Pop Genealogy: Harry Styles

The date was August 23, 2015. It was a day in which the collective blood ran cold in millions of fans of the British-Irish boyband One Direction. However, while there was despair abound, there was also hope. Fans were left to anticipate what the members’ solo music would yield. I personally had my bets on one horse in particular: Harry Styles. Styles had always been a stand out voice and personality in the group. For years there have been rumblings from fans that Styles was destined to be the Justin Timberlake of One Direction. Jill O’Rouke from Alloy was writing about it in 2014 saying, “I think Harry’s solo career will look different from Justin’s from a musical standpoint since he seems to have a different style. But he’s still got the pipes and the charisma.” To a degree, she was pretty accurate. With Styles’ newfound creative control, he leaned more onto sounds of 1970s rock than on the more traditional, radio-friendly released of his One Direction counterparts.

Pink Floyd

From the very first track on the record, we have glaring similarities between “Meet Me In The Hallway” and Pink Floyd’s “Breathe.” The chords are similar, and the songs both share the same rich bass tone, and vocal reverbs. “Breathe” has much more going on, with dramatic ambiance and slide guitars, but while “Meet Me In The Hallway” is a much more stripped back tune, the same feeling of ambiance still hangs in the space between its components.

Elton John

Harry Styles’ song “Woman” isn’t a far cry from Elton John’s classic “Bennie and the Jets” from the initial piano/guitar stabs that kick off both songs. Additionally, both songs employ repetitive consonant hooks between “Buh-Buh-Buh-Bennie and the Jets” and Styles’ “Wuh-Women.”

The Rolling Stones

When “Only Angel” starts, its ambient organ, operatic vocal swells and delicate piano lead you to think you’re in for “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” In reality, at the 53-second mark, we’re into a Rolling Stones strut more akin to “Bitch”. The lyrics illustrate similar sexually fueled relationships. Where The Stones sing: “When you call my name / I salivate like a Pavlov Dog,” Styles’ illustrates similar as he  “Broke a finger knocking on your bedroom door / I got splinters in my knuckles crawling cross the floor.”


Works Cited for this post can be found here.

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