Treat People With Kindness: An analysis of Harry Styles’ Music Videos in 2020 and 2021

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On December 13 2019, Harry Styles released his second studio album Fine Line. Following the 12 song album’s release, he, as expected, released music videos for the album. However, with the cancellation of his ‘L♥VE ON TOUR’, he released more than expected. Especially seeing as for his first album he only released two videos. However, as of the writing of this article, six official music videos have been released for Fine Line, and four of those were in 2020.

The first two, ‘Adore You’ and ‘Falling’, were both produced and released before pre-covid lockdowns in the west. They were artistic masterpieces which were most likely to get people excited for his upcoming world tour (originally scheduled to begin on April 15 2020 in Birmingham, UK). However, following the cancellation of the tour, Styles went on to release two more music videos in 2020: ‘Watermelon Sugar’ and ‘Golden’. Both of which continued to follow the beautiful artistry that has followed his music video style. However, both took a strong contrast to the previous two videos, which had moving but dramatic tones to them, meanwhile, the latter two videos truly transported the viewer to better days filled with summer fun and wanderlust; the perfect videos for covid. This is best seen by looking at the colour pallets for the four videos. ‘Adore You’ and ‘Falling’ both feature muted pallets which beautifully expressed the mood of the songs and transported the view into the settings which were created. Meanwhile, ‘Golden’ and ‘Watermelon Sugar’ used extremely vibrant colours that were playful and full of life.

Another factor to look at is the settings for the videos. In ‘Adore You’ and ‘Falling’, the stories are set in these places which do not exist. They may once have, but now they are almost abandoned worlds which ring with melancholy. But ‘Golden’ and ‘Watermelon Sugar’ are both filmed in what feels like real life settings. While the specific set is not placed anywhere, the people in these videos appear to be living in the present and existing in generic nature settings which many would find themselves in. These contrasts elucidate his aims in creating these escapist worlds for his songs to be associated with. Finally, and most importantly, he proves he makes his videos as a response to modern world situations from the dedication to the music video of ‘Watermelon Sugar ’: ‘THIS VIDEO IS DEDICATED TO TOUCHING / MAY 18, 2020’. This came two months after the UK and USA went into lockdown and people were advised to socially distance, and thus, touch.

On January 1, 2021, Styles released his latest music video ‘Treat People With Kindness’. This is the eleventh song on the album and is also Styles’”mantra”. ‘Treat People With Kindness’ first became popular during his first tour. Originally, it was just a pin on his guitar that turned into t-shirts that sorta turned into a movement. Fans loved the message and more merch was made and bought. The power behind the message ended up inspiring Styles into writing the song which appeared on Fine Line. Later he used the acronym ‘TPWK’ on minimalist pre-adverts to get people excited about the news of his 2020 world tour and upcoming album release. Once the album came out, fans were overjoyed at the playful song which included gospel singers and has a very universal message about sharing love and enjoying life. And when the music video was released, before even watching it, I could tell that was a message which Styles was wanting to be spread as we enter the new year.

Now, before I mention the use of colour and setting in Styles’ videos in correlation with the tone of the song, here, he follows his ‘brand’ but his system changes. When the video begins, you immediately notice that it is in black and white, so it completely lacks colour. This is the first official music video he has done in black and white, yet the song is not melancholic in the ways ‘Adore You’ and ‘Falling’ are, even though both used extremely muted colour palettes to display that tone. No, the song is upbeat, which can only be explained in the sense that he wants you to take the message seriously. This is juxtaposed by the video being filmed in a west end theatre, thus making it a concrete place, which is common in his more upbeat songs. But finally, his use of the amazing Comedian, Phoebe Waller-Bridge (creator, writer, star – probably more – of Fleabag). The two of them just having a good time together in the video really sends the message home that ‘you gotta treat people kind and enjoy life’. Furthermore, when you learn that this was filmed before the pandemic, before ‘Watermelon Sugar’, before ‘Golden’, it elucidates that he planned it this way. He postponed the release to share other messages he thought the world needed more at the time and prepared this as a reminder and wish going into 2021.

Styles is telling the world in these music videos he’s released in these times what is important to hold onto, and there is something so beautiful about that. And ‘Treat People With Kindness’ is so important in today’s climate with political unrest, the pandemic, and environmental issues. So, I implore you, if you haven’t seen the music video or if you have, go watch it now and then go out and treat people with kindness.

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