Look, I am going to be up front and honest with you. My knowledge on Harry Styles was very little prior to the release of Fine Line in December 2019. What I knew about him mostly came from a single source. This source was a girl named Lexi that went to church with me. She was my friend. (I mean, I guess she still is my friend, but she’s married and is a new mother. We haven’t talked in a while. If by some crazy chance you see this, Lexi, please confirm if we’re still friends. Much appreciated.) She was, and still is, obsessed with Harry Styles. She used to just post pictures of him on her Instagram. I’m not talking about her stories, which she did as well. I’m saying that her account would sometimes turn into a Harry Styles fan account, and pictures of Harry Styles would just pop up in my feed. And the tidbits that I got from her, if he was ever brought up for some reason at church while we weren’t paying attention in Sunday School, was the extent of my Harry Styles knowledge. So, baseline knowledge: next to zero before December 2019. I had perused his 2017 album out of curiosity and because I like to stay on top of and semi-informed of all things music. I would not have considered myself in any way, shape, or form, a Harry Styles fan.
Nor am I even a One Direction fan. I’d be the first to admit if I was. I am way passed the days of pretending I don’t like something when I really do. Want me to show you the tiniest piece of proof on this? I fuckin’ love romantic comedies. Seriously, they’re great. I’ve seen most of them. The good ones at least. I watch one just about every weekend. Can’t get enough of them. We’re no longer in middle school. I don’t have to pretend that I’m too cool for Green Day’s American Idiot. (Long, unnecessary side note which should probably be a footnote: I don’t know why this was a trend for me. It was cool where I lived to say that you liked older Green Day at the time. Yes, at the too cool age of 13, I pretended that American Idiot didn’t have a string of songs that absolutely slapped because the album reached commercial success. And if the album reached commercial success, then that just wasn’t punk rock. So, it was the cool thing to say that I liked Green Day’s older stuff. You know, the older stuff like Dookie that came out when I was 2. Now that you’ve forgotten my original point, we can get back to it.) Nor am I part of Gen Z who apparently think it’s really cool to sit on TikTok and pretend you don’t know nor like the series of bangers that plays in the background. (Personally, I think most of these are just trying to get under Millennials’ skin.) I’ll admit, “What Makes You Beautiful” was a banger in its time. Teenage girls would swoon and tell you every minute detail of Harry, Zayn, Niall, and Louis’s lives. Oh yeah, and Liam. How could I forget Liam? Oh, right. That’s because him and Louis are easily the most forgettable.
For a lot of people, mostly millennial teenage girls at the time, were heartbroken when One Direction decided to break up and go in all directions. (Cheap jokes, I know. Get over it.) But I am of the belief that One Direction breaking up was for the betterment of music and perhaps all humankind. I have now lived through the rise and fall of the mega boy band craze twice now. (While on this topic, remember The Wanted? That song “Glad You Came”? Whatever happened to those guys?) And each time the inevitable fall of the boyband occurs, I believe we are better for it. If NSYNC had not broken up, we would have never gotten Justin Timberlake’s solo career (the only notable solo career to come out of the near-radioactive fallout). And if One Direction had not broken up, we would not have gotten their individual careers.
And guess what? Almost all of the music they have produced individually has been better than any song they ever did as a whole. A rare moment when the sum of its parts is actually greater than the whole. I wholeheartedly believe this.
But most importantly, we would not have gotten, what is not clear as ever, the apparent Justin Timberlake of the group, with Harry Styles’s solo career. The parallels are astounding. He sings, he acts, he’s an icon. He dominates fashion. I’m positive if he were to wear the infamous Canadian Tuxedo (denim suit for those south of the border) that Justin Timberlake wore on the red carpet alongside none other than Britney Spears, he’d somehow make it look cool. Everyone cares about everything Harry Styles does, from his biggest fans to his dumbest haters. The man so much as breathes and it seems that someone is there, or at least wanting to be there, to record it.
The most infamous moment came back in November when Harry posed for Vogue magazine while wearing a dress. The outrage from the poster boys of toxic masculinity was hilarious. First, why the hell do these men care about what something like Harry Styles does? The responses posting pictures of men wearing suits and looking classy as hell by men with captions like “this is what a man looks like” or “how did we go from this to this” by men who wear cargo shorts and t-shirts that barely cover their large bellies is hardly a convincing argument. Second, these people are obviously not familiar with any photoshoot that Vogue or any high-style fashion magazine has ever done. They’re loud and controversial on purpose. Lastly, good on you Harry for living rent free inside these dudes’ heads. They’re probably just jealous that they don’t have the complexion nor bone structure to pull off that dress as well as Harry did.
Plus, now that it is rumored that Harry and Olivia Wilde might be dating, I wonder just how many of guys will try to wear dresses this year to impress women. Because if Harry can pull Olivia Wilde, an objectively beautiful woman who is 10 years older than him, yeah, I’d wear a dress too if that’s what could make it happen. (This was a terribly put together sentence. Please forgive me.)
And you know what? It’s not like he’s just a pop star who doesn’t deserve the praise. His music is actually good. The first time I listened to Fine Line I was blown away. And the best part about it? The best songs on the album aren’t even the most commercially successful. I’d go so far as to say that the most commercially successful songs on the album (notably Watermelon Sugar) are in the bottom 50% of the album. Don’t believe me? Go back and listen to “Sunflower, Vol. 6” and then FaceTime me, look me in the eye and with a straight face tell me it is not a top 3 song on the album. Even more impressive is that over a year later and it is still on Spotify’s Top Ten Global Albums. It’s not quite on levels with Mr. Brightside, but I am sure it will get there.
The cherry on top of it all, the thing that tipped the scales and won me over completely, so much so that I stopped everything I was doing at work to begin writing this article, was the music video to “Treat People With Kindness”. I know I said it was the Olivia Wilde news at the beginning. I lied, okay? Jeez, lay off me.
If you haven’t watched the music video yet, stop reading, scroll to the bottom of the page, and watch it. When people say first impressions matter, boy, oh boy, does that actually ring true in this case. First off, I don’t know film specifics or how this music video was shot, but I actually had to widen the internet browser on my computer to fit the video. If that’s not impressive, then I don’t know what is. And then add Phoebe Waller-Bridge in there to perform choreographed dancing with Harry while wearing matching argyle sweaters? Goddamn. Who is the genius behind it all that dreamed this up? I owe them my life for getting 2021 off to a good start. (Just a reminder - this was written on Tuesday, January 5, 2021.)
In short, Harry Styles is brilliant to say the least, and it’s his world, and we’re just living in it.
P.S. I didn’t know how strongly pro-Harry Styles I was until sitting down to write this post.
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