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10 Artists Who Have Stood Up For Women In Music: Taylor Swift, Lizzo & More
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Photo: Kevin Mazur / Contributor via Getty Images

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10 Artists Who Have Stood Up For Women In Music: Taylor Swift, Lizzo & More

Through voice, advocacy and creative endeavors, the music industry has become a safer, happier place for women to thrive — but there is still much work to be done. Read how artists such as Lizzo, Taylor Swift and Alicia Keys have stood up for women.

GRAMMYs/Mar 14, 2022 - 07:21 pm

It would be painful to even imagine the music industry without the contributions of women, many of whom have long been subjected to systemic sexism, double-standards, subtle dismissing, and blatant injustices throughout their careers in music. This inequality has been brought to the spotlight in recent years, as movements such as Me Too and Times Up empowered women to tell their stories and make profound changes to protect others.

The following artists stood up for themselves and, in doing so, have set an example and blazed the trail for others to do the same. In taking a stance against misogyny and inequity, both female and male artists are working to shape the music industry into a more inclusive, safe place for all artists to create and thrive.

Taylor Swift fought sexism on multiple fronts

Taylor Swift has enjoyed successes that few in the music industry can touch. She was the first woman to win the GRAMMY for Album of the Year three times, and has been nominated in the category once again for evermore at the 64th GRAMMY Awards. Nevertheless, she has often been the target of sexism in her extraordinary career.

While Swift started in the music industry as a teenager, she noticed the sexism as she grew older and more successful. She was mercilessly critiqued for writing about her feelings and relationships, while male musicians who do the same thing were rarely challenged. In her early 20s, Swift said she was "slut shamed" for having a few relationships; others romantically linked  Swift to people whom she’d only sat next to at a party. What most upset her was realizing that they were reducing her songwriting to being a trick, rather than a skill and a craft.

Swift has fought back through words, actions and art, and received praise for her efforts from feminist icon Dolly Parton. She has also written open letters for other artists who are experiencing injustice — including publicly demanding that Apple Music pay the artists during the trial period of the platform. Apple Music ultimately did as she asked. Swift has also stood up for individual women in music, and they have done the same ultimately strengthening their collective power.

Taylor Swift’s voice is strong within her music, too. "The Man", a song on her album Lover, looks at how much differently the music industry and society would have treated her if she was a man. In Miss Americana, the acclaimed 2020 documentary on Taylor Swift, she discusses the double-standards for women in music, pointing out how female artists must reinvent and reimagine their image.

Lizzo combated erasure by being unabashedly herself

Lizzo has tirelessly stood up for Black women in music. In an interview with "Good Morning America" in August 2021, she explained that, although Black women have long been innovators in the music industry, they suffer from marginalization and erasure the most. Lizzo added that she might have been erased if not for social media and the internet.

Lizzo is also quick to defend other musical artists and stand up for what’s right. She corrected the paparazzi for using the wrong pronouns when referencing Demi Lovato. In turn, Demi responded by calling Lizzo a queen and sincerely thanking her.

Blazing a trail for herself and other artists can’t be easy, but Lizzo is determined to set an example of confidence, authenticity and beauty. In addition to facing racism and sexism, Lizzo has also faced criticism for her body type, yet she responds to all that with confidence and self-love. She told People, "What I'm doing is stepping into my confidence and my power to create my own beauty standard. And one day that will just be the standard."

Brandi Carlile created space for women in country music

Speaking up for women in music is an important part of life for Brandi Carlile. As she told Billboard, "I wake up every day political. I can’t not be political."

Along with fellow artists Amanda Shires and Maren Morris, Carlile started the Highwomen to mentor and support fellow female musicians, according to Rolling Stone. She also co-founded the Looking Out Foundation, which funds lesser-known causes and organizations to amplify the impact of music by empowering those without a voice."

Carlile has also taken to social media for activism. When Country Music Television announced that it would promote equal play, offering "complete parity between male and female artists" on its channels, she tweeted a challenge for country radio to do the same.

Madonna broke the mold and challenged expectations of older women

It’s often said that Madonna was ahead of her time, but she changed the times to fit her message and voice (the New York Times tallied 60 times Madonna changed culture). When her career first skyrocketed in the 1980s, Madonna redefined what it meant to be a powerful woman in music in many ways, and has since continued to challenge sexism in the music industry and beyond.

