Harry Styles: The Rockstar Nobody Expected (And How That Will Help Him)
Just over a week ago, one-time One Direction singer Harry Styles finally ventured out on his own musically with his debut single as a solo act, “Sign Of The Times,” and the track wasted no time in immediately certifying the British musician as a smashing success. The song kicked off its charting life in the singer’s home country at No. 1, knocking Ed Sheeran’s “Shape Of You” out of the top spot after an incredible 13-week run. Here in the States, the track also performed well upon arrival, starting at No. 4, and there is the possibility it could continue to rise.
While Styles had plenty going for him before anybody even heard what he had to offer—a famous name, a dedicated fan base, a powerful record label with massive resources and a level of anticipation which is rarely seen in the music industry—there is one thing about “Sign” that is also helping him succeed: the song’s genre.
It would have been incredibly easy for Styles to pair up with serious pop hitmakers like Max Martin and his crew and secure a No. 1 smash worldwide, but instead, he opted to go another route and take a risk. “Sign” sounds like it belongs more appropriately in the 1970’s than in 2017, and while that might not work for many acts, it’s helping Styles rise to the top of charts everywhere. Who else has the power to try to push glam psych-rock in an electro-pop world but somebody who has already proven themselves to be one of the most successful musicians in history by the age of 23?
“Sign Of The Times’ was greeted first with surprise, and then with almost unanimous acclaim. Critics everywhere loved not only the chance Styles took in going down this rock-y road, but many applauded the song itself, and the majority of media outlets suggested readers give the cut a try. Skeptics and those expecting more boy band-esque fodder were forced to immediately reconsider the man not just as a bestseller, but now as a true artist. One Direction may have taken over the world with their music, but they were never true critical favorites. Where he stands in the eyes of critics and music journalists everywhere may change now that Styles has shown what he can do when left to create with the right talents and some freedom. “Sign” elevates him to a place few singers reach after leaving the group that made them stars.
Perhaps most importantly, everything about his first single out of the gate as a standalone act separates him noticeably from his former bandmates, all of whom are also attempting to make it as solo artists. Zayn, the first One Direction member to leave the band, has already achieved global success, and he is now attempting to do so again with a second album, which is expected later this summer. Other 1D singers like Niall Horan and Louis Tomlinson have only dropped one proper single, but they are also off to a good start. Each man has chosen a different lane to operate in, and he and his team were smart enough to know that if they were going to succeed, they needed to differentiate the British boybander from the crowd…and it’s working.
In fact, nobody in the top 40 world is rocking out like Styles seems prepared to do with his upcoming self-titled album, and that will work in his favor. It’s incredibly difficult to out-pop Katy Perry or Lady Gaga, or to beat Calvin Harris or The Chainsmokers when it comes to EDM, but without a serious, famous challenger in the rock arena, Styles can claim charting records and shoot up the charts and grab plenty of attention and new fans doing so.
These are still early days for Harry’s fledgling solo career, but with a serious smash hit already to his credit, a slew of public appearances currently taking place and an album scheduled for less than a month from now, an era of rock and roll from an unlikely candidate may already be upon us.