All hail Harry Styles: the best artist of our time

Laura Walker is a senior accounting major. She is a guest writer for the Newswire from Louisville, Ky.

Anyone who knows me knows that I have an unconditional, all-consuming love for Harry Styles. So, when I was asked if I’d like to write a piece about Harry Styles’ upcoming album, I almost smashed my thumb through my phone from the sheer force of typing “YES” so emphatically.

I, along with many of you who picked up this paper expecting actual journalism and are instead reading this, have been aware of Mr. Styles since his meteoric rise to fame as part of One Direction in the early 2010s. After the band’s break-up (which they claimed was a “break” and said they’d “be back in 18 months” — I haven’t forgotten), each member started releasing their own music as solo acts.

I’m sure someone on this campus is more qualified to note the music of the other members of 1D, but it certainly isn’t me. Bring up Harry Styles, though, and I, a full 22-year-old, suddenly turn 13 again.

With his first album, Styles shattered the expectation of bubblegum teen pop, going so far as to make his first single, “Sign of the Times,” a whopping six-minute long ballad, clearly influenced by classic rock. I’m no music critic by any means, but I thought it was an absolute banger, top to bottom. The album as a whole was fantastic and was critically praised and widely enjoyed — which was awesome for me because I was proven right, and every person who made fun of me for being weirdly into a boyband (I fully deserved it) got their comeuppance. But, after tour, (that I saw and wept openly at) Styles retreated to work on album number two, leaving us high and dry for more than a year.

Nevertheless, he’s back, baby! A few weeks ago, Styles dropped his single “Lights Up,” along with a music video. The song has more of a pop sound to it than his previous album (making it perfect for subjecting friends to), and the video was the closest I’ve come to a religious experience in a while. I watched artistry with my jaw fully open in complete silence (a rarity for me). I’d like to take this opportunity to apologize to my loved ones and neighbors, both for the music video incident and the pending incidents sure to come when the album is released. I frankly have no control over my behavior in those moments.

I intended to write this article about the cultural impact that Styles has had today, though my fan girling has gotten in the way of that.

It goes without saying that any pop star or celebrity will have some measure of influence over their followers and industry, but Styles has done remarkably well with wielding his cultural power. He co-chaired the Met Gala, one of high fashion’s most prestigious events, had a sizeable role in Christopher Nolan’s Oscar-nominated film Dunkirk and frequently uses his social media presence to promote kindness and mental health.

One Twitter user said, “Harry Styles was such a positive role model in my adolescence and continues to have a presence into my early adulthood,” which is a perfect summation of his influence in pop culture throughout the last decade. He also actively works at breaking down gender roles and promoting LGBTQ equality.

I stumbled across One Direction on Pinterest at 13 years old and at 22, I am still as invested as ever in one of the members. I grew up with Styles, and we’re still growing together. That kind of sustained popularity, without a scandal or blemish of particular note, is meaningful.

In an era when this country, and the world at large, is particularly divided, it is more important now than ever that people have an outlet: one that is positive, harmless and brings them joy. Pop culture needs more Harry Styles, as do I. So, let’s hear that album, king!