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Five Burning Questions: Harry Styles Scores a Top 10 Hit With ‘Adore You’

Is Harry now officially part of pop's most elite tier? And do we wish he was able to share the wealth with some of his less-recently successful One Direction bandmates? Billboard answers these…

Nearly three years on from the release of his much-anticipated debut single “Sign of the Times,” Harry Styles is bigger than ever.

His sophomore album Fine Line — released just under the wire at the turn of the decade — drew better sales and stronger reviews than his self-titled debut LP. His Love on Tour trek is set to take him to arenas all around the world in 2021, after its original summer schedule was postponed due to the coronavirus. And now, he has one of the 10 biggest songs in the country, as Fine Line‘s “Adore You” leaps 16-7 on this week’s Hot 100.

Is Harry now officially part of pop’s most elite tier? And do we wish he was able to share the wealth with some of his less-recently successful One Direction bandmates? Billboard answers these questions and more below.

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1. It took a little over three months, but “Adore You” has finally climbed into the Hot 100’s top ten — Harry Styles’ first-ever true solo radio smash. How do you feel about this being the song to put him over the top at top 40? 

Stephen Daw: “Adore You” certainly isn’t the song I thought would send Harry into the top 10 — when “Watermelon Sugar” was first released, upon seeing the massive hype it was receiving, I thought it stood the best chance of cracking the upper echelons of the list. But that being said, I’m so glad “Adore You” is moving on up, because plainly, it is Styles’ best single to date — and probably the best song from Fine Line, which was already an absolutely stunning album.

Lyndsey Havens: I feel fantastic about it. It’s a pretty no-brainer recipe, really: catchy riff, gorgeous harmonies and the fact that Harry Styles is singing to men and women around the world “let me adore you.” This track is incredibly easy to both dance and fantasize to; as any great hit does, it offers a perfect escape. Whether or not that’s to Eroda is up to the listener.

Jason Lipshutz: I’m less surprised by the slick, romantic “Adore You” being the song that brought Styles over the hump than Styles getting over the hump in general, at least in terms of his current stylistic approach. Styles is making large-hearted, ‘70s-indebted pop-rock, which is decidedly not what has been working at top 40 radio over the past several years. Whether the success of “Adore You” can be chalked up to a growing trend of throwback pop (see also: Dua Lipa’s “Don’t Start Now,” Doja Cat’s “Say So”), the continued appeal of Styles as a mainstream celebrity, or a combination of the two, the song marks a key moment in his ascent.

Kevin Rutherford: I’m conflicted! My personal taste tends toward all three singles from Styles’ debut album, all of which were not the radio hits “Adore You” has become, despite “Sign of the Times” peaking higher on the Hot 100 so far. So, like, justice for those songs! At the same time, both of Styles’ solo albums have been incredibly strong artistic statements from someone who deserves to have a fruitful career under his own name. So having any song of his find success on radio is fine by me.

Andrew Unterberger: I think it’s basically as it should be. When I first heard “Adore You,” I had the same reaction that a lot of radio programmers probably did: finally. While Styles had been releasing advance tracks off Fine Line that were alluring and intriguing, this was the first one that felt like him really announcing his presence with authority: as Harry Styles, pop star, not to be denied. My only grievance is that “Sign of the Times,” his jaw-dropping solo breakout — which ultimately proved a bit too deliberately paced for 2017 radio — didn’t get there first.

2. The ascent of “Adore You” caps a hell of a peak for Styles over the past few months, as he also scored one of the best first-week performances of recent years with sophomore LP Fine Line in late 2019, announced a massive arena tour, and delivered a number of high-profile live performances. Is he now officially an A-list pop star, or does he still have something left to prove? 

Stephen Daw: Having attended one of his shows at Madison Square Garden in 2018, I can tell you that Harry Styles was already an A-list pop star based on the earth-shattering screams from his fans that left my ears ringing for two days after. Even though “Adore You” is his first top 10 hit since “Sign of the Times” — which debuted in the top five and slid pretty quickly from there — those sales numbers, tours and performances all came because of his already white-hot star power, both from his time in One Direction and his two excellent solo projects. I don’t even know what else Harry would have to do to earn that A-list status; maybe if he hopped on a song with Billie Eilish, then he could be deemed an A+-lister.

