Harry Styles released his third studio album, Harry’s House, last night, inviting fans and critics alike into a fairly breezy, occasionally somber world of dreamy synths and lovelorn pop melodies. Although we’ll have our own critical evaluation of the album up next week, we thought it was worth looking around the cultural landscape today to see how various outlets and fans were processing their tour inside the titular mental residence.
Much of the critical focus on the album, for instance, has landed on “Matilda,” the central track of Harry’s House, arriving as it does 7 tracks into its 13-track run. A cloudy break from the sunny nature of the album’s opening tracks, the song expresses Styles’ fascination with its titular subject, a woman attempting to move past a childhood with a family who “never showed you love.” Analyzing the song for Rolling Stone, Rob Sheffield called “Matilda” a “heartbreak masterpiece,” as well as “one of the most emotionally powerful songs he’s ever done.” Fans online have shared the sentiment—while also noting that the transition into the smooth A.F. “Cinema” (and its repeated declaration that “you pop when we get intimate”) immediately afterward is a hell of a vibe shift.
Overall, critics have been kind, if not overly effusive, about Styles’ latest efforts, with a throughline across multiple reviews being that the former One Direction-er is dipping his toe into some (extremely safe) musical experimentation here, while being very careful not to alienate fans of his pop music brand. NME praised the album as both “comfortable” and “confident,” words that pop up again and again in reviews; DIY, meanwhile, praised the album’s musicianship, while also noting that, for all its sonic warmth and inviting imagery, Styles still keeps the audience at an emotional remove more often than not.
Despite the occasional caveat, though, the verdict is pretty strong: Critics are consistently calling Harry’s House Styles’ best album yet, surpassing 2019’s Grammy-winner Fine Line. That album ultimately went triple platinum; it would probably be foolish to bet against Harry’s House eventually surpassing it in that regard.