Label: Columbia Records
Released: May 12

Any accomplished artist will tell you that success can be a double-edged sword. While the benefits are obvious and desirable, the other side of success leads to intense scrutiny and the fear of having peaked. Now just imagine being Harry Styles, whose career was birthed under the banner of One Direction—the biggest male pop group to hit the planet since *NSYNC disbanded in the early aughts. A stardom unexperienced by even some of our most celebrated icons.

The 1D former frontman stepped out confidently from the radiant glow of boyband stardom and into the unsure spotlight of a solo career with his self-titled debut album, Harry Styles.

Helmed by the boundless super-producer Jeff Bhasker, Harry hopscotches from folk to pop to more flamboyant sounds like arena rock, while avoiding the pitfall of creating what could have been poorly executed cover records. Most of the album centers around relationships with songs like "Woman," "Meet Me In The Hallway," and "Ever Since New York." We learn the most about Styles on the cloud-parting ballad "Sign of The Times."

He shows off his range, cleanses his musical palette and establishes a strong second impression. And he did all of this without diminishing his past success or leveraging new (and gimmicky) genre plays to bolster his identity (the go-to maneuver for many pop darlings looking to strike out on their own). With Harry Styles, the singer has veered off the One Direction road map and established his own artistic compass as a budding rock star.—Brandon ‘Jinx’ Jenkins