FUCHS: Harry Styles' new album, 'Harry's House,' should be characterized as moving museum
Column: Questioning Jules
Harry Styles has done it again and mesmerized his fans with another great tour. Throughout the past year, following the release of his highly anticipated album "Harry’s House," his concert tickets sold out within minutes of being released for sale. He played at Madison Square Garden for 15 nights while balancing movie premiers and his personal life. Styles has truly been a powerhouse who has done a lot to keep his fans happy.
This semester, I am beginning to study cultural heritage in depth and consider what is and is not cultural heritage. One specific question that has been posed by a professor is to define a museum. After having gone to two of Styles’ concerts and seeing how much energy and diversity they bring, I have come to the conclusion that his shows are a moving museum. Especially his latest concert, which I attended, for his album "Harry's House."
Do not get me wrong, I know that might sound a little ridiculous. I am well aware that Styles fans specifically have a reputation for being a little bit crazy (i.e. “One Direction: This Is Us”). But these shows, the music, the fashion, the photo ops and even the merchandise all resemble similar aspects of a museum.
Museums can be broadly defined as spaces that are used to educate others and give visitors an experience. So what are you learning about by visiting a Styles concert? What exactly makes this experience a museum experience?
I would argue that a lot can be learned from the music of Styles. A lot of his songs are based on his own experiences and emotions. His song “Satellite,” for instance, taught me to feel an emotion I cannot even begin to describe. I listen to this song whenever I feel empty inside and need to fill a void.
There is something about living vicariously through his fun experience that makes me feel better. His songs bring emotions and deep thoughts as his lyrics are also very cleverly crafted and thought-provoking. “As It Was” is the perfect example of thought-provoking, with the lyrics, “Ringin' the bell/And nobody's coming to help/Your daddy lives by himself/He just wants to know that you're well.”
Although there are no formal facts or information learned while experiencing a Styles concert, the music and lyrics are an important part of pop culture.
His songs additionally resemble an exhibition. The songs that are chosen for the setlist are carefully curated to fit in with what the fans want, what Styles wants and what works best with the venue, audience and time limit.
When I saw Styles, he changed the opening song to "Daydreaming." When I was waiting for the concert to begin, I was disappointed that the opening song was changed as I thought that “Music For a Sushi Restaurant” was the obvious choice. But, Styles surprised me completely by making a song that I frankly did not even expect to be performed into an opener.
The music and setlist are only a part of the larger exhibition, though. On top of that, special lighting and effects are chosen to go along with each song to set the ambiance. There were obvious changes in the tone of the audience when the lights were changed for the song. Like a painting in a museum would be carefully placed in a specific spot, the timing of each song as well as the accompanying lighting were carefully chosen to support a particular visitor experience.
Styles even guides the audience to change their tone with certain gestures. When he has his guitar, it is implied that a slower song is going to be played next. When he is jumping and dancing around the stage, it is clear that he wants the audience to have fun and dance along with him. A few times throughout the show, he would even ask how everyone was doing and encourage people to sing, dance and have fun.
The most defining portion of the concert, and what makes it most like an exhibition, is the fashion. Styles himself makes bold choices in his attire — wearing things from dresses to feather boas to pink and yellow suits.
This is not only his choice but the fans' choice also. One thing that both shows that I went to had in common was the fan costume. Fans dress up anywhere from a 1960s vibe to sweater vests with fruits on them to wearing outfits that resemble what Styles once wore.
As I sat for the 2022 tour, I was in between a girl in a strawberry sweater vest and a guy in a sparkly button-down and checkered pants (I myself was wearing a black dress as an homage to his line in “Kiwi” and the One Direction song). When fans go to see Styles, they dress with intent. They are dressing to showcase their favorite versions of themselves and Styles, which makes his concert a lot like an interactive exhibit.
Cultural heritage can be defined in any way. It is without a doubt that Styles has made his mark on people throughout his career. His shows are an experience like no other that bring you some insight into his feelings, thoughts and fashion sense. We should make "Harry’s House" a museum!
Julia Fuchs is a graduate student in the art history department studying Cultural Heritage and Preservation. Her column, "Questioning Jules," runs on alternate Thursdays.
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