You’ll be the spoon, dip you in honey, so I could be sticking to you.’ (‘Daylight’, Harry’s House, 2022)

This beautifully natural image captures the speaker’s relentless affection for the subject of the song. Styles personifies himself as a ‘bluebird’, a creature often associated with hope and love. Even as an animal, he would ‘fly’ his way to his lover. The image of the ‘honey’, a natural substance curated by bees, reflects Styles’ wish to remain close to the person at all times- to literally ‘be sticking’ to them.  The vivid colour imagery of the bluebird and the golden honey creates an idyllic summer daytime setting, hence the title ‘Daylight’.

‘You showed me a power that is strong enough to bring sun to the darkest days’ (‘Matilda’, Harry’s House, 2022)

The speaker admires the subject of the line for being able to remain resilient in times of hardship. The juxtaposition between the ‘sun’ and the ‘darkest days’ implies that the speaker can literally ‘make light’ of a negative situation by focusing on the positives, and this ability is something that the speaker praises. The song is based on a real person but masked by Roald Dahl’s beloved character Matilda, who was famously mistreated and outcasted by her avaricious and unfeeling family. Like the character, Matilda in this song remains positive and perseverant despite having every reason to be miserable.

‘This thing upon me, howls like a beast you flower, you feast’ (‘Woman’, Harry Styles, 2017)

Heavily inspired by poet Charles Bukowski’s ‘Old Man, Dead in a Room’- ‘this thing upon me, like a flower and feast, believe me is not death and is not glory.’ ‘Woman’ describes Styles’ jealousy over an ex-lover in a new relationship. His unbearable envy ‘howls like a beast’ inside him, emphasising an uncontrollable animalistic rage inside of him. The ex-lover is deemed a ‘flower’, highlighting her beauty, but also a ‘feast’, which transforms her into a character of sexual allure. 

To conclude, Harry Styles’ discography is versatile in genre and poignant in meaning, meshing together pop, rock and folk in his music. His lyrics range from the admission of deep vulnerability and insecurity to heightened emotions of infatuation and wonder. Beloved by his extraordinary global fanbase as a fashion icon for defying hyper-masculine clothing trends, Harry Styles has certainly conquered the music industry for years and is sure to remain the most talked-about male artist for months, even years, to come.

Naomi Sambhi