Madonna has repeatedly called out the rampant ageism against women in music, which has impacted how she has been perceived and treated. However, the woman who broke barriers and created boundary-pushing music believes the most controversial thing she has done is stick around when the music industry would otherwise consider her too old.

Madonna hopes to help empower other women to embrace and celebrate their bodies, talents and selves at all ages and stages of their lives. That’s part of why she doesn’t hesitate to call out anyone who mocks her or others for not adhering to the music industry's expectations of women as they age.

Alicia Keys' nonprofit encourages women in music

Alicia Keys has long been a musical force to be reckoned with and she co-founded the organization She Is The Music to help empower other women in music. The nonprofit has thrived since 2018, and it operates as a "unifying organization for women from across the industry, creating strength and impact on a global scale. On a practical level, it helps increase the number of women working in the music industry and also strives to help future generations of women develop their careers.

Keys has written and performed many empowering songs, including "Girl on Fire." She referenced that song when announcing the launch of She Is The Music, stating, "We are more on fire than we’ve ever been."

Janet Jackson stood in her power and inspired others

With her GRAMMY-nominated album Control and hit song of the same name, Janet Jackson inspired millions of women beginning in the late '80s. "Control" celebrates the joy and fulfillment of a woman standing in her power, while taking control of her own life. Jackson advocated for women in other songs, too, such as the 1993 hit "New Agenda" which frankly dealt with sexism and racism.

Jackson has paved the way for many other female artists to reach greater heights in the music industry, often using her spotlight to inspire and empower others. When she won the Global Icon Award at the MTV European Music Awards, Jackson explained that she feels moved to speak for women whose voices have been stifled, and she confessed that her voice used to be stifled as well. 

When she won the Worldwide Inspiration Award at the Mnet Asian Music Awards in 2018, shememorably said, "I dream of the end of bigotry and discrimination in any form. I dream of a world in which we join hands across all borders and unite as one. Finally, I dream of a planet where hatred turns to compassion, tolerance turns to understanding, and a healing and lasting peace prevails."

Pink embodied feminism in her art and called for change

Pink started her career with a distinct voice and feminist attitude, and she has held fast to it throughout her growth as an artist. If anything, her feminist convictions and expressions have gotten stronger.

Pink has stood up for many other important causes, including animal rights, and she didn’t even back down to royalty. When Prince William invited her to perform for his 21st birthday, she rejected the gesture because he was a hunter. She even publicly called him out for killing animals for fun. 

Pink has stood up for women in music on many occasions. In one of her early hits, she bemoaned that people in the music industry tried to pressure her to look as pretty as Britney Spears. More recently, Pink has said that she feels bad that she didn’t reach out more to Spears back then. Standing in solidarity with other women, she has also served as a UNICEF ambassador and often speaks up for what she feels is right.

Harry Styles strives for a world where feminism is the norm

Harry Styles is a feminist who chalks it up to simply being the right thing to do (and doesn’t want a lot of credit for it). Styles also grew up heavily influenced by his mom and his sister. Since the female influence in his life was so profound, Styles felt it was only natural to be a feminist; he considers the ideals of feminism to be pretty straightforward.

"Most of the stuff that hurts me about what's going on at the moment is not politics, it's fundamentals. Equal rights. For everyone, all races, sexes, everything," Styles told Rolling Stone. He tries to make things better in big and small ways — from the music he chooses to perform, to the words he uses on social media and in interviews. He has used social media to support things like the #HeForShe campaign, an initiative from UN Women to empower women.

Ariana Grande called out sexism and defied stereotypes

Ariana Grande chose to stand up for women in music and call out the massive sexism in the industry when she was named as Billboard’s Woman of the Year. She noted how female artists try so much harder, and spoke about how women are expected to fit into narrow stereotypes.

That wasn’t the first time Grande stood up for herself and other female performers. She's also encouraged others to do the same. 

"I think the most important thing is to have each other’s backs. When you see something or hear something that’s upsetting, or someone says something that’s upsetting, even if it’s not to you, just say something and be there and support each other," Grande told Coveteur. "Misogyny is ever-present, and we have to be there to support one another. That’s really it. It’s about the sisterhood. There’s no competing in that. We have to lift each other up, not try and claw each other down."

