Is Harry Styles the new king of pop?

On a warm, summer afternoon in June 2022, I followed a trail of glitter and pink feathers to Wembley Stadium. Had I planned a trip to the UK just to see Harry Styles? No, I would never say that.

Two months later, Rolling Stone UK placed him on the cover wearing pink shorts and a white furry coat and declared him to be the new king of pop, causing a flutter amongst the family and fans of the late Michael Jackson. “There is no new King of Pop. You don’t own the title @RollingStone and you didn’t earn it, my uncle did,” Taj Jackson, the nephew of Michael Jackson, tweeted. ET Canada then reported that the Michael Jackson Estate has in fact trademarked the title King of Pop.

But whether or not calling Styles the new king of pop is legal, ethical or well-deserved, there’s one thing for certain: there is no ignoring Harry Styles.

Reinventing fashion

The actor, singer-songwriter has made quite the splash with his sartorial choices. From his signature androgynous looks to his old-school vibe, a Harry Styles fashion moment is never disappointing. In the December 2020 issue of Vogue, Styles became the first man to be featured solo on the cover of the magazine. The Watermelon Sugar hitmaker sported a Gucci dress and jacket, causing the internet to immediately have opinions. Some praised him for defying gender norms while others were driven to panic at the tragic demise of ‘masculinity’. Styles responded to the criticism with an Instagram post of him wearing a frilly suit with the caption “bring back manly men”.

Styles also recently partnered with Gucci to launch the eclectic HA HA HA collection. Designed by Styles and Gucci creative director, Alessandro Michele, the menswear collection combines vintage with avant-garde. The singer is also at the helm of a beauty brand called Pleasing that launched  in November 2021 and features nail polishes, face serum and a ‘pleasing pen’.

Under the care of stylist Harry Lambert, Styles’ sense of fashion exists as a juxtaposition. It’s an eclectic blend of vintage and modern, masuline and feminine, innocent and seductive. Lacey jackets, tassled tees, striped jumpsuits and floral prints have become the norm for his stage looks.

The singer to actor trajectory

In between his rise to pop stardom, Styles has managed to carve a niche for himself as an actor as well. He acted in the psychological thriller Don’t Worry Darling with leading lady Florence Pugh, a film that became swamped in controversy that did not exclude accusations of Styles spitting on Chris Pine, tensions between co-stars, onset romance, and even *wait for it* a secret salad dressing recipe. He also starred in the film My Policeman, an intimate drama that follows a relationship between two men in 1950s Britain, a time where homosexuality was illegal in the country. Next up is a role in Marvel’s Eternals films where he is set to play the villain Eros.

It goes without saying that wherever Styles goes, the cameras, fans and rumours follow. Styles might have started off his career as part of a boyband with a largely young, female audience but as he progresses as a solo artist there’s no denying the maturity and creativity that has grown with him. From my position in the stands at Wembley, Styles looked only about three inches tall. But his presence filled up the entire stadium. The audience was filled with screaming teens and their dads, nervously watching the man who their daughters were screaming “I’m having your baby” at. This was a crowd who loved the man on stage, and he loved them back.

You could feel the heartbreak when he sang ‘Matilda’. The energy was borderline fanatic when his band played the first few notes of the One Direction hit ‘What Makes You Beautiful’. There were tears when he sang ‘Sign of the Times’. There was abundant joy when he pranced to ‘Golden’. In the audience interaction segment of the show, Styles read out signs and spoke to fans by name. “When this flag goes above my head you are officially gay my boy!” said an exuberant Harry to a fan who wanted to come out. He runs, he jumps, he gyrates, he screams, he cries. He is every emotion all at once. One minute he’s boyband wonder, the next he is John Travolta swaying his hips, then Elvis Presley seducing the crowd.  He thanks his fans profusely every chance he gets. “You’ve changed my life,” he repeats. “Thank you.” In a move inspired by Queen’s Live Aid performance in 1985, Styles leads the crowd to sing a symphony of ‘ay-oh’. I have goosebumps by the end of it. This is not a boy anymore. This is a star.

Styles is currently in the middle of a tour supporting his second and third studio albums, Fine Line and Harry’s House. Billboard reported that the American leg of Love on Tour earned $94.7 million and sold 719,000 tickets. For the Europe leg of the tour, it made $55 million and sold 638,000 tickets from 23 shows played in 2022. In August this year, Styles played 15 sold-out shows at Madison Square Garden that ended with an overwhelmed Harry in tears after a celebratory banner was raised in his honour. The reach of anything and everything that Styles releases is unimaginable. Within nine hours of releasing the music video for his hit single As It Was, it had reached nine million views. (The YouTube video, which premiered on April 1st 2022, is now at 54,714,060 views).

There are many ways to profit from fame and success, but Styles seems to be using it to allow himself the freedom to make his own creative decisions. Styles chose Better Homes & Gardens to promote his 2022 album ‘Harry’s House’, which was largely inspired by his time at home in lockdown. “Suddenly, the screaming stopped,” Harry says in the article, referencing the impact of the pandemic.

But the screaming perhaps, has barely begun for the man who seems to turn everything he touches to gold. Irrespective of whether it’s right (or legal) to crown Harry Styles the new king of pop, one thing’s for sure – Harry Styles isn’t just a lovable popstar with great hair anymore. He’s a global icon who has the world swaying to his tunes. Something tells me that this is Harry’s house, and we’re all just living in it.

(Photo: HusariaAgatka on Flickr)

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