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As it’s been a whole year since this beauty of an album graced us, let’s take a moment of appreciation once again. Tweeting on 13th December, Harry Styles celebrated his fans, saying “Fine Line is one year old. I couldn’t be more grateful for you all continually finding new ways to change my life. Thank you for listening, and for everything else. I always love you, but especially today. H”. Styles’ second studio album did in fact become an instant fan favourite, topping the Billboard 200 chart as his debut self-titled album did too. So let’s take a little look into why the album rose to such success, and why it deserves all the praise it gets.
Not only did the album alone itself become a bestseller, but the singles Styles released also became instant hits. ‘Watermelon Sugar’ became perhaps one of 2020’s defining summer songs, with his other singles ‘Lights Up’, ‘Adore You’, ‘Falling’ and ‘Golden’ becoming hugely successful too. Based on the success of his singles alone, Harry Styles’ Fine Line era has topped that of his first album (which was a masterpiece in its own right). I feel like the singles themselves tell you so much about the nature of the album, each of them demonstrating a slightly different voice of Harry Styles that he exposes to us throughout Fine Line. His most well-known single, ‘Watermelon Sugar’ exposes the pure chaotic, good vibes, fun version of Styles; whilst ‘Falling’ lets listeners into the more vulnerable and soulful side to his songwriting.
The diversity of Harry Styles’ songwriting and storytelling becomes clearer through the rest of the album too. Listening to the album top to bottom, we see Styles expose us to the process of falling and being consumed in love (‘Golden’ and ‘Watermelon Sugar’), to holding onto a relationship as it falls apart before him (‘Adore You’ and ‘Lights Up’), to seeing his lover move on (‘Cherry’ – a personal favourite, ‘Falling’ and ‘To Be So Lonely’), to healing and finding someone new (‘She’, ‘Sunflower Vol. 6’ and ‘Canyon Moon’), to self-acceptance (‘Treat People With Kindness’), and finally a reflection on his past relationship with the potential desire to return to it (‘Fine Line’). Styles takes us along with him, letting his listeners also feel the emotions of this relationship. Perhaps that is why, even a whole year later, the album still ranks so highly amongst listeners. That, and that the diversity of the songs, from classic pop with ‘Adore You’ to a heartfelt ballad with ‘Falling’ and a rock number with ‘She’, being able to cater to so many different tastes.
Styles’ diversity doesn’t seem to just be limited to his artistic songwriting though. It would be difficult to write an article on him and Fine Line right now without mentioning that iconic Vogue cover. Throughout his debut album era, fans saw Harry Styles evolve from his heartthrob One Direction phase into something far more unique. His style and character emerged into his own through his songwriting, performing and gender-blurring outfit choices (take a look at his 2019 Met Gala outfit for an example of some of his earlier exemplary outfits). His gender blurring outfits seemed to have reached new heights though through his recent Vogue cover shoot, where he became the first male to grace the cover in a solo shoot, doing so in a ballgown and tuxedo jacket. This immediately became the target of conservative backlash, but I think seeing his simple, sarcastic “bring back manly men” Instagram response to the criticism sums up Styles entirely. Through his personal presence and the entire atmosphere he created through Fine Line, Styles has constantly worked at breaking down the restrictive barriers that shape parts of society. Through his dress sense, he has pushed the barriers of prescribed gender barriers, and through the diversity of his music, he has pushed the barriers of what it means to be a pop artist in today’s music industry.
So Fine Line remains just as relevant a year after its release. Recently becoming a three-time Grammy nominee, Styles seems to be getting the recognition he absolutely deserves. His second album is definitely worth putting on repeat and really paying attention to – I’m confident that there’s something in it for absolutely everyone; if nothing else, just the reminder to ‘Treat People With Kindness’.