“Feeling supported and loved by my parents never changed.”
His eyes moisten a little, but unlike the young man who wept over an early bout with Internet criticism, a powerful moment in the early One Direction documentary A Year in the Making, Styles tonight knocks back the sentiment.
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 discreetlythrew 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.
We’ve gotten matching Scottish folds, made each other arts and crafts Christmas presents, vacationed with our families, and had each other’s backs. He is the James Taylor to my Carole King and I can’t imagine a time when he wouldn’t be.
Taylor Swift on Ed Sheeran in Rolling Stone (March 2017) (x)
He imagines them doing a stadium tour where they trade songs for an evening, much like the one Jay Z and Justin Timberlake did a few years ago. “She would be there if everything ended for me,” Sheeran says. “Taylor is kind of an anomaly in that sense.” He’s been annoyed at the backlash against her lately: “She’s omnipresent because she’s the most famous woman in the world, so she can’t make the decision to not be in the press. I always stick up for Taylor.”
Ed Sheeran on Taylor Swift in Rolling Stone (March 2017) (x)