Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo
Culture > Entertainment

Not the Same As It Was: Examining Harry Styles’ Extraordinary Rise As a Solo Artist

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Mass Amherst chapter.

In 2010, Harry Edward Styles was working in a bakery. He auditioned for The X-Factor, and the rest is history. The 16-year-old Redditch native would go on to become part of one of, if not the biggest, boyband of all time, and currently at 28 is taking the world by storm on the third leg of his world tour: Harry Styles: Love On Tour. He is one of the most recognizable faces in the industry, and all three of his albums have totaled over a billion plays on Spotify alone. This amount of solo success after being part of a large-scale boyband is almost unprecedented, so let’s take a look at how he got here.

One Direction Days

Styles auditioned for The X-Factor in 2010 as a soloist where he performed an adorable rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely.” Four other boys happened to audition this season: Liam Payne, Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, and Louis Tomlinson — and all four ended up being eliminated. Simon Cowell, a music producer and judge on the show known for giving many other stars their big breaks, encouraged the boys to form a group in order to continue on in the competition. Although they didn’t end up winning, they were wildly popular with fans and were signed by Simon Cowell to his record label soon after the wrapping of the show. The group went on to become a worldwide phenomenon, producing five albums selling millions of copies, hit songs with billions of streams, as well as touring sold-out stadiums in their later years. Their immense success and popularity solidified them as the top boyband of the current generation, and even today their fans still celebrate their accomplishments.

The Hiatus

On March 25, 2015, Zayn Malik announced he would be departing from the band after five years during the group’s Four stadium tour. Harry, Niall, Louis, and Liam continued on as a quartet, however, they announced months later that after the release of what would become the band’s final album, Made In The A.M., they would be taking a hiatus. There was no time estimate given, however, it was believed that the group would make a return. This never happened, much to the dismay of fans, and each of the members, including Styles, went on to pursue solo careers. Styles signed a solo deal with Columbia Records in 2016, and the following year dropped his first solo single “Sign of the Times,” which solidified his transition from a boyband heartthrob to a mature singer-songwriter.

Harry Styles

Following “Sign of the Times,” Styles released his first solo project Harry Styles (AKA HS1), in 2017 to both critic and fan acclaim, going on to sell over 230,000 copies in its first week and soaring to number one in the Billboard Hot 100. He would go on to tour the album in two legs, calling it Harry Styles: Live On Tour. His electric stage presence and charisma are attributes to his popularity as well, and he went on to sell out every venue he performed in. Styles became known for his crowd engagement and entertainment value as well as his voice. He became not only a talented vocalist but also has writing credits on many of his songs, filled with lyrics spanning from heart-wrenching (“From The Dining Table”) to overtly suggestive (“Medicine,” anyone?). Harry Styles was considered a success, but it didn’t launch him to the superstardom he experiences today. It was only the beginning for the young star.

fine line

After the final date of Live On Tour, Styles took a long hiatus from music, echoing that of his final One Direction days. However, he was busy. During that time he stayed in the public eye, becoming a go-to model for Gucci and appearing on many talk shows. He even co-hosted the Met Gala with Lady Gaga in 2019. In October 2019, he made his return after a two-year stint dropping “Light’s Up,” the lead single to his second project, Fine Line. Fine Line was released in full in December 2019, once again to even more critical and commercial success. However, it was the second single “Watermelon Sugar” that propelled Styles into the mainstream spotlight once again, as it gave off similar vibes to his pop-ish One Direction days and showed he was still just as versatile an artist. “Watermelon Sugar” would go on to win a Grammy at the 2021 award show for Best Pop Solo Performance, giving Styles his first Grammy award. My personal favorite album, Fine Line, catapulted Styles back into the industry, and there would be no slowing him down.

love on Tour and Harry’s House

Back in 2020, Styles announced Love On Tour, his second headlining tour in promotion of Fine Line. However, it ended up being postponed twice due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Though it was discouraging, Styles’ popularity continued to grow during this time, and when he finally began the tour in September 2021, he was greeted with a warm and enormous welcome. His first leg of the tour in North America was a sold-out arena tour, and before beginning his European leg, Styles announced his single “As It Was” and performed it as well as two other new songs when he headlined Coachella in April 2022. He released his third studio album, Harry’s House, in May 2022 and began incorporating those tracks into his tour set lists. Styles is still on Love On Tour and continues to break records, but here are some of the highlights:

  • “As It Was,” the lead single off of Harry’s House, broke the record for the longest stint on the Billboard Hot 100 for a solo artist, remaining there for a whopping fifteen weeks
  • Harry’s House is the fastest-selling album in the U.K. in 2022, and went number one in over 14 countries
  • In June, he sold out Wembley Stadium — eight years after selling it out for three nights as a part of One Direction
  • He sold out a 15-night residency this fall at Madison Square Garden and was honored with his own banner in the arena on his final night; joining only Billy Joel and Phish in the rafters of the arena
harry styles at madison square garden
Photo by Lloyd Wakefield

If you didn’t know Styles before this year, chances are you won’t be escaping him anytime soon. He is on the rise and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down, taking Love On Tour into 2023 with even more legs in Europe and Asia. It’s safe to say the superstar has come very far in his eleven years in the spotlight, and I personally am excited, as I’m sure many are, to see what’s next for him.

Can’t get enough of HC UMass Amherst? Be sure to follow us on Instagram, listen to us on Spotify, like us on Facebook, and read our latest Tweets!

Olivia Vadnais

U Mass Amherst '25

Hi everyone, my name is Olivia and I am a freshman at the University of Massachusetts – Amherst. I am very excited to join HerCampus this fall! I love reading, Taylor Swift, sports (especially basketball) and hanging out with friends and family. I am a management major and hope to end up double majoring in journalism as well.