As a member of the British boy band One Direction, singer, songwriter, and actor Harry Styles topped the charts in impressive fashion, toured the world to play for millions of screaming fans, and sold albums by the bucketload before going solo in 2016 with his chart-topping debut, Harry Styles, and his similarly successful 2019 follow-up, Fine Line. The music he made under his own name reflected the savvy pop sound of his former band while adding elements of rock, both classic and indie, and always showcasing his elastic, deeply felt vocals.
Born in Redditch, England, in 1994, Styles was raised in Holmes Chapel, Cheshire, and he made his first foray into music with a high school band named White Eskimo. In 2010, he left home and joined the seventh season of The X Factor, where fate (and Simon Cowell) would eventually lead him toward a life-changing opportunity with four other young men. As One Direction, Styles and his bandmates Zayn Malik, Louis Tomlinson, Niall Horan, and Liam Payne would release five albums from 2011 to 2015, hitting number one across the globe and selling millions of records to an adoring and rabid fan base that drew comparisons to the fervor at the height of Beatlemania. In early 2016, after Malik had already parted ways with 1D, the remaining foursome announced an indefinite hiatus.
Months later, Styles signed a solo deal with Columbia. Reflecting the influence of childhood favorites like Queen, Elton John, and the Beatles, Styles' solo material took a more serious and rock-based approach, while still delivering the pop sound his faithful 1D fans desired. With the help of Grammy-winning producer Jeff Bhasker (who had worked with Kanye West and Bruno Mars), Styles put together a small band and, after rehearsing the songs, headed to Jamaica for two months to record an album. The plaintive "Sign of the Times" was released as its first single in April 2017 and quickly rose to the top of the charts across Europe. The self-titled full-length followed in May and debuted at the top of the charts in Australia, the U.S., and across Europe. Later that summer, he made his movie debut as a soldier in Christopher Nolan's Oscar-winning epic Dunkirk, which was the top film in the U.S. the week of its release, making Styles the first British artist to secure a number one debut single, album, and film in the same year. He set off on a lengthy worldwide tour that lasted from September 2017 through July 2018, then began recording his second album with producers Kid Harpoon and Tyler Johnson, both of whom worked on his debut.
Taking time off from the sessions -- which took place at various studios in California, England, and Nashville -- in 2019, Styles inducted Stevie Nicks into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, co-hosted the Met Gala, and modeled for Gucci. The finished album, Fine Line, was released in December and found the singer adding influences as varied as Childish Gambino-styled funk and Bon Iver-esque baroque folk to his repertoire. Soon after the release of the record, a number three U.K. hit and a number one Billboard 200 entry, Styles embarked on a world tour. ~ Neil Z. Yeung
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