In an interview with Variety magazine for its Hitmaker of the Year cover, Harry Styles talked about why he didn’t sweat the Vogue magazine cover backlash, as well as his reaction to this summer’s Black Lives Matter protests and his hopes for music’s post-pandemic return.
Styles, 26, promised that despite the nearly year-long lockdown due to the pandemic — which forced him to postpone his Love on Tour outing until February 2021 — “there will be a time we dance again.” The singer spent nine months in London during COVID, which gave him plenty of time to 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.”
And, after receiving some backlash from right-wing commenters about the Gucci dress he wore as the first solo man to ever appear on the cover of Vogue, Styles brushed off those who question his gender-agnostic approach to fashion as being, well, unfashionable. “To not wear [something] because it’s females’ clothing, you shut out a whole world of great clothes,” he said. “And I think what’s exciting about right now is you can wear what you like. It doesn’t have to be X or Y. Those lines are becoming more and more blurred.”
Styles also took to Instagram to share a photo of himself from the Variety shoot, captioning it, “Bring back manly men,” in a clear clapback to Candace Owens, who had slammed Styles’ Vogue cover. (“It is an outright attack. Bring back manly men,” she wrote of the photos of him in a dress.)
Leaving Los Angeles and returning to England earlier this year also forced Styles to take a look inward and when the BLM protests erupted following the police killing of George Floyd. The singer spoke out publicly in a widely-liked Instagram message in May about his white privilege, pledging to donate to post bail for arrested organizers.
“Talking about race can be really uncomfortable for everyone,” Styles said. “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?”
While Styles is five years removed from his One Direction days, he also reflected on his time in the group and how much he learned by studying the songwriting chops of 1D collaborators Ryan Tedder, Savan Kotecha and Teddy Geiger. “When we were in the band, I used to try and write with as many different people as I could,” he said. “I wanted to practice — and I wrote a lot of bad s–t.” And, in case you’re wondering why Harry never badmouths his boy band days, the explanation was very simple.
“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,” he told the magazine “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.”