September 29, 2023

Queer code or clever marketing?

Hanover. Whenever Harry Styles comes up, he’s usually followed by a headline. It is not uncommon for his extravagant outfit to have something to do with it, sometimes there is speculation about the love affairs the singer is said to have. But it’s also often the funny moments on the stages he plays: Styles loves interacting with his fans at his concerts.

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These days, Harry Styles was on the last leg of his big “Love On” tour and came to Germany for it. Around 40,000 fans attended the two concerts at the beginning of July at the Waldstadion in Frankfurt.

At least this tour showed that the 29-year-old Briton has long been an absolute star in this country – if not the greatest of our time. Concerts are sold out in no time, everything a musician does is discussed with enthusiasm. In a recent instance, Styles personally invited tennis player Elina Svitolina to an appearance because she missed Harry Styles’ concert because of Wimbledon.

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Styles is also known as a queer icon. Not least because of his playful gender-blind style of fashion, he is considered one of their biggest supporters. However, criticism of the singer is growing — not least from the LGBTQIA+ community itself.

What do you want to know about Harry Styles? What is behind this phenomenon? How can this great noise be explained? Guide for beginners.

Harry Styles: Who is this anyway?

At the start of his career in 2010, it wasn’t really expected that Harry Styles would one day rise to become one of the biggest pop stars of our time. The just 16-year-old from Redditch near Birmingham appeared on the talent show ‘The X-Factor’. He and four other guys form a band within the show but they don’t win the competition. Despite this, they soon after signed a £2 million record deal with Sony Music. The boy band One Direction was born.

In 2010, Styles had massive success with the band, delivering catchy tunes like “What Makes You Beautiful,” hitting number one after another. In 2015 they finally agreed to take a break from the band which is not over to this day. It’s the typical boy band career: great fame that eventually fades.

Except for Harry Styles. The temporary end of One Direction is also the beginning of something new, something big: his solo career. A career that would later write the history of music.

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New tracks as a solo artist

While The Brit in One Direction remains the classic boy band beau with a never-compromising Justin Bieber hairdo, Styles is surprisingly breaking new ground as a solo artist. His first single, “Sign of the Times,” is a rock ballad that sounds more mature and soulful than the earlier feel-good boy band songs. Styles also shows a new side in the song’s music video: here the singer floats over the Scottish Isle of Skye in a woolen sweater and trench coat.

The song peaked at number one in the UK charts, and Styles’ debut album, which bears his name, was released shortly thereafter. Subsequent songs such as “Lights Up”, “Watermelon Sugar” and “Adore You” became hits, and the album “Fine Line” (2019) went to number two in the UK and even number one in the US.

Styles’ third studio album “Harry’s House” (2022) finally broke all records. This time also achieved the latest breakthrough in Germany, where the album climbed to the top of the charts for the first time. The singer has won many international awards including Grammys, Brits, and ARIAs. “As It Was” holds a world record for daily streaming across multiple platforms within days, debuting with 43.8 million plays in its first week.

Harry Styles, marketing genius

In addition to the glitzy successes, Harry Styles’ career has been shaped by something else from the start: cutting-edge marketing. When the singer released his song “Adore You” in 2019, Styles and his marketing team created a fictional island called “Eroda” and promoted it as a tourist destination on social media — themselves our website Receives the ideal place by the sea, which does not exist in reality. Only later does it become clear what “Eroda” is all about: it’s the fictional setting where the music video for “Adore you” takes place.

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The singer also relies on the value of stage recognition. The musician is known – plus miscellaneous signature movements – also for being unusually close to his fans. He always goes to these concerts, which leads to a lot of funny clips that have been clicked millions of times on social networks.

In one, Styles addresses a girl directly because she’s screaming particularly loudly. Styles also reads self-drawn cues to his fans over and over again. “Am I too old to be a Harry Styles fan?” A woman’s sign reads. Briton reads the sign and responds on stage, “Never!” Once, noticing a sick fan in front of the stage, Styles stops the band and turns on the lights to make sure all is well.

Be nice to each other

The 29-year-old has developed his own motto over the years: “TPWK,” which stands for: “Treat People With Kindness.”

