Harry Styles: ‘In general, as people, there’s a lack of empathy, we just don’t listen’

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Back when Harry Styles was in One Direction, he was always my favorite and I always thought that if I happened to be a tween or teen in the 1D era, I would have been all-in on Harry. I’m so happy for the young people – young girls and young women especially – that they have someone cool like Harry to look up to and admire. Harry legitimately seems like a peaceful, thoughtful, interesting guy. He’s always respected his fanbase, made up of mostly girls and women, and he’s always shown his fans that he can learn and grow and they can too. Harry covers the latest issue of Variety, where he talks about his musical success this year, all of the crazy sh-t that happened this year, and lots more. Some highlights:

The pandemic pause: “It’s been a pause that I don’t know if I would have otherwise taken. I think it’s been pretty good for me to have a kind of stop, to look and think about what it actually means to be an artist, what it means to do what we do and why we do it. I lean into moments like this — moments of uncertainty.”

How he makes music: “People within [the industry] feel like they operate on a higher level of listening, and I like to make music from the point of being a fan of music. Fans are the best A&R.” This from someone who’s had free rein to pursue every musical whim, and hand in the album of his dreams in the form of “Fine Line.” Chart success makes it all the sweeter, but Styles insists that writing “for the right reasons” supersedes any commercial considerations. “There’s no part that feels, eh, icky — like it was made in the lab,” he says.

He’s not going to apologize for One Direction: “When you look at the history of people coming out of bands and starting solo careers, they feel this need to apologize for being in the band. ‘Don’t worry, everyone, that wasn’t me! Now I get to do what I really want to do.’ But we loved being in the band. I think there’s a wont to pit people against each other. And I think it’s never been about that for us. It’s about a next step in evolution. The fact that we’ve all achieved different things outside of the band says a lot about how hard we worked in it.”

His future is in London, despite spending a lot of time in LA: “I feel like my relationship with L.A. has changed a lot. I’ve kind of accepted that I don’t have to live here anymore; for a while I felt like I was supposed to. Like it meant things were going well. This happened, then you move to L.A.! But I don’t really want to.”

The state of the world: “In general, as people, there’s a lack of empathy. We found this place that’s so divisive. We just don’t listen to each other anymore. And that’s quite scary.”

On Black Lives Matter: “Talking about race can be really uncomfortable for everyone. I had a realization that my own comfort in the conversation has nothing to do with the problem — like that’s not enough of a reason to not have a conversation. Looking back, I don’t think I’ve been outspoken enough in the past. Using that feeling has pushed me forward to being open and ready to learn. … How can I ensure from my side that in 20 years, the right things are still being done and the right people are getting the right opportunities? That it’s not a passing thing?… Historically, I can’t think of any industry that’s benefited more off of Black culture than music. There are discussions that need to happen about this long history of not being paid fairly. It’s a time for listening, and hopefully, people will come out humbled, educated and willing to learn and change.”

On wearing women’s clothes: “To not wear [something] because it’s females’ clothing, you shut out a whole world of great clothes. And I think what’s exciting about right now is you can wear what you like. It doesn’t have to be X or Y. Those lines are becoming more and more blurred.”

On the Grammys: “It’s never why I do anything… It’s always nice to know that people like what you’re doing, but ultimately — and especially working in a subjective field — I don’t put too much weight on that stuff. I think it’s important when making any kind of art to remove the ego from it.” Citing the painter Matisse, he adds: “It’s about the work that you do when you’re not expecting any applause.”

[From Variety]

I would imagine that Harry agreed to this Variety cover (at the time) largely as a way to promote his Grammy campaign, which his team hoped would involve some nominations in the bigger categories (Album/Song/Record of the Year), none of which happened. Harry did get three nominations in Pop and music video. Which sucks, because Fine Line really was everywhere and I also thought he deserved some of the bigger noms. Anyway, that’s the only part of this interview which rang false a little bit – in my mind, it would have been fine for Harry to admit that he was disappointed with the Grammy snubs, but I get that he doesn’t want to complain.