Lady Gaga opposed ageism — in her twenties

The intersection of sexism and ageism is no joke, and women in music feel it early on. In fact, Lady Gaga was speaking out about it in her twenties. She declared, "I want to show women they don’t need to try to keep up with the 19-year-olds and the 21-year-olds in order to have a hit. Women in music, they feel like they need to f-cking sell everything to be a star. It’s so sad. I want to explode as I go into my thirties."

Happily, Lady Gaga did just that, and her success has only grown. Meanwhile, she has continued to lift other artists up. She praised Britney Spears for forever changing the course for women in music; in turn, Spears called Lady Gaga her "inspiration."

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Harry Styles To Perform At The 2023 GRAMMYs
Harry Styles

Photo: Lillie Eiger

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Harry Styles To Perform At The 2023 GRAMMYs

GRAMMY winner and current nominee Harry Styles has been added to the 2023 GRAMMYs performer lineup. He joins previously announced GRAMMY performers Bad Bunny, Mary J. Blige, Brandi Carlile, Luke Combs, Steve Lacy, Lizzo, Kim Petras, and Sam Smith.

GRAMMYs/Jan 30, 2023 - 02:39 am

Harry's House is coming to the GRAMMYs! Exactly one week away from the 2023 GRAMMYs, GRAMMY winner and current nominee Harry Styles has been added to the 2023 GRAMMYs performer lineup. He joins previously announced GRAMMY performers Bad BunnyMary J. BligeBrandi CarlileLuke CombsSteve LacyLizzoKim Petras, and Sam Smith, who will hit the GRAMMY stage on Sunday, Feb. 5, at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT.

The news was just announced in a CBS on-air promo that aired tonight during the AFC Championship game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Cincinnati Bengals.

Read More: Where, What Channel & How To Watch The Full 2023 GRAMMYs

Styles' 2023 GRAMMYs performance serves as the cherry on top to what has easily become his international breakout moment. Last May, he released Harry's House, his critically acclaimed third studio album, which is currently nominated for six GRAMMYs: Record of the Year (“As It Was”); Album of the Year (Harry’s House); Song of the Year (“As It Was”); Best Pop Solo Performance (“As It Was”), a category he won at the 2021 GRAMMYs; Best Pop Vocal Album (Harry’s House); and Best Music Video (“As It Was”).

Read More: Harry Styles' Sonic Evolution: How He Grew From Teen Pop Idol To Ever-Evolving Superstar

Make sure to catch Harry Styles' unforgettable GRAMMY performance at the 2023 GRAMMYs, airing live Sunday, Feb. 5, at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT from Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles. The 2023 GRAMMYs will be broadcast live on the CBS Television Network and will be available to stream live and on-demand on Paramount+.

Just hours before Music's Biggest Night kicks off, the Recording Academy will present the 2023 GRAMMY Awards Premiere Ceremony, a beloved annual event where the majority of this year's 91 GRAMMY Awards categories will be awarded. A star-studded celebration of performers, presenters and awards, this year's Premiere Ceremony will feature performances from current GRAMMY nominees Arooj AftabMadison CunninghamSamara JoyAnoushka Shankar, and Carlos Vives, as well as an opening number performance by Blind Boys of AlabamaLa Marisoul from La Santa Cecilia, and additional surprise performers. Taking place Sunday, Feb. 5, at 3:30 p.m. ET/12:30 p.m. PT at Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, the 2023 GRAMMY Awards Premiere Ceremony will stream live on live.GRAMMY.com and on the Recording Academy's YouTube channel. City National Bank currently serves as the first-ever presenting sponsor of the GRAMMY Awards Premiere Ceremony.

Read More: The 2023 GRAMMY Awards Premiere Ceremony To Feature Performances From Carlos Vives, Samara Joy, Madison Cunningham, Arooj Aftab & More; Presenters Include Babyface, Jimmy Jam, Malcolm-Jamal Warner & Others

Throughout GRAMMY Sunday, make sure to visit live.GRAMMY.com, an expansive, immersive digital experience giving fans an all-access pass to exclusive, never-before-seen GRAMMYs content, including GRAMMY performances, acceptance speeches, interviews from the GRAMMY Live From The Red Carpet special, and more. Keep visiting live.GRAMMY.com before, during and after the 2023 GRAMMYs for more behind-the-scenes GRAMMYs content you won't see on the GRAMMYs telecast or anywhere else.

