Image Courtesy of Rolling Stone
By Katie Van Lew
On December 13, 2019, Harry Styles released his second studio album, Fine Line. Nearly a year later, Styles is reaping the rewards of his record-breaking album, maintaining his elusive ambience through iconic music videos, photoshoots, and his signature “Treat People With Kindness” mantra.
In 2017, Styles sold out his first world tour for his debut album, Harry Styles, in a matter of seconds. This year, Styles intended to go on his second sold-out world tour, only for it to be postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fine Line, an album that demonstrates Styles’ experience of love and heartbreak.
In an interview with Rolling Stones, Styles describes his intentions for the album saying, “It’s all about having sex and feeling sad.”
Through extraordinary lyricism and captivating melodies, Fine Line captures Styles in unmatched authenticity as demonstrated by his proclivity to be unphased by societal conventions. His essence expands through his undeniable right to be his own person as he experiments with pop-rock and psychedelic sounds, cultivating an album that brandishes a new, redefined Harry Styles.
Since its release, Styles has been sitting pretty on top of a long list of accolades. At the 2020 Brit Awards, Fine Line was nominated for Album of the Year. Of his many accomplishments, the most impressive of his feats is the inclusion of Fine Line on the Rolling Stone The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, being the youngest artist to accomplish this. The album features his 5 singles, “Lights Up,” “Adore You,” “Falling,” “Watermelon Sugar,” and “Golden,” which have all dominated the Billboard Hot 100.
As of this week, these singles, accompanied by music videos, have collectively garnered over 453 million views on YouTube since the release of his first music video for “Lights Up.”
Styles music is multifaceted, in that his artistry is further pronounced in his music videos. The music videos are integral to his identity because viewers are able to see Styles in his own, unique virtuosity.
His “Lights Up” music video, the first of many successful music videos for Fine Line is an enchanting configuration of Styles coming into his own. It’s a liberating testimony to be truly, unapologetically you. The dark ambience of the video is balanced out by red and emerald lights fluorescing over the singer, indicating Styles “step(ping) into the light” that is his identity.
The most viewed of his music videos, “Adore You,” which has cultivated over 145 million views since January, adds a peculiar yet humorous twist to Styles song about an unreciprocated love, as the storyline of the music video is Styles devoting his energy and love towards taking care of a fish. At the end, Styles releases the fish back into the ocean, perhaps alluding to letting go of an old love. Through this, Styles is able to showcase not only the depth of this song but compliments it with his witty and carefree disposition.
“Watermelon Sugar,” which was filmed prior to the pandemic, is “dedicated to touching,” which is a defining aspect of Styles’ sensuous swagger. Evoking a vivacity and lust for life, Styles embraces the times in which friends could congregate together on beautiful beaches and indulging in simple pleasures.
The music video for “Falling” enhances the melancholic, and heart-wrenching symphony of heartbreak. In solitude, Styles belts out sorrowful lyrics accompanied by piano as the room swiftly fills with water. The piano produces a gut-wrenching feeling assimilated to slipping through the cracks of reality, with the music video producing the effect of drowning in grief.
Styles’ latest music video release, “Golden,” strays from his melancholic intuition that Styles performs in “Falling.” “Golden” is just that: golden. Illuminated by bright hues of yellow, Styles, in a loose, white button-down, radiates pure ecstasy as he runs through tunnels and explores the vibrant Italian coastline.
In terms of what “Golden,” means to him, explains that it is “like the perfect PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) song. It’s like driving down the coast, that is what the song is for. It feels so Malibu to me.”
Amidst his rockstar lifestyle, Styles lives by his mantra of treating people with kindness. He is an advocate for the LGBTQ+ community and Black Lives Matter movement. During pride month, Styles released limited-edition merchandise and donated the proceeds to the GLSEN organization (Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network). At his concerts, he often carries a pride flag so that all those feel included and people feel “less alone.”During the George Flloyd protests in June, Styles stood in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement as well as donating to help post bail for those arrested during the protest.
During a Rolling Stones cover story, Styles emphasizes the need for inclusivity.
“I want to make people feel comfortable being whatever they want to be,” Styles said. “Maybe at a show you can have a moment of knowing that you’re not alone. I’m aware that as a white male, I don’t go through the same things as a lot of the people that come to the shows. I can’t claim that I know what it’s like, because I don’t. So I’m not trying to say, ‘I understand what it’s like.’ I’m just trying to make people feel included and seen.”
Harry Styles has single-handedly reigned over the year 2020, with the major success of Fine Line, accompanied by equally successful and visually enticing music videos. In all his glory and fame, Styles still remains grounded, using his platform to communicate a message of universal kindness, and an acceptance of all people along with the unique characteristics that encompass them.
It is only fitting that Styles is the “Man of the Year.”
Fine Line is available on streaming platforms everywhere.