Critical Analysis of a Popular Music Artist: Harry Styles
Popular music artists are exceptionally influential people who have the power to impact their fans in countless ways. This research-based assignment will critically analyse the popular music artist, Harry Styles. The modes of mass production and mediatisation will be explored and analysed as well as the role of global culture in enabling interaction with popular music. In addition to this, knowledge of popular music will be critically applied to evaluate socio-cultural meaning and its evolution since the 1950s. I have selected Harry Styles as my case study because of his dynamic engagement with all aspects of the music industry and his outstanding ability to influence society in a positive and constructive manner. This contemporary popular music artist's sound is grounded in the soft rock, rock, pop, and Britpop genres. The aspects of Styles' artistry, which will be examined, are his visual image and public profile, the innovative quality of his work along with its generational impact, his political agenda, the socio-cultural meaning behind his persona, and his overall influence as a contemporary popular music artist in the early 21st Century.
Harry Edward Styles is a British pop singer and songwriter, born in Evesham, Worcestershire, UK on February 1, 1994. In 2010, Styles successfully auditioned for the television show The X Factor. He was invited to form a band with Niall Horan, Liam Payne, Zayn Malik, and Lois Tomlinson, which they named One Direction. One Direction won third place in the competition and were immediately signed to Syco music label, owned by Simon Cowell. The group dominated the charts until March 2016 when they announced their split to pursue solo music careers. Styles signed a solo artist record deal with Columbia Records in June 2016 and released his self-titled debut album in May 2017. He has won a myriad of awards including the BRIT Award for British Artist Video of the Year (2018), iHeartRadio Music Award for Best Cover Song (2018) and Best Music Video (2018), People's Choice Award for Style Icon of 2018 (2018), ARIA Award for Best International Artist (2017), NME Award for Villain of the Year (2014, 2013), MTV Europe
Music Award for Best Look (2013), and the Teen Choice Award for Choice Summer Tour (2018), Choice Style Icon (2017), Choice Rock Artist (2017), Choice Male Artist (2017), and Choice Smile (2014) (AceShowbiz, 2018). These achievements are testament to Styles' musical talent and appeal to broad audiences.
Styles' unique image secures his place in the contemporary music industry. Bennett explains, “In essence, an image is something that helps to connect a popular artist with their audience” (A. Bennett, 3056LHS lecture notes, October 29, 2018). The fourth module of this course discussed three components, which contribute to an artist's image. These were visual style, personality, and aesthetics. Styles' visual style is reminiscent of the rock and roll era, as evidenced by his selection of outlandish Saint Laurent, Gucci, and Burberry attire and tattoos (Pike, 2018). His personality is stapled by his positivity, kindness, generosity, modesty, humour, and loving nature. Styles is a highly aesthetic artist. This is demonstrated by his debut album artwork, which depicts the least tattooed area of his naked body half-submerged in a pastel pink bath. The artwork conveys vulnerability, femineity, reflection, and intimacy (Sherman, 2017). Styles holds true to his values and instils these in his followers. During his concert in Houston, Texas, on June 7, 2018, he interacted with a ten-year- old boy in the crowd who became emotional. Styles assured the young boy, “Crying is very manly. Being vulnerable is manly” (Conner, 2018). This is one of many instances where Styles openly discusses matters such as masculinity, vulnerability, and selfexpression. The course reading by Phoebe Macrossan (2018) references Su Holes and Sean Redmond (2006) who argue, “Fandom, and the construction of stars and celebrities, has always involved the search for the authentic person that lies behind the manufactured mask of fame” (p. 4). Styles' openness, transparency, and sincerity are markers of his authenticity as an artist.