A Brief Harry Styles Primer For Young Olds
AKA Whaaaat is the Deal With Dimples McGee?: by Dame Sophie, Joyous One Direction Trash.
Trust me, you’re going to need this after April 7, when his single “Sign Of The Times” has been released. He is going to be EVERYWHERE (on SNL, countless chat shows, and doing promotional interviews for the forthcoming & guaranteed harrowing Christopher Nolan WWII drama, Dunkirk, on the cover of Rolling Stone and what have you) and there will be no escape.
So, here we are. For what does this newsletter exist, but to contexualize major cultural moments for even the most idly curious, making sport for our neighbors, and laughing at them in our turn? If I can plummet down this rabbit hole, so can you (and judging by the number of people privately asking me to help them do exactly that, I suspect you’ll enjoy it). Let’s gooooooo!
Hi. This is Harry Styles.
Harry is a pop star, having first come to public prominence through his work in the British-Irish boy band One Direction. From 2010–2015, they recorded five albums, headlined four global tours, sold a million fafillion dollars’ worth of music & merchandise, and inspired fanfiction with word counts reaching into nigh-uncountable totals. The band went on hiatus at the end of 2015 and now they’re all releasing solo music.
Harry is on the verge of releasing a 70s Brit-rock-inspired solo album, with his debut single slated for release next Friday. He released the cover art for that single, “Sign Of The Times”, last Friday morning. The fandom went bananas, myself included, with some paragraphic yet breezy thoughts. Earlier today, The Sun ran an article featuring footage of him shooting a video, dangling a couple hundred feet above the rocky Scottish coast in a safety harness and clad in at least $5000 worth of clothing. That is the type of dramatic, ambitious, yet gently wafting sunflower man we are dealing with.
How did we get here, and why does it matter? Well, here’s one way & one reason. I liked 1D & their singles just fine, in that singing along on the radio but not seeking them out sort of way. Then one day, shortly after the Inauguration of President Cheeto, I heard their song “The Story of My Life” on the radio, and this song, which had previously been in the This Is An Acceptable Ballad column in the great musical spreadsheet of my mind, was suddenly pasted into the OMG THIS SONG IS SO BEAUTIFUL AND PERFECT MEN SINGING ABOUT DEEP EMOTIONAL ATTACHMENT AND CAREGIVING IS THE GREATEST THING OF ALL TIME column. In Trump’s America, garden variety healthy masculinity can sound like resistance (and honestly, we should all be so lucky as to have the taste & cultural criticism acumen of really smart teen girls). Your path may vary!
So. Herewith, a brief, link-drenched summary of the types of thoughts you might have while learning about this tuneful, funny, adorable Northern Scamp (by all means, stop me if you’ve heard this one before):
- Oh, snap, Rob Sheffield, my (second) favorite pop critic of all time, loves Harry. Like, super-loves him & 1D as a whole. HUH.
- Harry’s definitely going to do a good job with his role in Dunkirk, and I know because he was so funny as Marcel, the [Ed Grimley-ish] Marketing Guy in the video for “The Best Song Ever” (you’re not hearing things, it definitely does quote “Baba O’Riley” at the top).
- Ok, so “Baba O’Riley” is woven into the top of “Best Song Ever”. Let’s play Spot The Musical Reference, shall we? “My Best Friend’s Girl”, by way of “Stacy’s Mom”, is a grandpa of “What Makes You Beautiful”. Fleetwood Mac’s “Say You Love Me” is a clear antecedent of “Wolves”, while you can hear their “Sara” and “The Best of My Love” by the Eagles in “Night Changes”. My favorites of all are lining up “Getting Better” and “The Village Green Preservation Society” with “Olivia”, and “The Coast” by Paul Simon with “Walking In The Wind”. TWINSIES! Some listeners may wonder, “gosh, can’t he get his own style?” To them I say, listen, proficiently aping the styles of your musical heroes is a great education, for both the musician and the listener. Also, everyone has influences, lighten up!
- There really is something different about this one — this band as a whole, and Harry, in particular. The combination of his deep investment in babies (to be fair, all the boys are very into babies, and Louis & Liam are both fathers now), his Dad Magazine-style penchant for terrible jokes, the unending rumors that he is or was in a romantic relationship with his bandmate Louis Tomlinson, his nonchalance over being the subject of most if not all of Taylor Swift’s magnum opus 1989 (and the pointed, if fairly gracious, sonic riposte of “Perfect”), his beautiful blouses (his whole look, carefully catalogued here), that time he comforted a fan having a panic attack, his mutual lovefest with Ian McKellen- it all adds up to something combining globally dominant stardom with a queer-friendly, not remotely macho take on masculinity and a certain…poutine-loving gooberishness that is close to irresistible.
- Finally, please enjoy this list of hilarious tags people use to describe him on Tumblr. They really love that leggy Twix bar.
I’m not going to get more involved in explicating the dramatic & skillful album rollout tactics of the past week, but know that they show he’s been paying close attention to Beyonce’s BOOM, HERE IT IS PR methodology. He’s not at her level, but he’d clearly like to be, and the enthusiastic response of the fandom indicates that he may get there someday.
Come yell with me on Twitter about young Harold & his purple crayon by which I mean new music, novel take on 21st century manhood, and whether or not he uses a bullet journal to stay organized in his quest for world cultural domination (he definitely does, I have decided). You know you wanna.