As for the rest of it… I like that he acknowledges his own discomfort in discussing race, and that’s important too – white people forcing themselves to talk about race and racial injustice even when it makes them uncomfortable. I’m also fine with him being over the whole LA thing. It was fun while it lasted and maybe he’ll come back one day!

Cover and photos courtesy of Variety.

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32 Responses to “Harry Styles: ‘In general, as people, there’s a lack of empathy, we just don’t listen’”

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  1. Tiffany says:

    The One Direction quote, was he staring in Zahn when he said it.

    I saw so much shade that it is dark in my office right now.

    • Amy Bee says:

      Maybe and Justin Timberlake.

      • Stephanie says:

        Ha! Justin Timberlake, burned every bridge imaginable when he went solo.

      • Tiffany says:

        Ohhhhhhh, good catch Amy.

      • SM says:

        Robbie Williams as well. As for Harry, I am so happy he exists. In a world where men think that women are on this earth to please them and make them feel better about their lives or just have a general attitude of being ignorant, Harry is an example of a man who does not mind to be vulnerable yet not fragile, being stylish without being narcissist, being comfortable pushing the line of the male masculinity. This is a great example of a man every young woman should look in a boyfriend. The fact that he continuously refuses to trash teenage fandom is a reflection on his openness.

  2. Snuffles says:

    I love me some Harry Styles! I’m old enough to be his mama but I followed One Direction from the moment they were formed (I could see they were going to be something special the moment the judges put them together and they stood on that stage jumping around like puppies when they were put through) until the went on “break”. I continue to root for all of them as they pursue solo efforts.

    That said, Harry was always my favorite. Handsome, charming, funny, talented and just the right temperament for the business. Fine Line was a great album.

  3. Ann says:

    He looks great in women’s wear. Twitter is full of nasty, homophobic comments calling Harry a sissy. So many dumb dumbs getting themselves worked up about a man in a blouse. I shouldn’t be surprised but I am. It’s just fashion, no need to bring hatred into the mix over clothes.

  4. Redder says:

    He comes off very scripted to me, but he always has. He’s harmless, but everything he does to me reads off wanting to be the next “rock star”. But he doesn’t do anything different, just kind of copies the greats. And he’s definitely lying, he wanted a Grammy pretty hard, unfortunately most artists do. I wish big names like him would publicly turn them down, I can’t stand the Grammys.

    • Marie55 says:

      I agree that artists should just stop submitting for Grammys. They’re a total joke. I don’t agree, however, that Harry only copies the greats 🙂 Have you listened to Fine Line? It’s really quite good! I think his image as a kind, considerate, and humble gender-fluid rock star is a different take. Perfect representation of Gen Z, but accessible and loved by people of all ages.

      • Redder says:

        It’s not his music that has me rolling my eyes, it’s him! When he was describing Fine Line is actually when I was annoyed by him. He’s very image oriented, as I’m sure most celebs are, but it’s funny because his reputation and fans insist he’s not. I think he’s where he is mostly because he’s good looking and who he has dated. But obviously that my opinion, and he has many, many fans!

    • Tiffany says:

      I see it as Harry being reserved. He has always been like that since 1D.

    • Honeychurch says:

      He’s always come off as very guarded in interviews. It doesn’t feel scripted to me – just a guy who’s been burned by journalists one too many times. Who can blame him?!

  5. Stephanie says:

    I am another older fan of Harry’s. I became a One Direction fan, simply because of Harry and to follow his career. I knew that he was special from the outset. To follow his solo career has been an outright joy. Fine Line should have been nominated for more, because that album is just so good and becomes better over time. To think he is just at the beginning of his solo career. I can’t wait to see what he does with his next album.

  6. Dani says:

    Ugh I have no shame about how much I LOVE him. I’m still upset about his NYC shows being canceled.

