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2022 Was the Year of Harry Styles

Vogue 12/8/2022 Michelle Ruiz

Every year is, for me personally, the year of Harry Styles—but even unbiased observers confirm that the singer, fledgling actor, and consummate showman dominated the cultural landscape of 2022. From his blockbuster Love on Tour and the release of his third album, Harry’s House, to decidedly not spitting on Chris Pine and one very scandalous salad dressing... Mr. Styles was simply ubiquitous in 2022. So ubiquitous that, if not for his preternatural charm and a long-standing restraint with respect to granting interviews, he might have even treaded on overexposure—but no. Below, find a comprehensive-ish look back at the Year in Harry Styles.

Harry’s House

Styles laid the foundation for an ascendant 2022 with Harry’s House, his third solo album. Released in March, its cover, on which he wears a smocked Molly Goddard baby doll blouse and wide-leg jeans in an upside-down room, spoke to the upended, pandemic clime in which the record was created.

April brought its first single—“As It Was”—a bona fide bop mixed with synth-twinged sadness that went on to be Spotify’s most-streamed song of the year with 1.6 billion plays. While lyrically, Fine Line has my heart, the release of Harry's House in May revealed Styles’s most interesting and layered sonic approach yet; a rollercoaster of horn-y (truly, horn-forward!) dance party hits like “Music for a Sushi Restaurant” and emo singer-songwriter expressions like “Matilda” and “Little Freak.” It all earned Styles his first Grammy nominations for album, record, and song of the year (for “As It Was”). Lest there was any doubt, Harry’s House confirmed that the release of a new Styles album is a time-stopping cultural event.

Styles during a Coachella set in April. © Photo: Getty Images Styles during a Coachella set in April.

Harry x Coachella

On the eve of Harry’s House’s release, Styles took to the desert and made like a rhinestone Gucci-clad cowboy for his first-ever headlining sets at Coachella in April. He was accompanied on his first weekend by special guest Shania Twain—whom he grew up listening to with his mom, Anne Twist—and, on weekend two, by his good friend Lizzo. (Together, they make for a duo that can’t not spark joy.) Coachella x H.S. was, of course, a rainbow and glitter-dusted blast and a glimpse at the album to come, but it also began to solidify Styles as both an upper-echelon solo artist and one of music’s most magnetic acts, fit for entertaining an audience of more than 100,000.

Styles performing on Long Island, New York last May. © Vogue Styles performing on Long Island, New York last May.

All the Love on Tour

There was arguably no bigger party in 2022 than Styles’s world tour, grounded by residencies in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Austin and two very special “One Night Only” performances on Long Island and in London in which Styles played Harry’s House front-to-back. This was the year that Styles established himself as one of the most in-demand performers working, with the 15-night New York residency breaking Phish’s record for most consecutive shows played by a single artist at Madison Square Garden—and culminating in an emotional banner-raising.

Styles created an easy intimacy in even the biggest and most iconic venues, airplane-arming around in playful ringer tees and custom Adidas x Gucci Gazelles and interacting with fans—whether by singing them “Happy Birthday,” helping them to come out, or talking through their breakups—during interludes. He’s also been known to gleefully torment his guitarist and close friend, Mitch Rowland.

The cast of Don’t Worry Darling in Venice. © Photo: Getty Images The cast of Don’t Worry Darling in Venice.

We did worry, darling

Don’t Worry Darling, directed by Styles’s former girlfriend Olivia Wilde, will go down in the annals of film history for its offscreen, intra-cast drama. Not even Styles—returning to acting as company man Jack Chambers, his most substantive role yet—was immune. At the Venice Film Festival premiere of DWD in September, a psychological thriller itself, Styles was accused (by Twitter, primarily) of spitting on co-star Chris Pine as he entered the theater. 

While the footage in question was plenty deceptive, and Styles’s fans knew from go that the man whose totally earnest life motto is “treat people with kindness” would never, the conspiracy theory escalated so feverishly that Styles himself commented (a rare occurrence), treating the to-do with the level of seriousness it deserved. “I just popped very quickly to Venice to spit on Chris Pine,” Styles told the crowd at one of his New York shows. (Predictably, everyone went wild.)

Wilde and Styles’s relationship was the subtext of the DWD press tour, even if they gave fans little to nothing in the way of body language or direct contact (by year’s end, they were reportedly on a break). Styles notably did not comment in October when he was referenced in a sordid Daily Mail account from a nanny that worked for Wilde and her ex-partner Jason Sudeikis. In her telling of the couple’s unraveling, the nanny emphasized that Wilde had brought Styles her “special salad”—the deepest of cuts, apparently. Said salad’s dressing recipe gripped the Internet until Wilde herself revealed—quite anticlimactically—that it was a simple mustard vinaigrette from Nora Ephron’s novel Heartburn.

These “scandals” largely usurped discussions of Styles’s actual performance in DWD, but the question remained: Could Styles the pop star transition into a movie star? In my absolutely biased review, I wrote that the camera loves him and his charms translate to the big screen, although he was underused in over-sold sex scenes and given a role that asked a bit much of a new actor. 

Styles and co-star David Dawson at the Toronto International Film Festival premiere of My Policeman. © Photo: Getty Images Styles and co-star David Dawson at the Toronto International Film Festival premiere of My Policeman.

Our Policeman

Styles’s next foray into acting—Prime Video’s My Policeman—quickly followed in October. Styles played the closeted, dutiful policeman Tom Burgess (first depicted in the novel by Bethan Roberts) and did a delicate dance with co-star David Dawson in sex scenes that—unlike those in DWD—did not hold back. In discussing said scenes with Rolling Stone, however, Styles misstepped. “So much of gay sex in film is two guys going at it, and it kind of removes the tenderness from it,” he said, eliciting critiques that his comments were inaccurate and lacking in context.

Playing a queer character inevitably fueled the already ongoing discourse about Styles’s own identity, which he consistently declines to define for the public. In his Better Homes & Gardens cover story in April (a shelter magazine to promote Harry’s House? Sheer brilliance!) he said: “I’ve been really open with it with my friends, but that’s my personal experience; it’s mine… The whole point of where we should be heading, which is toward accepting everybody and being more open, is that it doesn’t matter, and it’s about not having to label everything, not having to clarify what boxes you’re checking.”

Harry’s House of Gucci

Styles’s creative partnership with Gucci and the fashion house’s outgoing creative director Alessandro Michele was foundational in his evolution from boy band member to modern pop star. It was only fitting, then, that after Gucci outfitted Styles for everything from his historic Vogue cover to the Met Gala and the Grammys, Styles would collaborate with his friend Michele on a capsule collection: Gucci HA HA HA, a characteristically playful collection of cherry-printed suiting and teddy-bear tees, released in November. Harry’s House? In 2022, it was Harry’s world. 

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