Catch All The GRAMMYs Action At live.GRAMMY.com!

The Taylor Swift Essentials: 13 Songs That Display Her Storytelling Prowess And Genre-Bouncing Genius
Taylor Swift in 2021, 2013, 2010, 2016, and 2009

PHOTOS (CLOCKWISE, L-R): KEVIN MAZUR/GETTY IMAGES FOR THE RECORDING ACADEMY, JEFF KRAVITZ/FILMMAGIC, MICHAEL CAULFIELD/GETTY IMAGES, CLIFF LIPSON/CBS VIA GETTY IMAGES, KEVIN MAZUR/WIREIMAGE

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The Taylor Swift Essentials: 13 Songs That Display Her Storytelling Prowess And Genre-Bouncing Genius

Ahead of the 2023 GRAMMYs on Feb. 5 and Taylor Swift's "The Eras Tour" kicking off in March, revisit these 13 hits and beloved classics by the 11-time GRAMMY winner.

GRAMMYs/Jan 26, 2023 - 04:00 pm

We're all under Taylor Swift's spell. From her poppy radio hits to her crying-on-the-floor anthems, her discography is as enthralling as it is extensive. She enchants with stories about not just heartbreak and lost loves, but also about wider reflections on life — self-worth, fame, politics, family, moving on, change.

Though Swift emerged as a country icon in high school, she has leapt across genres with ease in the years since, mastering them as well as shaping them. Whether she's busy conquering synth pop or molding indie folk, her songwriting cultivates a divine magic, one that merges reality and fiction with profound intimacy.

After expanding her sonic universe further with Midnights last year, Swift will kick off her "Eras Tour" in March. Simply the name of her tour indicates the expanse and power of her musical career thus far: as she bridges her eras, she builds her legacy.

Her legacy receives a unique nod through her four nominations for the 2023 GRAMMYs: while Swift is nominated for her Where The Crawdads Sing track, "Carolina," she's also nominated for songs that she wrote years ago, around the time of her original Red release. And just this month, Midnights' "Anti-Hero" broke Swift's personal record for her longest-running No. 1 single on the Billboard Hot 100, further proving that she hasn't lost her touch.

By cherishing her past while continuing to mold her musical future, Swift strikingly dominates with staying power. Ahead of the 2023 GRAMMYs and Swift's upcoming "The Eras Tour," here are 13 tracks that highlight Swift's evolution up to Midnights, honoring her trailblazing creativity and versatility.

"Our Song," Taylor Swift (2006)

A song about a song, how meta of Swift. One of her earliest meta songwriting moves, "Our Song" encapsulates a relationship's everlasting beauty with the warm breeziness of riding shotgun. Its lighthearted conversational lyricism emits an infectious joy that helped introduce Swift as a songwriter who is both relatable and captivating.

The banjo-led tune establishes the singer's country roots with a casual, but vivid image: Swift grinning with her elbow on the car door, hair windswept with the windows down. She may have written "Our Song" for a talent show back in high school, but Swift clearly had the songwriting prowess of a superstar — one that grew well beyond freshman year.

"White Horse," Fearless (2008)

Just two tracks after the whirlwind romance of "Love Story," Swift finds herself closing her fairytale storybook to disappointment. While "White Horse" sees the singer question her self-worth and cradle her crushed dreams, the heartbreaking track ended up earning Swift two GRAMMY Awards for Best Country Song and Best Female Country Vocal Performance in 2010. (The singer scored her first GRAMMY wins that year, taking home four GRAMMYs total. To date, Taylor Swift has won 11 GRAMMYs and received 42 nominations overall.)

Although the acoustic ballad wallows in sorrow, gloom eventually blooms into a necessary epiphany: "I'm gonna find someone someday who might actually treat me well," Swift realizes in the final chorus. In this way, "White Horse" prevails as one of the singer's most powerful ballads to date — and judging by what Swift has said about Midnights track "Lavender Haze," that realization has come true.

