Harry Styles has gone back to the future. Sooner or later, this short, wiry singer with the tousled hair and giddy tenor had to leave behind his British boy band, One Direction, and venture into adulthood. But Styles didn’t make the move expected of nearly everyone in his position by adopting a hip-hop/dance-pop fusion. Instead, he found his future by returning to the early-’70s guitar rock of David Bowie, Rod Stewart and Jackson Browne, adopting the personas of both the rowdy bad boy and the sensitive songwriter.
Against all odds, this surprising maneuver has worked. Styles’s marvelous voice is flexible enough to handle both personas convincingly. For his solo debut album, “Harry Styles,” he assembled a band of players and producers in Los Angeles, wrote 10 songs with them and recorded those tunes in Jamaica and California. The lyrics are a spotty mix of great lines and cliches, but the words provide the narrative for the wonderful music. It’s the story of a 23-year-old man-child drinking and sleeping his way through the world’s great cities and already feeling empty and unfulfilled.
Over the Stones-like guitar riff of “Only Angel,” Styles captures the impatience of lust by yelping like a dog in heat — “Broke a finger knocking on your bedroom door.” But the album is not only about what happens when the boudoir door opens, but also about the morning after, when the regrets kick in on ballads such as “Sign of the Times,” sung with power-ballad anguish, and “Two Ghosts,” sung with chastened quiet.
— Geoffrey Himes
Show: Sunday at 8 p.m. at Constitution Hall. 202-628-4780. dar.org/constitution-hall/schedule. $57-$97.