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Singer, songwriter, record breaker, philanthropist, feminist, advocate for various important causes, and all round nice guy. If you haven't been paying attention to Harry Styles, then let me tell you why you really should be, because he could well change the world one outrageous Gucci suit at a time.
Harry Styles is a 24-year-old man who has grown up in the music industry from the age of 16. I highly doubt anyone would blame him if he had gone completely off the rails by now, as a lot of young people in the industry do. However, Harry has not just become average, he has gone to extra lengths to become extraordinary.
I'll start by discussing Harry's solo music because I am lead to believe that there is a stigma that surrounds him; that people assume that just because he's come from the ultimate cheesy pop band, his solo stuff is the same. It isn't. Not even close. Harry's debut solo album Harry Styles is a winning combination of a classic 70s rock vibe mixed with a bit of country and a bit of simple acoustic guitar. Imagine if Mick Jagger and Stevie Nicks had a love child that created music which was the perfect mix of their own; that is Harry Styles. Perhaps it's a bit of a mishmash, but as his first solo project, he's clearly trying to step out of the cheesy pop loop that the general public trap him in, and it's working. He supposedly has a three album contract with Colombia, so I think the next two albums Harry will really figure out his specific sound and will become very successful with it. He has the talent, confidence, and songwriting ability to become the next 70s Brit rockstar but his sound just needs a bit of fine-tuning first, which is perfectly acceptable bearing in mind he has only had one album out. His music is good and will become even better as he finds his sound, and the album made many 'Best Albums of the Year' lists including Billboard's and Rolling Stone's. This album, however, DID top charts worldwide, going platinum in at least three countries; with "Sign Of The Times" having an exceptional amount of radio play (despite it being a pretty radio unfriendly song, being five minutes long and not the classic type of chart music) also and he broke many first week records thanks to this. He is absolutely worth a listen; even if you end up listening and don't like him that much, he is worth stepping away from any prerequisites you may have regarding One Direction and giving his music a chance. The likely chance is that you'll actually enjoy what you hear. I am constantly seeing comments on social media of people being pleasantly surprised by him.
Also, this doesn't even begin to cover the fact that he has acted beside some incredible actors in an award-winning Christopher Nolan directed film Dunkirk, which is an incredible achievement for a man who has next to no acting experience (unless you count one episode of iCarly in 2012, but I can't imagine anyone does).
Stepping away from his music now, what I really want to discuss is Harry's attitude. A major issue in the music industry right now is successful artists being problematic, and for want of a better word, general assholes. But in a society where 'canceling' culture is very prominent the minute anyone in the public eye does anything wrong, Harry is seemingly remaining untouched simply because he's a seemingly all-around decent guy.
I have been to two solo Harry Styles concerts. Once in the Hammersmith Apollo, a venue of 3000, and once at the London O2 arena, a venue of 20,000, but his stage presence made both venues feel like the most intimate of gigs, and that is because this is what Harry tries to achieve. He is constantly interacting with fans in the audience. Is this something to do with the fact that that he has only released 10 songs and needs to fill time? Perhaps. However, I truly believe that Harry genuinely cares about the people at his concerts. He is fully aware some fans will travel across the globe to follow him around on tour, or fully aware of the fact that some people are scraping together pennies to afford to go to a single show. He respects his fans by treating them as people. He talks to them, he banters with them, he helps them come out to their parents, he does gender reveals, he invites them on stage to dance with him. He doesn't have to do it; fans would be happy enough with the show he already does. He performed all the songs from his debut album, as well as covers, old One Direction songs, and unreleased music. All that is more than enough, but he goes out of his way to interact and to make sure everyone feels comfortable and is having a good time. You can feel the amount of love in the room: the love the crowd has for Harry, the love that Harry has for performing, but most poignantly, you can feel the love that Harry has for every single person that bought a ticket to be in that room with him. Many artists in similar situations to him don't interact in this way, and that's not to say they're less appreciative of the people that got them where they are, but it just makes Harry seem more appreciative than the average. Perhaps the case is just that the bar is low, but Harry really does go above and beyond to put on a show for everyone to enjoy.
However, literal interactions are not the only thing he does to make his fans feel warm and safe. I have never seen an artist so prominently support the idea of being kind, generous, and love amongst each other. His slogan is 'Treat People With Kindness' and it features on his tour merchandise (including limited edition pride merchandise where all proceeds went to an LGBTQ+ charity). He puts it on everything from posters to ping-pong tables and even has it sewn into his own clothing. But he not only promotes kindness and inclusivity, he acts upon it. He brings pride flags on stage every night, he has end gun violence stickers on his guitar and actively supported March For Our Lives, and importantly, when his Black fans were disappointed with his lack of support for Black Lives Matter, he changed his ways by putting BLM stickers on his guitar, carrying BLM flags, and purposefully showing them on the big screen at his shows. On top of all this, it's also been recently released that he's raised 1.2 million dollars for charity via his scheme where each show supports a different charity, ranging from the One Love Manchester fund at his Manchester show, to various children's hospitals, food banks, and charities that help refugees. He cares. I'm not about to claim that he's perfect, but he takes on criticism and he learns, and he gives a lot to people who actually need it, which is as much as we can ask for.
He not only cares for his fans, he defends them. You find many artists cursing the fact that their fanbase is entirely young women which, from the perspective of a young woman, really hurts sometimes. A young woman could love an artist for years, could advocate for them profusely (as I am doing) but an artist is not taken seriously until 45-year-old men say 'they're alright, I guess'. However, Harry acknowledges this problem and completely disagrees with the idea that somehow having a fanbase of younger women is a bad thing. Specifically, in an interview with Rolling Stone which could possibly be my favourite answer that any artist I follow has ever given in response to a question about having female fans.
“Who’s to say that young girls who like pop music—short for popular, right?—have worse musical taste than a 30-year-old hipster guy? That’s not up to you to say. Music is something that’s always changing. There’s no goal posts. Young girls like the Beatles. You gonna tell me they’re not serious? How can you say young girls don’t get it? They’re our future. Our future doctors, lawyers, mothers, presidents, they kind of keep the world going. Teenage-girl fans—they don’t lie. If they like you, they’re there. They don’t act ‘too cool.’ They like you, and they tell you. Which is sick.“ (Harry Styles, Rolling Stone Magazine.)
Harry is aware of the power young women have in music. He doesn't ignore or put young women aside. He appreciates them, he admires them and most importantly, he respects them, something that often doesn't happen. Believe me, I would know.
It's been said that he's the type of man to shake the hand of everyone in the studio when doing an interview, or every member of the crew at a venue he's performing at. Many people have talked about how incredible a guy Harry is, from friends to people who have only met him once.
Harry is incredibly musically talented, humble, supportive and caring. He puts passion into everything he does and is setting the bar very high for people in the industry currently, and up and coming artists too.
I'm not saying you have to like him, I'm just saying the general public need to give him more of a fair chance. The fans take him seriously, the critics take him seriously, Christopher Nolan takes him seriously, Fleetwood Mac take him seriously, Mick Jagger takes him seriously; why don't you?
Written by Ruby Crowhurst
(first posted on www.rubyonmusic.blogspot.co.uk)