"Forever & Always," Fearless (2008)

"Forever & Always" is arguably one of Fearless' staple tracks, but what many fans may not know is that the timeless track almost didn't make the album. The pop-rock anthem track sees Swift denounce a hypocritical ex who misled her, and she criticizes them with a slew of questions she already knows the answers to: "Were you just kidding?" "Was I out of line?" "Did you forget everything?" From distress to confusion to anger, the song bursts with warranted rage at a betrayal, cementing Swift as a master of channeling heartbreak.

"Enchanted," Speak Now (2010)

Long before "Enchanted" spiraled into one of Swift's many viral TikTok moments, the Speak Now deep cut bewitched listeners from the second it arrived more than a decade ago. The song hums with anticipation, with early acoustic guitar later giving way to overwhelming yearning and anthemic production.

The way the song progresses is almost like a fairytale, starting with a longing stare and playful conversation before ending with a rosy-cheeked walk home. It's a near-perfect display of Swift's ability to capture an incisive, fleeting romance in song, from the smitten lyrics to cinematic production. And though the love song serves more of a captivating cliffhanger than a finished chapter, its story still leaves listeners blushing all the way home.

"Back To December," Speak Now (2010)

On Speak Now's "Back to December," Swift sifts through wilting roses and missed birthdays to unearth a sorrowful confession. As she comes to terms with her regret over ending a healthy relationship, the track swells with guilt and sincerity. While many of Swift's preceding romantic songs were characterized by longing or criticism, "Back to December" takes the rare form of a bittersweet, candid apology that exhibits maturity and grace.

"Mean," Speak Now (2010)

Complete with banjo and fiddle, "Mean" isn't just the only country-driven track on Speak Now, but it's also one of the last truly classic country songs of her catalog. The album's spunky sixth track goes down as one of Swift's most beautifully berating to date — even alongside "Look What You Made Me Do," "Bad Blood," and "Picture to Burn" — as she lambastes a cruel critic and realizes her self-worth.

Ironically, the Swift track that most put haters on blast is one of her most critically acclaimed, as the song won Swift two GRAMMY Awards for Best Country Solo Performance and Best Country Song in 2012. "Mean" also thrives as a manifestation — she has certainly become big enough that they can't hit her.

"Blank Space," 1989 (2014)

Nice to meet you, where you been? Swift's 1989 era submerged the singer in heavy synth and kaleidoscopic pop, and the record's exuberant second single "Blank Space" best flaunts Swift's multifaceted artist persona. The illustrious pop song satirizes the media's image of Swift as a serial dater, coasting with a sultry liveliness before escalating into ferocity.

Swift is scathingly and brilliantly self-aware as she acknowledges the world's view of her reputation: "Got a long list of ex-lovers/ They'll tell you I'm insane/ 'Cause you know I love the players/ And you love the game."

She continued poking fun at the "crazy ex-girlfriend" trope in the music video, from wrecking her former lover's car to setting his clothes on fire. The cleverly self-deprecating narrative (and genius visual) helped "Blank Space" become Swift's biggest streaming song to date, garnering a whopping 3 billion views on YouTube alone. 

Accolades aside, "Blank Space" marked an important turning point for Swift. It was the first time she used her autobiographical songwriting style to take the power back — and most importantly, prove that no matter what is said about her, she'll keep cranking out the hits.

"Don't Blame Me," reputation (2017)

Defiance defines "Don't Blame Me," the fourth track from Swift's intrepid — and perhaps most unexpected — album reputation. The track personifies catharsis, uplifted by heavy bass and hard-hitting synth. Although the song is loosely about an intoxicating love, its ambition also represents Swift reclaiming her narrative once again.

Drawing comparisons to Madonna's "Like a Prayer" and Hozier's "Take Me to Church," the song marks more than moody melodrama, but shamelessly moving forward. Amid public quarrels with other celebrities — as well as the tabloids' obsession with her personal life — she makes a very definitive statement: don't blame her.

"Cruel Summer," Lover (2019)

"Cruel Summer" strikes Swift's discography in a zealous way, recalling the dreamy worlds of 1989's "Style" or reputation's "Getaway Car." The song sees Swift reminisce about a whirlwind summer romance with bittersweet intensity.

