What is a Harry Styles Era?
Fans of Harry Styles are notorious for marking the growth and fashion of the British singer-songwriter, through his “eras.”
This includes (and most definitely is not limited to) long-haired Harry, Dunkirk Harry, the Live on Tour Era, and the Fine Line Era.
There is even a website page dedicated to this concept.
Now, we enter a new era with his third album coming out on May 20th, 2022, “Harry’s House.”
If you haven’t yet heard, on April 1st, he released the first single off of the new album. This single is called “As it Was,” and depicts one major theme the album is assumed to have: homecoming.
Breaking Down the Song and Video
This song, however, is not so upfront with this theme, but instead tiptoes around the idea of growth and understanding who you have become. It is more about the journey of finding a new home, a new self, after maturing and changing. This is especially evident in the repeated chorus of, “In this world, it’s just us, you know it’s not the same as it was.”
Harry Styles has always been one for symbolism in his music videos, and there are two particular instances worth mentioning. The first is the color choice of costumes. Throughout the entire video, Styles is seen wearing red, while his partner, is seen in blue. This left fans thinking of the 1999 film The Matrix, and the choice between a red pill and a blue pill.
The red pill, Harry, represents the choice of learning about the unsettling or life-changing truth, whereas the blue pill represents staying in happy ignorance.
In the video, it seems like Harry is the one who has learned the truth, which left him spiraling (he is literally spiraling…part of the video is shot on a turntable) but still wants to hang onto the bliss that he had before. At the end of this section, the actor in the blue jumpsuit slides off the turntable, signifying his choice in the red. This can be both about self-growth or changes in a relationship, but either way, the costume design seems to be very purposeful and symbolic of the themes throughout the song.
Another image seen in the music video is one that isn’t as obvious and required a little more digging. Harry and his partner in blue are laying flat on a colorful background, while other cast members place large metal pins (that look almost like walkers) over their arms and legs.
Fans have pointed out that this is likely symbolic of the way butterflies are examined. Often when put on display behind glass, the insects are first pinned down to be spread out to reveal the most “valuable” presentation: the inside of their wings. This also includes moths, which is the main tattoo visible on Styles’ chest.
There are many guesses as to what this could represent, but likely it comes from the way celebrities (especially young celebrities) are put on display to create a brand. Much like how One Direction had to abide by the rules of their management to maintain a certain audience perception.
But the end of the video and song completes an arc with the themes of acceptance and understanding. Harry is bouncing around, running, dancing, and even smiling. This is where the music video ends. Perhaps, this will be the motif of the following track on the album.
“As it Was” was beautifully directed by Tanu Muino, where the entire creative team is from Ukraine; the credits state, “Made with love by a creative team from Ukraine.” It is clear there was much thought put into this production where there is a new theory and explanation around each corner (or with each new scroll on TikTok).
This era has been one that has been bubbling under the surface for quite some time and the arrival of the first song has already created a frenzy.
Starting at the 2021 Grammy’s when Styles rocked a leather suit and green boa, fans wondered if this would be a clue as to what the next album will sound like. You’ll see here that fans may have had good intuition with this one, as he is seen wearing a similar thin scarf in the “As it Was” music video, with an 80s flair to the synth-pop song.
But this era, much like the Fine Line Era, is already proving to have a deeper and more mature undertone, moved by the music and motifs rather than fashion and perception.
Why is this important?
Music is important for many reasons, whether it be escapism, reflection, or excitement. There are plenty of psychological studies that show the effects of music on the brain and body. Specifically, this album is important because of the number of people who identify with this music. In just 6 hours, the video has been viewed over 6 million times.
He’s definitely doing something right.
Now, I am no stranger to writing about Harry Styles, so it’s clear I have a bias: I have a piece on society’s perception of boy bands, where the topic surrounds the toxic masculinity and homophobic nature surrounding music consumption.
I also have a fiction piece based on the song, “From the Dining Table” from Styles’ first album. And for this new era, I couldn’t shy away from writing another commentary on the importance of his work.
This song is sure to hit high on the charts and show a new side of the singer-songwriter that is so widely loved. His authenticity and attention to detail are appreciated by many people who are eagerly awaiting the end of May for the album's release.