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Harry Styles: Singer Opens Up About Famous Flings, Honest New LP
One Direction's Harry Styles goes deep on love, family and his heartfelt new solo debut in our revealing feature.

January 2016. There’s a bench at the top of Primrose Hill, in London, that looks out over the skyline of the city. If you’d passed by it one winter night, you might have seen him sitting there. A lanky guy in a wool hat, overcoat and jogging pants, hands thrust deep into his pockets. Harry Styles had a lot on his mind. He had spent five years as the buoyant fan favorite in One Direction; now, an uncertain future stretched out in front of him. The band had announced an indefinite hiatus. The white noise of adulation was gone, replaced by the hushed sound of the city below.

The fame visited upon Harry Styles in his years with One D was a special kind of mania. With a self-effacing smile, a hint of darkness and the hair invariably described as “tousled,” he became a canvas onto which millions of fans pitched their hopes and dreams. Hell, when he pulled over to the side of the 101 freeway in L.A. and discreetly threw up, the spot became a fan shrine. It’s said the puke was even sold on eBay like pieces of the Berlin Wall. Paul McCartney has interviewed him. Then there was the unauthorized fan-fiction series featuring a punky, sexed-up version of “Harry Styles.” A billion readers followed his virtual exploits. (“Didn’t read it,” comments the nonfiction Styles, “but I hope he gets more than me.”)

But at the height of One D–mania, Styles took a step back. For many, 2016 was a year of lost musical heroes and a toxic new world order. For Styles, it was a search for a new identity that began on that bench overlooking London. What would a solo Harry Styles sound like? A plan came into focus. A song cycle about women and relationships. Ten songs. More of a rock sound. A bold single-color cover to match the working title: Pink. (He quotes the Clash’s Paul Simonon: “Pink is the only true rock & roll colour.”) Many of the details would change over the coming year – including the title, which would end up as Harry Styles – but one word stuck in his head.

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Maria Fyodorovna, second wife of Pavel I., when a Grand Duchess

As she turned seventeen, Sophia-Dorothey was tall, buxom, and rosy-cheeked, with a lovely complexion and a sunny disposition. Strong and tender, thoughtful and naive, she had been brought up with German reserve and a distrust of French “levity” and had been taught to believe that in a woman, family virtues were to be valued above all. At the time her name was suggested in St. Petersburg, she was nominally engaged to the Prince of Darmstadt … whose advances and proposals she had received with indifference. Before matters could proceed, the prince had to be convinced to give up his proposal. Her great-uncle Frederick the Great offered to handle the matter himseld, and did so with such diplomacy that the young prince acquiesced and plans were drawn up for Paul and Princess Dorothea to meet in Berlin. …

Paul was attracted to the young princess from the first, and a few days after they met wrote to his mother: “I have found my fiancée … she is pretty, tall, well built, not shy: she answers questions intelligently and promptly and it is already clear to me that she had made herself felt in my heart and is not without feelings for me.” … On July 15, Sophia-Dorothey wrote to her friend Lanele: “I am quite pleased, more than pleased. I have never been so happy; the Grand Duke is extraordinarily kind and has all the right qualities. I flatter myself with the hope that my fiancé loves me; this makes me very, very happy.”

Suzanne Massie: Pavlovsk