The track's assertive, immaculate electropop writhes irresistibly as Swift navigates the stark pain of secrets and love. Everything about "Cruel Summer" is sharp and exquisite, and the way its bridge bursts with melodramatic vigor is enough alone to make this a vital Swift track, even if it wasn't a single.

"the last great american dynasty," folklore (2020)

"the last great american dynasty" flourishes as one of Swift's most lucid, exquisite storytelling ventures — and as any Swiftie knows, that's saying something.

Reading like a short story, the crisp indie track recounts the life of American socialite Rebekah Harkness, one of the former owners of Swift's Rhode Island mansion. Swift weaves the past and present together seamlessly, drawing parallels between herself and Harkness with vivid detail and keen clarity. On this folklore track, Swift presents a refreshing creative vision by flaunting a new, innovative facet of her songwriting prowess.

"betty," folklore (2020)

Swift's first indie-folk foray, folklore, spins a tantalizing fictional love triangle across three tracks: "cardigan," "august," and "betty." The latter shimmers with reflective hope and heartache from the perspective of a character named James.

The apologetic, harmonica-driven folk rock track is reminiscent of Swift's earlier, country-rooted music — yet, the way its intricate narration uniquely interlocks with other album tracks is more characteristic of Swift's modern storytelling craft. Swinging between lighthearted and forlorn, "betty" cements Swift as a mystical mastermind.

"All Too Well (10 Minute Version) (Taylor's Version) (From The Vault)," Red (Taylor's Version) (2021)

Swift's "All Too Well (10 Minute Version)" might very well be her magnum opus. Although the original beloved song from Red was never released as a single, it emerged as a fan favorite for its tragic retelling of visceral heartbreak. And once Swift released a new — and much longer — 10-minute edition of the gut-wrenching track on Red (Taylor's Version) nearly a decade later, it almost instantly became the fan favorite.

The song broke the Guinness World Record for being the longest song to reach No. 1 on Billboard Hot 100 (beating out Don McLean's "American Pie"!), and its cinematic music video "All Too Well: The Short Film" continued to stretch the Swift multiverse. With lucid lyricism, cathartic storytelling, and riveting melodies, "All Too Well (10 Minute Version)" triumphs as the pinnacle example of everything that makes Swift a revered songwriter and certified star — one who continues to shine like an ever-lovely jewel.

"Anti-Hero," Midnights (2022)

"It's me, hi, I'm the problem, it's me," Swift sighs on "Anti-Hero." Self-hatred takes center stage on the lead single from Midnights, inspired by the singer's insecurities, nightmares and fear of depersonalization.

Over a swirl of steady upbeat production, the pop song draws comparisons to the heartbreaking honesty of Lover's "The Archer." Her poetic candor takes on a self-destructive quality ("I'll stare directly at the sun but never in the mirror," she admits) that conveys an all-consuming loneliness — and at the same time, stark self-awareness.

Yet, Swift isn't an anti-hero, she's a mastermind. Serving as a "guided tour" of the things she tends to hate about herself, "Anti-Hero" spotlights not only the weight of Swift's vulnerability, but also its power. This capability transcends beyond Midnights; her sweeping creative force stretches across her past records and conquered genres. And even despite any insecurities, her influence has only continued to grow — showing that Taylor Swift will never go out of style.

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Harry Styles' Sonic Evolution: How He Grew From Teen Pop Idol To Ever-Evolving Superstar
(L-R) Harry Styles in 2012, 2022 and 2017

Photos: (L-R) Kevin Mazur/WireImage, Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for ABA, Nathan Congleton/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

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Harry Styles' Sonic Evolution: How He Grew From Teen Pop Idol To Ever-Evolving Superstar

'Harry's House' not only gives Harry Styles his most GRAMMY recognition yet — it serves as a testament to how much he's expanded his sound over his already storied career.

GRAMMYs/Jan 25, 2023 - 05:02 pm

Watching 16 year-old Harry Styles walk onto the stage for his "The X Factor" audition in 2010, it's remarkable how little some things have changed in the following 13 years. Though his rendition of Stevie Wonder's "Isn't She Lovely" was rather unpolished — even receiving a "no" from judge Louis Walsh — his magnetic charisma and natural talent were more than evident. And at just 16, Styles clearly knew he was on the right path.

