Harry Styles and Kurt Cobain could not be more opposite either in music or in temperament. At least Styles of One Direction fame never showed that Cobain side of himself, well, other than the white sunglasses he wore a few times.
Harry Styles, seemingly ever cheerful, gets pretty deep and soulful on more than a few cuts of his new album titled Harry Styles, but track 10, “From The Dining Table” is downright Cobain-esque. Anyone who has spent a lot of solitary nights listening to Kurt Cobain singing “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” might catch the similarities.
While Kirk Cobain’s guitar work and lyrics are much more complex, there is some small nuance in the soul of the song, deep within the rhythms of the guitar and the tone of the vocals that speak a little like Kirk Cobain.
As Harry Styles’ voice deepens to match Kirk Cobain’s most comfortable range, there are also a lot of similarities to be found between Kurt Cobain’s vocals and those of Harry Styles.
Harry Styles has appeared to be consistently cheerful for six years in the nearly constant public spotlight. “From The Dining Table” shows quite another kind of influence.
Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain “Unplugged” as an influence on Harry Styles’ music came as a total surprise, However slight or great Kurt Cobain’s influences were, it seems to be a factor in “From The Dining Table.”
“From The Dining Table” is very reminiscent of Kurt Cobain’s Unplugged, especially “Where Did You Sleep Last Night.” Of all the influences variously predicted of the new Harry Styles album, anything that sounded like Kurt Cobain was the last thing anyone would have expected.
Kurt Cobain was madly creative and had a brilliant career despite his severe depression and heroin addiction. Kurt Cobain was also stubbornly rebellious and beyond that, he was absolutely amazing as a musician. Kurt Cobain violently and tragically took his own life at the age of 27 in 1994.
Compare Harry Styles “From the Dining Table” to Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain singing and guitar work in “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?”
Harry Styles’ debut album was vastly experimental, extremely exploratory, and a pretty gutsy attempt to reinvent some sort of new rock music for this century. In many ways, it’s really classic rock, but with notable differences, especially when the album is taken as a whole. Variety described Harry Styles’ new style.
“It’s rock and it’s roll, but it’s also soft and sensitive. It’s a record that could force the position of mainstream radio by ushering in a reprise of proper music.”
Perhaps Harry Styles was just trying on Kurt Cobain’s style. After all, Harry Styles tried quite a few different approaches in his debut solo album. For whatever reason, the similarities to Kurt Cobain are there in Harry Styles’ “From The Dining Table,” whether the influence was conscious or subconscious, the song “From The Dining Table” is an enjoyable, if unexpected, departure for Harry Styles.
Harry Styles seems to be redefining himself and perhaps music itself with his highly unusual, perhaps revolutionary album. Simplicity seems to be at least one part of the Harry Styles sound. It seems to be a simplified take on classic rock, but Kurt Cobain was classified as 90s Seattle grunge-metal, which is hardly ever simple.
Kurt Cobain’s Unplugged by contrast with the rest of Nirvana’s music was timeless in a lot of ways, with the acoustic guitars. “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” featured lyrics that indicated no specific century, but inferred a distant past.
Kurt Cobain was recently quoted from a 1992 interview in Rolling Stone on the subject of songwriting. Perhaps Kurt Cobain’s explanation could help in trying to explain Harry Styles lyrics.
“Most of the music is really personal as far as the emotion and the experiences that I’ve had in my life, but most of the themes in the songs aren’t that personal. They’re more just stories from TV or books or movies or friends. But definitely, the emotion and feeling is from me.”
Harry Styles inferred the same process when explaining his thoughts when writing “Sign Of The Times,” to Rolling Stone. The process seems to echo Kurt Cobain’s method of expressing personal feelings through a story that didn’t actually happen to the artist who writes the song.
“The song is written from a point of view as if a mother was giving birth to a child and there’s a complication. The mother is told, ‘The child is fine, but you’re not going to make it.’ The mother has five minutes to tell the child, ‘Go forth and conquer.'”
Harry Styles, needless to say, never experienced this occurrence first hand. Still, this song obviously resonates deeply with Harry Styles.
Kurt Cobain’s music was iconic and complex. Kurt Cobain’s lyrics were deep, but Harry Styles is searching for something different. Harry Styles music is quite experimental at this point, with a lot of different sounding songs on the same album.
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Harry Styles’ “From The Kitchen Table,” has a similar sound to Kurt Cobain’s Unplugged, but Harry Styles’ sound is simpler than rock and cleaner than grunge.
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