I don’t believe in guilty pleasures. If you f&cking like something, like it.—Dave Grohl
When I was coaching high school cross country three years ago, our team would play the same two songs on the bus-ride back from each race: Sweet Escape by Gwen Stefani and What Makes You Beautiful by One Direction. The former somehow—slowly—grew on me. The latter did not.
For three years, I basically didn’t think about One Direction or any of its five (boy)band members. I would occasionally see them in the tabloids in the checkout line at the grocery store. But I never listened to their music—until last month when Harry Styles released his debut, solo album and started making the rounds on late-night talk shows.
The album’s (shockingly) really, really solid and intimate and generally a throwback to ‘70s soft rock. (There’s also the angsty, kick-the-door-down-and-vaguely-refer-to-a-difficult-former-romantic-interest-who-wears-a-black-dress-and-acts-like-such-an-actress song that sounds like Wolfmother and early Jack White. And there’s the slow-building, apocalyptic, stadium anthem that feels like The Scientist by Coldplay and Heroes by David Bowie were thrown into the blender. Just typing that feels silly and sacrilegious. But this is the world we live in.). The vocals and stage presence—super. But it’s mostly Harry Styles, The Dude, who fascinates me.
He’s an introverted Tim Burton protagonist with tattoos and a typewriter, a cooler, younger, more upbeat, more endearing Johnny Depp.
He has David Bowie’s wardrobe and Mick Jagger’s physicality.
He shares the stage with Stevie Nicks (and brings her carrot cake)
He has a very refreshing take on fans (from Cameron Crowe’s feature in Rolling Stone):
Styles is aware that his largest audience so far has been young – often teenage – women. Asked if he spends pressure-filled evenings worried about proving credibility to an older crowd, Styles grows animated. “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.“
He’s in the new Christopher Nolan movie (:47).
Mostly, though, he really reminds me of my good pal, Ben—a friend of mine since we were crapping our diapers, a dude who introduced me to the two big Fs in life: fart jokes and filmmaking.
Ben and Harry Styles are similar creatures. They look a lot alike. They’re both moppy-haired, humble, creative geniuses.
Lanky, hilarious goofballs.
Heartfelt, pure artists.
And generous, generous souls.
I didn’t think Harold Styles would speak to me. He might speak to you. He might not. But then again, I don’t want to “take away your joy of discovery.”