As Harry Styles embarks on a solo career with an eagerly anticipated self-titled debut out May 12, we’ll see a new side of One Direction’s most famous member. As is usually the case when a boy-band member goes solo, his new music is more personal and idiosyncratic than the pop anthems the group cranked out over five albums in five years. But where Zayn left One Direction altogether and took a sharp left turn toward R&B, Harry’s solo work is more of an organic continuation of the One Direction sound, with influences from classic rock, power pop, and folk music.
One Direction thrive on big choruses that bring everyone’s voice together in unison, while giving each member a turn at singing verses, but it’s undeniable that Styles is the most prominent voice in the mix. As far back as the band’s peppy debut hit “What Makes You Beautiful,” his deep, relaxed voice has always stood out among the other members’ more boyish vocals. As they ventured into bombastic arena rock on tracks like “Clouds” and “Diana,” his voice took on a gentle soaring quality.
Over the course of One Direction’s run, the members of the band gradually took on a more active role in songwriting, with Liam Payne and Louis Tomlinson taking the lead. But Harry Styles notched over a dozen songwriting credits in the group’s catalog, the best of which are included in the second half of this playlist. Styles occasionally put a personal stamp on their material—most famously with his thinly veiled lyrics aimed at Taylor Swift on “Perfect”—but he was also involved in some of the band’s most buoyant melodies, including the Tears For Fears homage “Stockholm Syndrome.” — Al Shipley