By Amanda Dronzek
On December 13 of 2020, Fine Line turned 1 year old. The critically acclaimed pop rock album written by none other than the British singer and songwriter, Harry Styles, achieved great milestones with its success. Beginning with the release of his single, Lights Up in October of last year, Styles began the Fine Line era. The album topped the charts, earning Harry 3 Grammy nominations for the upcoming event in January of 2021. Styles made the equivalent of 478,000 album units in the US in just 6 days, making him the biggest male pop artist in 4 years to accomplish such a thing. Fine Line became the third biggest album of 2019, rightfully earning its place on the Billboard top 100 at Number 1 on December 24, 2019. Styles began his solo career in 2017, 2 years following the hiatus of One Direction. Cutting his hair in early 2016 set the scene for a solo career to be formed, and the rest was history.
Being Number 1 on the Billboard top 100 was child’s play for Styles, as his first self-titled album, Harry Styles, achieved the same success on its debut in 2017. In addition to being Number 1 worldwide, Harry became the first UK male artist to reach the top of the charts with his first two album releases. Piggybacking on the success of HS1, Fine Line sold 393,000 copies of the full album in the first week of its release. Following that, the album got 109 million streams in just its first week. In December of 2020, it has now reached over 565 million streams on Spotify along with selling over 2 million album equivalent units worldwide. After Lights Up, Styles continued to dominate the music industry, going platinum in 15 countries in less than a year of its release.
The beginning of the Fine Line era truly showed the world the charisma and talent of Harry Styles. In One Direction, the boys co-wrote songs, but Styles rarely was able to express himself lyrically. With HS1, he himself even claimed he was playing it safe, and he cared too much about what the public would say. With Fine Line, the psychedelic pop rock genre he had hoped to create fueled the immediate success of his album. Each song was strung together, bound by a story of self discovery. The tracks went through Styles finding himself after being heartbroken, presumably by his supposed ex-girlfriend, Camilie Rowe. However, it was Harry’s emotional connection to his music that brought so much success to the album. His incredible way with words and the thought put into perfecting every lyric and every sound was what made critics starstruck. The Rolling Stone magazine was proud to announce they put Styles’s album at place 491 of the best music albums of all time.
Once Lights Up came out, fans speculated the song was meant to take people through a journey of rediscovery, and letting go of the need to please people. It also pointed at Styles’s own self expression. A repeating lien from the song, “Do you know who you are?” became a notion towards the process of Styles’s journey to becoming the first male to be on the cover of Vogue alone in November of 2020. Styles sported a dress, wearing it proudly as he finally was able to find himself and become the person he’d wanted to be since One Direction.
To capitalize on Lights Up, Styles created an entire storyline with his singles, keeping the train of self discovery running with Adore You, his second single release. The music video took place on a fantasy island named Eroda and told the tale of a young boy who saved a fish from the island. The peculiarity and whimsical feeling to the island made the music video a cinematic masterpiece, one that the Grammy nominated purely for its utterly beautiful storyline. In the video, Styles played the young boy, a child like nobody else who lived on the island. He had a light inside him that nobody else did. The island was dark and gloomy, as Styles found the fish out of water, which fans presumed represented Harry in a way. His entire life, he had lacked the ability to be himself and he had always felt alone in a bubble. However, he has never actually come forward and confirmed this theory.
Based on the album itself, many people believe the theme of self love and discovery evidently is what created the rumors of Styles being his own fish out of water. At the end of the video, Styles released the fish as it grew too big for its tank. Metaphorically, this released the little boy which we all could conclude, was Harry himself. Suddenly, Eroda bloomed and life returned to its bubbly and colorful state. The message being, freeing yourself from your deepest insecurities and fears can reopen the world to your eyes. It can even appear beautiful again.
As if Adore You wasn’t enough, in February of 2020 Styles released his third single’s music video, Falling. The heart breaking ballad tapped on the feeling of emptiness and the internal struggle Styles had experienced while looking for his true self. The video showed Styles depressed, at his lowest point, drowning in his own sorrows. Being in the public eye from such a young age may have taken a blogger toll on the artist than many people thought. The downside to being in a band was the lack of freedom to express yourself, which is what Styles is all about. Nobody truly knows if the song relates directly to Harry, but nonetheless, this beautifully unhappy piece kept Fine Line on top.
After a year of firsts for the British artist, in May Styles released the music video to his fourth single, Watermelon Sugar, the first chart topper of his career, being placed at Number 1 on the Billboard and earning him yet another Grammy nomination for best solo performance. On the path of finding himself, Styles finally was able to shed some light on the melancholy feeling that Falling had brought to the table. In short, Harry was able to write his songs his way, direct them the way he chose, and be the rock star he was born to become. To wrap up the era once and for all, Styles released his fifth and final video from Fine Line. Golden the full circle resolution of the stories Harry told for nearly a year. Golden surfaced on the mere happiness and liberating feeling of rebuilding the broken pieces. The song to many appears as a jubilant tale, but deep down, it shows the ups and downs of growing into yourself.
Lights Up was the story of Styles’s rebirth as an artist and a person. Adore You showed him breaking free, but soon showed the aching emptiness of being yourself and opening up, otherwise known as Falling. Eventually, Styles was able to see himself again in Watermelon Sugar, filming the video on the same beach as One Direction’s first single 10 years ago, What Makes You Beautiful. And where does that leave us? Golden. The ending of all endings, the gateway to self expression, the gateway to the Harry Styles we think of every day of our lives.