"Singing is what I want to do," Styles said in an interview before his audition. "And if the people who can make that happen for me don't think that I should be doing that, then it's a major setback in my plans."

Of course, so much else has changed in the ensuing decade. Styles was tabbed alongside other contestants Liam Payne, Louis Tomlinson, Niall Horan and Zayn Malik to form the group One Direction. As the band stormed the charts and captured the love of fans globally, Styles grew into his abilities — and now, he's achieved a rarified level of fame.

Even after being part of one of the most successful boy bands of all time, Styles has reached new heights of superstardom in his own right. In addition to selling millions of albums and selling out arenas around the world, he's starred in four feature films and became the first male cover star of Vogue magazine. The depth of Styles' charisma and drive he's shown from that first audition have made him an all-encompassing star like few before him.

While Styles was a solo star as soon as he emerged in 2017 — selling out his first-ever solo tour and debuting his self-titled first album atop the Billboard 200 — he has dominated the 2020s. His second album, 2019's Fine Line, spawned his first No. 1 hit in the U.S. in 2020 with "Watermelon Sugar," which also earned him his first GRAMMY in 2021 for Best Pop Solo Performance. But 2022 was the year he took his stardom to the next level — and it all began with an invitation to Harry's House

The lead single of Styles' third album, "As It Was," became undeniable, debuting atop the Billboard Hot 100 and spending 15 weeks there — the most in history for a British act. And when Harry's House arrived less than two months after "As It Was," it was clear that 2022 was the year of Harry. 

The album, featuring smooth electronic beats and funky bass riffs, went platinum in the UK and US, put four songs into the Billboard Top 10 at the same time, and earned Styles the most GRAMMY nominations of his career. His six nominations for the 2023 GRAMMYs include his first in the coveted Album Of The Year, Song Of The Year and Record Of The Year categories; Harry's House also earned a nod for Best Pop Vocal Album and "As It Was" is up for Best Pop Solo Performance and Best Music Video.

If you ask Tyler Johnson — who has co-written and co-produced the majority of Styles' three solo albums — the GRAMMY nominations may just be Styles' biggest validation yet. "It's really the music community recognizing him as Harry Styles — [his time in the band] is just another part of his resume, it no longer defines him. And that's really exciting."

In reality, Styles hardly ever let his past define him. Even Johnson sensed Styles' star power upon meeting the singer in 2015. "When I first met him, I knew a lot about him from the band, but it was obvious he was a star," he recalls. "Especially how he performed in the vocal booth, it was very brave. I was like, 'Wow, this person has no barriers.'"

With no barriers comes a willingness to always try something new — which is why the Harry Styles of Harry's House sounds much different than Harry Styles of One Direction. The change was heard immediately back in 2017 on his first solo single "Sign of the Times," released ahead of his self-titled debut LP later that year. It's a rock track to its core, starting with hearty piano chords and building to a crescendo of wailing electric guitar and crashing drums. This initial offering was a sign of what was to come, as Harry Styles is built on these rock sounds from beginning to end. 

Even if reviews weren't outright surprised by this sound, they noted the seemingly brand new, well, direction. "Few people probably predicted the 23-year-old ex-One Direction superstar to drop the kind of album that makes your uncle or your mom perk up," read Variety's review. Pitchfork mused, "If you only know one thing about Harry Styles, it's probably that the album bucks the established trends governing bids for young male solo pop stardom." Styles becoming a rock star was something new, but looking back at the totality of his work, it's not quite as surprising as it might be at first glance.

When assessing the music of One Direction, the singles will of course stand out. Tracks like "What Makes You Beautiful," "Live While We're Young," and "Best Song Ever" are big and boisterous, with infectiously fun hooks. And while each of the group's five albums had rock influences — queue the Clash-like electric guitar opening of "Live While We're Young" — they're all pop projects at their core. And the writers and producers behind them were pop masterminds, too, including Rami Yacoub, Steve Mac, Ed Sheeran, and Ryan Tedder.

By nature of an essentially constant touring schedule and working with so many other people — especially the four other members of the group — there was simply less opportunity to write. Across the 86 songs in the band's discography, Styles has writing credits on only 21 of them, whereas he serves as lead writer on every track on each of his three solo albums. 

