But whether or not it’s a daring album cowl through which he dons high-waisted white pants and a pink button-down, or a talk-show host visitor stint interviewing his exes, Styles someway appears each over-the-top and compellingly real in equal measure. But it took some time to get right here.
You can pinpoint the beginning of Styles’s gradual metamorphosis to his first “X Factor” audition: It wasn’t his softly hung scarf and thin jean mixture that predicted his perpetuity, however a pure charisma coaxing you to take discover, lean in and belief him. Simon Cowell noticed one thing, and so did we.
Here are the methods through which Styles has expertly navigated the trail to solo stardom whereas sustaining an air of authenticity.
Using — and never utilizing — social media
After 1D’s official hiatus started in 2016, Styles took a right away and unofficial stance of shutting up on social media and promptly signed a multimillion-dollar deal for 3 solo albums. His Instagram, as soon as stuffed with black and white filtered photos of inspirations like Nirvana and behind-the-scenes pictures of tour life, ceased regular manufacturing.
Then a couple of months later, he posted three clean white tiles to Instagram, a dramatic cue signaling a serious announcement. Reaction was swift (no pun meant) and the following day, Styles posted three covers of his first interview and photograph shoot as a solo star.
The shoot with Another Man journal allowed Styles to create a notion of himself solely separate from One Direction (even the publication title felt symbolic). In that interview and even now, Styles remained grateful — indebted, even — to the band. Instead, he typically went out of his approach to speak about how a lot he cherished what he did.
“The nice thing for me is that I’m not coming away from the band feeling like I wasn’t able to do what I wanted to do,” he stated within the interview, carried out by Paul McCartney (a sentiment almost the alternative of Malik’s rejection of the group years after he departed in 2015). It’s a gratefulness that Styles has carried all through the levels of his profession.
Styles has frequently and publicly defended his followers, who’re primarily younger and feminine. “I just think it’s a little naive to just write off younger female fans, in particular, in the way people do,” Styles stated in a 2017 interview with the New York Times. “Like I’ve said, young girls were massive fans of the Beatles. It’s crazy to think they’re not intelligent.”
Those followers are the identical ones who pore over each publish and decode his social media ways as quickly as they get the ding of a publish notification. Most not too long ago, he has swapped strategic silence for an elaborate advertising gambit involving a pretend island referred to as Eroda, or “adore” spelled backward; his third single is known as “Adore You.” (And don’t assume it’s simply former 1D followers who’re on board: Jake Tapper is among the many followers of the fake island’s Twitter account.)
Cementing his position as a multihyphenate
Often regarded as the Justin Timberlake of the group, Styles naturally sparked curiosity from individuals who needed to see what he deliberate to do together with his newfound freedom. And like Timberlake, he booked a solo gig at “Saturday Night Live,” not too long ago doubling as host and musical visitor — the sort of prestigious accountability given to true multihyphenates prepared to declare stage and display. (He additionally wore a shirt emblazoned with the phrase “SEX” in capital letters through the goodnights of the SNL episode, in typical 25-year-old vogue. He’s an grownup now, guys!)
This week, he graduated to guest-hosting James Corden’s “The Late Late Show” for an evening. And whereas he gallantly refused to rank his former bandmates’ music and playfully flirted with ex Kendall Jenner, Styles appeared relaxed as an exaggerated model of himself.
Styles has all the time appeared to buck custom as an ex-boy band member, keenly conscious that individuals are him however prepared to subvert their expectations. His self-titled freshman album, launched in 2017, was coated in comfortable pink hues (the unique title was “Pink”), and had a pure intimacy in a brand new but acquainted sound. And as soon as followers grew to become connected to his famously lengthy locks, the singer obtained a dramatic haircut, a transfer that signified a recent begin — and coincided with a brand new position in Christopher Nolan’s struggle drama, “Dunkirk.”
As his solo profession progresses, Styles has grown alongside his followers, making an attempt on totally different hats whereas sustaining the boyish appeal that originally drew folks to him within the first place.
Becoming a (sort of) queer icon
The debate over Styles’s sexuality has typically been the most well-liked however least fascinating factor about him. The actual dialog is how he’s used the gasoline of hypothesis to develop into a supportive ally.
His music, nonetheless, tends to play with the thought a bit extra. In “Medicine,” an unreleased music reduce from his debut album, he sings, “The boys and the girls are in / I mess around with him and I’m okay with it,” an insinuation of sexual fluidity that induced a minor firestorm on-line. “Lights Up,” the lead single off “Fine Line,” was coincidentally launched on National Coming Out Day with equally obscure lyrical patterns. His musical clues really feel like confessions, teetering on the sting of an admission however not fairly conceding.
Styles has provided up related iterations when pressed about his sexuality in interviews, giving variances on the identical reply: “No, I don’t feel like it’s something I’ve ever felt like I have to explain about myself.” His solutions are light however agency, brimming with self-awareness. But in the identical breath, he has given a way more essential reply: His LGBTQ followers are and have all the time been essential to him. It is likelier he’ll proceed to wrap himself in pleasure flags on tour, paint his nails in pastels and donate to queer organizations than outright label his sexuality. But folks will nonetheless hold guessing — and caring.
Leaning on an old-fashioned rock-star vibe
Solo Styles clearly favors a modern-day ‘70s rocker archetype, both in appearance and sound. That ability to combine rock star sensibilities and 21st century celebrity has turned him into an old soul disguised as a young pop star. Spoiler alert: it’s working.
Styles’s first solo single, “Sign of the Times,” was in contrast to David Bowie’s “Hunky Dory,” and his wardrobe — stuffed with vivid swimsuit units and flowy button-downs, presumably all stored in a frozen vault in London — have been callbacks to a time lengthy gone.
A current Rolling Stone interview closely featured Styles’s wide selection of inspirations, from taking mushrooms to the profound impression Stevie Nicks had on him.
Styles appears like a modern-day chameleonic artist with the power to shock and confound us but hold us at arm’s size. It’s a rarity, contemplating the more and more intimate digital panorama of the artist and fan relationship (one thing that Ariana Grande has changed into an artwork kind on Twitter).