Lyndsey Havens: Uh, once Stevie Nicks tells the entire internet that she is inspired by your album, there is nothing left to prove. Similar to the way in which so many are hesitant to call Billie Eilish a “pop star,” because she feels and sounds like so much more, I believe the same applies here. Styles is capable of being so incredibly vulnerable when delivering a ballad like “Falling,” and a bonafide rockstar with explosive energy on a track like “Kiwi” (off his self-titled debut). With just two solo albums, he has shown so many sides of himself and made clear that his artistic expression is incredibly wide-ranging. So no, I don’t think he has anything left to prove — but plenty more to show us.

Jason Lipshutz: Styles entered the One Direction hiatus with a ton of solo promise, and “Adore You” becoming a legitimate radio hit ticks off one of the boxes he had remaining on his way to superstardom. He already had the name recognition, the stage presence, the arena-ready ticket sales, the No. 1 album debuts, the critical approval and the cross-platform appeal like his SNL hosting gig. Now he has a crossover hit to his name. He still has to win the awards — zero Grammy nominations so far — but that might be coming in 2021.

Kevin Rutherford: He has something to prove still, but he’s also an A-lister for all of the reasons outlined. That’s especially true with regards to his live shows; those are some hefty touring numbers he’s pulling two albums in, proving his solo career was no one-album wonder. But I don’t know that he’s yet at the level where a brand-new single, whenever it’s released, will challenge for a No. 1 debut on the Hot 100, which is sort of the gold standard in my eyes. So call him A-list, but there’s still room for growth.

Andrew Unterberger: Yeah, he’s basically there at this point. A major festival headlining slot or iconic award show performance would help cement his case, perhaps, and one lone radio hit might not be much of a buy-in to sit at the table with the likes of Drake and Taylor Swift. But at any given point in pop history, there’s ten stars who anyone even slightly familiar with popular music can recognize by one name only, and right now Harry’s one of them.

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3. How far can “Adore You” still climb on the Hot 100 from here? Does it have a chance of becoming Styles’ first-ever No. 1 single, with or without One Direction?

Stephen Daw: If Harry’s able to keep up the momentum that “Adore You” saw this week, then I think he could be well on his way to a No. 1 single. I’m somewhat doubtful that it will actually be able to cross the threshold, if only because of the song’s genre-fluidity (and the monster hit that is “The Box”), but I think that with some good timing, Harry might be sitting atop the Hot 100 in the next few weeks.

Lyndsey Havens: I’m almost always wrong, but I don’t think it will climb to the chart’s summit. Dua Lipa is about to release her album, and my bet would be on “Don’t Start Now” getting to replace “The Box” at No. 1 before anything else. That being said, though, Lewis Capaldi’s tender “Someone You Loved” made it to the top, and “Adore You” does have a bit more energy to it… and Stevie Nicks did just endorse the entire album… so, maybe?

Jason Lipshutz: It’s got an outside shot, but there are other songs ahead of it in the top 10 that could more feasibly climb up to the top spot and stay there for a bit, from the Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights” to Dua Lipa’s “Don’t Start Now.” A few things would have to break right for young Harry, but having “Adore You” become his first career chart-topper would be quite the story for the 1D gent.

Kevin Rutherford: Its entrance into the top 10 of the Hot 100 is concurrent with a new peak of No. 3 on Pop Songs and a new weekly spins high on Adult Pop Songs, retaining his peak of No. 7. As long as “Adore You” still has a ceiling at radio to which it can ascend (see: No. 1 on either), it can – and will – climb the Hot 100. A No. 1, though, isn’t likely in the cards, barring some sort of viral moment; the streams just aren’t there right now and probably won’t be in the way he’d need to top the chart.