  7. Otaku fairy says:

    It does seem like he’s one of the more decent famous dudes for women to admire. Better him than someone like Chris Brown or Tommy Lee, FFS.

    The only part that was a little eye-roll-inducing was him saying people in the music industry are on a higher level of listening. For one thing, if literally any woman in the music industry- especially from the same generation- had said that, people would be falling all over themselves with the torches and pitchforks to put her in her place and cry, “This bitch thinks she’s better than me!” Plus, we’ve seen evidence that people in the music industry aren’t really better listeners.

    • Stephanie says:

      He said that people in the music industry “feel” they are on a higher level of listening. He makes music from a fan’s pov. He’s giving credit to the fans, not the music industry. In all of his interviews, he makes sure that he talks about how his fans have been accepting of his music.

    • WintryMix says:

      I think you may have mis-read that quote–he’s not saying HE thinks music industry people are on a higher plane of listening, he’s saying THEY think they’re on a higher plane of listening, and that they know best, and he disagrees. Here’s the quote: “People within [the industry] feel like they operate on a higher level of listening, and I like to make music from the point of being a fan of music,” Styles says. “Fans are the best A&R.”

    • Mette says:

      You just completely fabricated a story from out of nowhere

    • Jules says:

      Nice projecting…

    • Otaku fairy says:

      Harry will be fine, ladies. It was a simple misunderstanding. No celebrity worship, remember?😁

      • Jules says:

        You really do hang onto every single word I say, it’s quite creepy to have a stalker. You’ll have to look up projecting to understand. This has nothing to do with Harry… no matter what you read or misread, you see misogyny in everything. It’s not reality and it discredits legit situations of misogyny.

      • Otaku fairy says:

        Not to #WellActually you but…you did initiate contact with me. I was wrong to assume he was benefiting from misogyny in this situation.

  8. WintryMix says:

    Another Harry superfan here, I totally love him. Re: the Grammy portion of the conversation, because I’m way too up his ass and follow these things, I’m 99.9% sure the interview took place before the nominations were announced.

    • Cava24 says:

      Re: the timing of the interview, I had that impression as well, the noms just came out last week. I spent a bunch of time googling him and reading/ watching interviews after the post about him last week and am way too far up his ass, too. It’s nice, crowded though, his fan base is a lot. He has a lovely way of articulating things and expressing his thoughts and insane amounts of equanimity which I really admire.

  9. Kristen says:

    Love him. To Be So Lonely is one of the best songs I’ve heard in a while.

  10. Honeychurch says:

    I am so glad the young generation has a heartthrob like Harry Styles. He seems very genuine, accepting, and open-minded. And I was so pleasantly surprised by his album. It’s very classic rock in places which I guess is his thing.

  11. Kkat says:

    I’m 51 and I love Harry and his solo music 😁
    I still frequently have watermelon sugar playing in my head.

    As far as him not being “manly” for wearing women’s clothing… I have always found men who are secure enough to wear what they want sexy.
    As far as I know he is cis and it has always been an indicator for me that a guy is super secure in his masculinity when he wears non traditional clothing or makeup. (See: Prince, David Bowie)

  12. Valerie says:

    idc, I like this guy. I think he’s genuine, just incredibly guarded and careful about what he says and how he says it. I think being in a boy band put him under the microscope in a unique way, in that we tend to have certain expectations of how they should act while they are in the band and especially after they leave. Stan twitter is wild. I’m glad that wasn’t a thing when I was growing up, lol. Message board drama was one thing; twitter is quite another.

  13. Dragonlady sakura says:

    I have the perfect solution for all those pearl clutchers…mind your own freaking business.

  14. Jayna says:

    Love Harry. And I can’t say enough about what a phenomenal band he has. Three women are in it. One is a drummer, and her rhythm is amazing. All three are fantastic. The whole band of five is great. Love the bass player.

    Check out Harry and his band doing an amazing live cover of Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer in Howard Stern’s studio.