Harry Styles Wants to Do the Right Thing: "I Don't Think I've Been Outspoken Enough in the Past"
After the critical and public reception of Harry Styles's Fine Line, it's no wonder he was tapped to be Variety's "Hitmaker of the Year." From the success of "Watermelon Sugar" and the stunning visuals of the "Golden" music video to his casting in Don't Worry Darling, Harry has had a banner 2020, which he discussed as part of his Variety Hitmakers issue cover story. The 26-year-old isn't shy about how he's found time for himself this year while making sure to also become more outspoken about things that matter to him, like making sure "the right things are still being done and the right people are getting the right opportunities." Ahead, you can read some of his best quotes from the interview, including those about race and the music industry, his time in One Direction, and his music-making process.
- On deciding to speak out following the murder of George Floyd: "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?"
- On how the music industry deals with race: "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 the current political climate: "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 being in One Direction: "I learned so much. When we were in the band, I used to try and write with as many different people as I could. I wanted to practice — and I wrote a lot of bad sh*t."
- On the success of his One Direction bandmates: "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."
- On his 2017 solo debut album, Harry Styles: "I love that album so much because it represents such a time in my life, but when I listen to it — sonically and lyrically, especially — I can hear places where I was playing it safe. I was scared to get it wrong."
- On his hope for the future of live music: "There will be a time we dance again."
- On 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."
- On being recognized both critically and with Grammy nominations: "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 added: "It's about the work that you do when you're not expecting any applause."
- On taking time for himself during the pandemic: "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."