Harry Styles ! Who knew? Who knew Harry would be the guy everyone would follow? In a world of Wagatha and Team Johnny and Team Amber, who knew Harry would be the one to bring everyone together, across the world and across generations.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there are Harry’s enemies. The world and the internet wouldn’t be the world and the internet if there were no haters towards Harry.
But in general, Harry may even be involved in the apparent wreckage of the guy who plays TV’s nicest, most harmless man, Ted Lasso, and who always comes out smiling and making himself smile.
I had carefully ignored Harry’s rise. There comes a time when you want to let the kids have their own thing, keep a healthy generation gap there.
If Harry doesn’t want them standing up for their own thing and liking what their parents don’t like, God knows what other form of rebellion they’ll seek. Harry seems like kind of a harmless thing. He’s vaguely pissed off and wears a robe once in a while, but he doesn’t feel like he’s going to lead anyone down the path to satanism.
Then my brother told me that Harry could be the David Bowie of his generation. We obviously won’t know the current-gen Bowie until it all happens, so you can safely share that.
Like there are times when I think Damon Albarn could turn out to be the Bowie of his generation. Albarn has straddled everything from pop hits to reflective Icelandic albums to Afrobeat with a kind of on-off genius.
For a while there was a suggestion that Kanye might be the Bowie of his generation, even a suggestion that Bowie’s swan song Black Star involved some sort of passing of the torch to Kanye. The jury is out on that one.
Either way, maybe Harry qualifies. He wears a dress well for sure, so he has that non-threatening, slightly non-binary thing that Bowie did well. Harry started out in boy bands, but so did Bowie.
I can’t speak to Harry’s full canon in terms of the Bowieness of his music. His current hit album Harry’s houseyou might dismiss as slight next to Bowie’s more serious moments, but you have to remember that what Bowie was doing was pop music at the time.
He may have elevated Glam Rock slightly, but his early success was basically in the same ballpark as Marc Bolan and Mott the Hoople. It was brought up largely because it was about Bowie. And that’s what Harry does too. Harry does pretty light pop, but he elevates it by his sheer harnesse.
Harry’s house is a funny thing. In a way, it makes you think that whereas we thought we had reached the end of the story before and had entered an era of postmodernism, Harry represents the new true era of postmodernism. If you put everything from the 1970s into a NutriBullet, the resulting smoothie is Harry and his house.
Sometimes Harry seems pretty indifferent about what he throws into the juicer. I’m barely old enough to remember The Manhattan Transfer and Showaddywaddy, but there’s a definite element of that kind of doo-wop singing in there.
As you move forward, you hear echoes of all sorts of random things. Is it Prefab Sprout? Is this the beginning of ‘Let ‘Em In’ by Wings (AKA ‘Someone’s knockin’ at the door…’).
Clearly, Harry managed to score a hit with lead single “As It Was,” making a direct comeback from A-ha’s “Take On Me,” but making it 10 times better. Then again, maybe Harry never even heard A-ha. Maybe Harry just heard The Weeknd’s latest album, which was, you might say, “heavily influenced” by A-ha.
Harry’s House even has an introspective 60s/early 70s California folky track. But then, is it inspired by Joni Mitchell or is it via Taylor Swift?
Obviously, older people can tend to get snobbish about new music. So I have to remember that Bowie was the greatest pop pie of all time. After plundering Lou Reed and the Glam scene, he continued to rummage through the drawers of everyone from Philly Soul to German Electronica.
And while you could argue that Harry didn’t write the songs on his own, Bowie’s various phases could be broken down by his collaborators at the time, from Mick Ronson to Brian Eno. Even ‘Heroes’ is arguably as much Earl Slick’s song as Bowie’s.
But Bowie brought all the Bowieness to it. He was the star, he was the one who decided on the ideas to steal, the direction to take next, the look.
Harry’s most important job now is the one he does best, which is to be Harry Styles, to be bold, to keep us interested and to keep surprising us.
I think he has that in him. I sure hope he does. Because every generation deserves a David Bowie, right?