Styles first sang the line on a song from his album Fine Line. Meanwhile, the singer also sells merchandise with the logo—money raised goes to charities.

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For fans, TPWK has always been more than an advertising slogan. It is a sign of respect, which fans also cultivate among themselves. “Harrys,” as the fans call themselves, emphasize tolerance and community. This, in turn, fits nicely with probably the most important style characteristic: an emphasis on being different.

A fashion style that breaks gender roles

Soon after the end of his boy band career, the singer began wearing more colorful and extravagant outfits. The Brit quickly became a style icon, a symbol of the modern man who thinks little about gender roles. Often, he slips Styles into blouses and dresses, takes his photoshoot with feather boas and pink T-shirts, and experiments with painted jewelry and nails.

Styles is not a pioneer in this. The singer is often compared to rock legend David Bowie in the media. He had created colorful images in daring ’70s fashion, circa 1970 when he wore the dress on the cover of his album The Man Who Sold the World.

But fans see more in Styles’ clothing style. For them, the singer’s colorful clothes mean one thing above all else: you’re okay with how you look, you’re okay with who you are. Back in 2017, the musician told the British “Sun” unequivocally: “Everyone should be what he wants.”

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Self-love as a business model

Not least because of this, Harry Styles’ concerts are often called Great Safe Spaces specific. “Harris” are diverse, everyone is welcome at the singer’s concerts. Journalist Amika Khan wrote in a 2018 article for American magazine “HmmHarry Styles once helped her mother out. On stage, he exclaimed loudly: “Tina, she’s a lesbian.”

These dynamics are not entirely uncommon. Other artists, for example in the K-Pop genre, build on the grand narrative of tolerance and self-love: the bands always live up to the concerns of the LGBTQIA+ community, raise money for the underprivileged and speak out for body positivity. Their fans accept it with gratitude: the bands’ collections are colorful, they find friends all over the world through their shared hobby and special place, and they finally get the wonderful feeling of not being alone.

However, even the protagonists on stage rarely embody the fringe group. All of them are radiantly beautiful – and often let themselves go under the knife for this at a young age. In addition, almost all stars are categorically heterosexual and, of course, celibate.

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Uncommitted strange code

With Harry Styles, the big promise somehow feels more real. In 2020, the Briton was the first man to appear on the cover of American “Vogue” due to his unusual style. the Cut cover Styles was showcased in a maxi Alessando Michele gown by Gucci with a tailored tuxedo jacket. He’s also standing topless in a Chopova Lowena-style skirt.

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At this point, Styles is one of the few major artists actively questioning gender roles, not just talking about them. Right-wingers and conservatives in the US are so upset that they are campaigning against the singer on social networks – and she says that “real men” are needed again.

But criticism is also directed within the LGBTQIA+ community. The Brit is basically silent about his sexuality. Not a few So the singer is accusedto engage in what is called “queerbaiting”. Understandably, this means, for example, when straight men use the stylistic tools of the queer community to exploit them for marketing purposes. Queer icons like gay rapper Lil Nas X deserved more from the cover of “Vogue.”

Just clever marketing?

As much as Harry Styles may dishonor his costume – in interviews and public statements, he doesn’t do it on principle. The singer almost never expresses himself politically – the singer only answers allegations in a primitive manner.

Styles told Rolling Stone in August 2022 that he never talks about his private life. Paparazzi has repeatedly posted photos showing him with women – but he has never publicized love affairs. Recently, the gossip press reported on an affair with actress Olivia Wilde, with whom he has since parted ways.

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In an interview with Better Homes and GardensIn April of last year, Styles stressed that it was no longer necessary to define an individual’s sexuality — it was “outdated.” “It doesn’t matter,” he told the magazine, “It’s about not having to categorize everything, not having to explain what boxes you check.”

One can interpret this as a particularly progressive position, as the right step into the future. But maybe the singer is making it too easy on himself. If you stay as vague as possible about everything, the attack surface will remain small. At the same time, building a certain myth, even if it relates only to one’s sexuality, guarantees the greatest possible marketing effect. And marketing, as we now know, is something Harry Styles is very good at.