Andrew Unterberger: I wouldn’t bet on it, but radio is kind of an X factor here. “Adore You” is currently No. 4 on Radio Songs and still picking up steam — and anecdotally, it’s seemed like streaming numbers have dipped a little across the board for the country’s biggest songs post-quarantine. That could leave the No. 1 spot a little more open than usual for an old-fashioned FM smash, which “Adore You” is certainly well on its way to being.

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4. Harry’s pop/rock fairy godmother Stevie Nicks made waves on the Internet yesterday by congratulating her protégé on Fine Line, referring to the album as his Rumours. (Well, technically his “Runours,” but close enough.) On a scale from 1-10, how accurate do you find her assessment? 

Stephen Daw: I’m gonna give Stevie’s statement a solid 7. Yes, Fine Line is an excellent album, and easily Harry’s best work to date, much like Rumours was for the band. But it’s important to remember that Rumours, along with being Fleetwood Mac’s eleventh studio album (Fine Line is just Styles’ second solo album), was the band’s peak moment. Despite having a massively successful career after Rumours, the group never replicated that record-breaking kind of success again. To me, Fine Line is just the beginning of Harry’s success, not his peak.

Lyndsey Havens: Look, I would never disagree with Stevie Nicks, but… it’s hard to compare any modern day release, especially one that still feels so very new, with a true classic. Rumours captured so much tension and turmoil (and pain for all those involved, I am sure), and that all pours out with every listen; and while Fine Line is an incredible record front to back, I think we should revisit this question in 40+ years. For now I’ll say a 6.5.

Jason Lipshutz: I mean… I love Fine Line, but I give this comparison a 3, because Rumours is one of the most eternal albums ever created. Fine Line is front-to-back impressive and heavily indebted by the melodic brilliance of Fleetwood Mac, but I personally hope that Styles has even greater mountains to climb, and comes up with something as monumental as Rumours over the course of his career.

Kevin Rutherford: Who am I to say something is less Rumours than the person who helped make the original Rumours? If Nicks says it’s his Rumours, I believe her. 10/10. Excited for his experimental (by Styles standards) Tusk-esque follow-up.

Andrew Unterberger: I give it a one, because all comparisons of quality aside, Rumours was an album defined by the singularly spectacular behind-the-scenes drama, heartbreak and bitterness that underlined, informed and ultimately defined its creation. No shade to Fine Line, an excellent album, but whatever LP the 21st century Rumours ends up being will not have a song called “Treat People With Kindness” on it.

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5. While Styles’ career seems to be trending relentlessly upwards, his four mates in One Direction have all practically disappeared from the Hot 100. If you could portion out Harry’s career momentum to any or all of the other four 1Ders, what percentage would you give each of them — or would you just keep it all for Harry?

Stephen Daw: Call me brutal, but I don’t really care about the other members of the band. None of their solo music has had the same kind of impact on me as Harry’s has. So if I’m getting to decide what to do with Harry’s momentum, I say he can have all of it!

Lyndsey Havens: I’ll never forget the day my journalism professor told us we would still need math in this profession. I’d say: 45% to Harry, 25% to Niall and then 10% to Zayn, Louis and Liam. Did I do that right?

Jason Lipshutz: Let Harry keep it all. While Niall, Liam, Louis and Zayn will all have solo career highlights and don’t necessarily require outside assistance to do so, Styles has the chance to be a once-in-a-generation talent based on his current trajectory. Why mess with something so special?

Kevin Rutherford: Styles can keep all of his, 100%. The others are grown-ass men, they can fend for themselves.

Andrew Unterberger: Harry clearly has the highest upside of the bunch, so I’m fine with letting him keep half of it. I’d also give 25% to Louis, who has some very fun Britpop instincts that I think are a little missing in U.K. pop at the moment and which I’d love to see him follow down. Then maybe 15% to Zayn, who kinda got a raw deal after a promising start and could use a nudge back in the right direction. And 10% to Niall just so we can maybe wring one more “Slow Hands” out of him. Liam… well, he had a good run.