Cool As A Cucumber Thoughts About Harry Styles’ New Song

It's The Anti-SAD Jam We Need And Deserve

Serenading one’s best buddy, a fish, about how delicious a taco is. Obviously!

Harry Styles is an incorrigible flirt, and also a benevolent gentle alien who wants to remind us all that sincerity and friendship and encouragement and joy are important and possibly life-saving. Let’s discuss!

For context, Harry’s in the thick of pre-album release promotional work. He’s already released two songs from his forthcoming second album, Fine Line, to be released next Friday, and performed them on Saturday Night Live (Lights Up (there’s also an official video | Watermelon Sugar). He’s appearing on Graham Norton tonight, too! It’s a lot! 

In the middle of the already-dramatic runup to releasing today’s single and video— a Nile Rodgers-influenced, Gloomvember-defying bop about a crush so delicious it doesn’t matter if it’s ever requited at all— Harry also shared with fans a little introductory video to highlight the visual charms of Fine Line. Lovely, nice, smart, good move, ok, wait, what is this???

Tastefully nude while lounging beside a cross-section of...a heart? A womb? A guava crossed with an avocado? Whomst can say?

Harry Styles can’t just release a charmingly amateurish website for the imaginary island of Eroda (“adore” spelled backwards, facile but ok, cute). Nor can he limit himself to dropping a nearly three-minute preview for the Adore You video, which declares to the world that he’s watched Amelie at least 12 times. No. He has to include imagery that offers us a clear callback to the cover art of Prince’s album Lovesexy!

How lucky we are to live in a moment where this maximally dramatic and clever fellow is really feeling himself. What semiotic gifts we’re receiving, decoding, analyzing and sharing!

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Where were we? Oh, yes, the video for Adore You! Well, it’s a lovely little fable about how a misfit— a boy whose dazzling smile nobody in his perpetually overcast fishing village can deal with— helps everyone there understand that things don’t always have to be the way they are right now, through the example of his loving support of a golden fish he discovers flopping on a rock by the ocean’s edge. The boy feels so out of place he can’t function, and the fish is in a similar pickle. As the narrator explains, “Loneliness is an ocean full of travelers trying to find their place in the world. But without friendship, we’re lost, with no hope, no home, no harbour.” The voiceover is deeply sad, but it’s also layered over an animated sequence where the little golden fish is being terrorized by fellow sea-dwellers! The juxtapositions are almost too much. 

Instead of letting the fish die, the boy gently carries it home, feeding it disgusting fish flakes and finding increasingly large tanks for the fish to swim in as it grows supernaturally fast over the course of a couple of days. The caretaker role suits the boy, and as his fellow Erodans witness him being gentle, joyous, and supportive, they come around to the idea that saving this fish— whose entire species is migrating en masse towards their island— is a worthwhile thing to do. Flush with confidence, the boy decides to leave Eroda for adventures in parts unknown, maybe somewhere where his smile won’t blind his neighbors or incinerate their umbrellas. Bon voyage!

This video is so good! And joyful! Sincere! I’m profoundly moved by its embrace of giddy silliness and seriousness. How often do we get to see a work of popular art that explores what a healthy & reciprocally supportive friendship can look like, even across species? I MEAN! 

The hero learns to knit for his buddy (check out that picot-style lacy bind-off on the fins)! 

This video values coziness & high-quality loungewear!

Harry is making a case for smiling as an invitation to participate fully in society! Wow! 

Also, it’s just straight-up adorable and fun? 

What I see here is an open-armed, whole-hearted leap into camp that exceeds the tenderness & beauty of his Met Gala red carpet look. As I review the quotes that surrounded and underscored the objects and viewers of the Camp: Notes on Fashion exhibit at the Met this summer, several jump out as potential influences (or at least strong resonances) on the Adore You video:

"Camp . . . is very serious—serious about maintaining the freedom to play, which is a way of saying the freedom to live." —J. Bryan Lowder, 2013

"Camp [is] a third stream of taste, that encompasses the curious attraction that everyone —to some degree at least —has for the bizarre, the unnatural, the artificial and the blatantly outrageous." —Thomas Meehan, 1965

"Camp is a lifeboat for men at sea." —Philip Core, 1984

"Camp is a tender feeling." Susan Sontag, 1964

"Camp taste is a kind of love, love for human nature." —Susan Sontag, 1964

"Camp taste is a mode of enjoyment, of appreciation— not judgment. Camp is generous. It wants to enjoy." —Susan Sontag, 1964

If Dames Nation will excuse a little didacticism on my part, The Camp: Notes on Fashion exhibition materials available on the Met’s website are very very very much worth your time. I believe it’s going to be the core lens through which we understand Fine Line, and would go so far as to say we may not be able to fully get what the artist is doing without a full & nuanced grasp of camp. 

You can love Adore You simply as a sonic delight. You can watch the video and send yourself down a rabbit hole of allusions (Velvet GoldmineMoonrise Kingdom! That Gene Kelly lewk!). I’ve been delightedly gobsmacked all day by what an assured balance it is of an artist taking his music seriously, while also being a gigantic goober with quite a scope for imagination. I’m fine, I’ll just be over here having a wee weep over Harold’s warm, joyful, tender sincerity in this video about making friends, sticking with what you know in your guts to be right, and embracing serendipity & maybe a little bit of everyday magic. And smiles. Smiling is his favorite. Also, miniature tacos, the tenderest material gesture of them all.