Care to elaborate on your tags re: Harry's music and your worries concerning content vs form? I don't get it. Thanks.
So short version (I’ll try and write a post that explains what I actually mean some time in the future - but I can already feel that this post is going to be long). my concerns about Harry’s music are quite personal. I really value specificity in music and also fun/joy. Harry’s interview further suggested that I probably couldn’t expect much of either of these things from his album. I’d kind of figured that from SOTT and ESNY. I don’t think joy or specificity are where he’s at as a songwriter - and I also think there is a lot about his position that would discourage joy (and even more so) specificity in songs. I find the reasons that he might not be into joy and specificity in songs quite endearing and I have huge sympathy for them. So it doesn’t necessarily change the way I respond to him as a person, but it will change the way I respond to his music. And it does make me sad, for me, that the music he’s putting out won’t be the sort of music that most resonates with me.
The content vs. form thing of his interview is kind of a feature of the form itself. Long celebrity interviews are this dance where the celebrity performs being accessible and intimate, while staying on brand and the journalist writes as if they’re revealing while also maintaining access. To me there were these really jarring juxtapositions to the words Harry was saying and the form of the promo campaign that he was saying it.
So Harry says: “ “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?” etc in his first in depth print interview with a magazine whose entire mission has been to uphold the supremacy of the 30-year-old hipster guy. This venue and the interviewer were very definitely chosen to signal to those 30-year-old hipster guy that it was OK to like Harry. On top of that Harry carefully and repeatedly uses the word honest - to signal to those readers that his music is better and more authentic now than it was in One Direction when those teenage girls liked him.
Or Harry says: “I feel like they were always thinking, ‘OK, this ride could stop at any point and we’re going to have to be there when it does.’ There was something about playing the album and how happy I was that told them, ‘If all I get is to make this music, I’m content. If I’m never on that big ride again, I’m happy and proud of it.'” While part of an incredibly highly controlled, high-stakes, promo campaign, designed to make him a solo superstar.
Now that’s really normal, that’s kind of a feature of this sort of interview. But the impression I got from to the totality of the interview was not that Harry was not just carefully selling an image, but also quite mixed up about who he wanted to be and how he wanted to relate to people, mystery vs honesty and so on. That this jarring juxtaposition wasn’t just a feature of the form of the celebrity, but also showing how ambivalent and unclear Harry was about all this stuff.
In particular, it made me think of two different statements kind of about being seen. One was Harry’s own, from a year in the making, “I want to be someone who doesn’t care what people think, but I just don’t think I am.” For me, everything about this promo campaign has demonstrated how much both of those things, wanting not to care, but really caring, are still absolutely true for Harry.
And the other was Jodie Foster’s coming out speech - which is a mess, but I’ve always thought a really profound mess:
…be a big coming-out speech tonight because I already did my coming out about a thousand years ago back in the Stone Age, in those very quaint days when a fragile young girl would open up to trusted friends and family and co-workers and then gradually, proudly to everyone who knew her, to everyone she actually met. But now I’m told, apparently, that every celebrity is expected to honor the details of their private life with a press conference, a fragrance and a prime-time reality show. […] But seriously, if you had been a public figure from the time that you were a toddler, if you’d had to fight for a life that felt real and honest and normal against all odds, then maybe you too might value privacy above all else. Privacy.
I will continue to tell stories, to move people by being moved, the greatest job in the world. It’s just that from now on, I may be holding a different talking stick. And maybe it won’t be as sparkly, maybe it won’t open on 3,000 screens, maybe it will be so quiet and delicate that only dogs can hear it whistle. But it will be my writing on the wall. Jodie Foster was here, I still am, and I want to be seen, to be understood deeply and to be not so very lonely.
(transcript here - full speech easily accessible 2013 Golden Globes).
The juxtaposition between the really deeply felt desire for privacy and the just as deeply felt desire to be seen and understood really moved me when I first saw it and I thought she made it really clear that both could be true at the same time. And I think the speech demonstrates that when you’ve been in the public eye as long as Jodie Foster, the two desires are impossibly intertwined.
I got the same desire and contradiction (although obviously not nearly as openly laid out - which is what makes Jodie Foster’s speech extraordinarily) from Harry’s interview.
How could he feel anything else? He’s been exposed, told stories about, hidden and lied about. How could he feel anything but a desire for privacy and a desire to be seen and understood. How could he hope to untangle them, or even know how to act on them at his age?
And that made me very sad for him - because I want him to have it all. I want him to be seen and understood and I want him to have all the privacy and space he needs. And I think either will be very difficult for him to get, let alone both.