"I think it was tough to really delve in and find out who you are as a writer when you're just kind of dipping your toe each time," Styles told Rolling Stonein 2017, recalling some of the struggles of being in a band. "We didn't get the six months to see what kind of s— you can work with."

Listening to the songs Styles did have a hand in writing for One Direction, though, the throughline of his career becomes clearer. Even the earliest tracks he co-wrote include key elements to his later songs.

The chorus of Up All Night's "Same Mistakes" takes his penchant for lyrical repetition, creating a folksy call-and-response feeling and pairing it with powerful guitar chords; he uses a similar pattern on Harry Styles' opening track "Meet Me in the Hallway." Made In The A.M. ballad "If I Could Fly" is strikingly vulnerable lyrically and melodically minimalistic; this combination is seen on Styles' solo ballads, like Fine Line's "Falling" or Harry's House's "Matilda."

Styles' solo success also stems from his versatility. Alongside folksy ballads, he has an ear for rock songs to fill a stadium (and after completely selling out his 2021 and 2022 Love On Tour stretches, stadiums may be where he's headed next). "Where Do Broken Hearts Go?" is one of One Direction's most anthemic tracks, tailor made for karaoke or shouting alongside a crowd. It's no surprise Styles is the sole One Direction member on the writing credits for it, and you can hear that same exuberance on his solo rock anthems, from Fine Line’s ultra cool smash "Watermelon Sugar" to the funk rock-infused "Late Night Talking" on Harry's House

In a 2017 New York Times interview, Styles explained his rock influence — and really, his musicality as a whole — stems from his own musical tastes. "I really wanted to make an album that I wanted to listen to," he said of Harry Styles. "That was the only way I knew I wouldn't look back on it and regret it. It was more, 'What do I want to sit and listen to?' rather than, 'How do I shake up compared to what's on radio right now?'"

Judging by the elevated sounds on Harry's House, Styles' musical interests have grown as he has evolved as an artist. While there are hints of his previous writing and growth on the album, Styles incorporated so many new elements, and that's what makes Harry's House so interesting and so refreshing. 

Funk pervades the record, with synths and stylized loops fleshing out tracks like "Music For A Sushi Restaurant" and "Keep Driving." There's a constant sense of playfulness throughout all 13 tracks — something that was apparent to Styles' collaborators long before the world got to hear it. 

"Harry just said that he's never been more proud of anything, and Tom [Hull, better known as producer Kid Harpoon] and I are just there for the ride," Johnson says. "We didn't feel too caught up in the kind of reality of who he is and having to put out an album very specific to the commerce side of it. It was a lot of having fun and just kind of burying our heads in the sand and enjoying doing it. That was very different from Fine Line."

Styles can seemingly feel his evolution himself, too. In a wide-ranging interview with Zane Lowe upon the album's release in May 2022, Styles revealed that he tried not to take direct sonic influences on this record like he had in the past. "I kinda felt like you can reference things by the emotions that they evoke," he said.

The same interview points out how much more comfortable Styles has become with being flexible and fluid, both in his own writing and his collaborators. And now that he's found his right-hand men in Johnson and Hull, he finds it easier to bring his ideas to life. This has allowed Styles to continue to expand his writing, and that resulted in an album that launched his superstardom to even greater heights — and showcased Harry Styles simply having fun.

Now 28 (almost 29!), Styles has been a beloved star for nearly half of his life. In that time, fans have watched his musical abilities mature, morph and expand; he has shown a willingness to always have an eye on what comes next — and that forward thinking paid off in a big way in 2022. However he evolves next, it seems Styles will never lose the drive and endearing charm the world first saw on the "X Factor" stage over a decade ago.

"He's a very similar person. He's a very consistent, loyal, kind person, very focused. That is all the same," Johnson insists. "He's just doing what people do when they do it more and more — he's focusing in on who he is more, he's gaining confidence, and he's becoming more and more himself — which is a very potent thing."

Additional reporting by Taylor Weatherby.

The Official 2023 GRAMMYs Playlist Is Here: Listen To 115 Songs By Beyoncé, Harry Styles, Bad Bunny, Kendrick Lamar & More

2023 GRAMMYs Performers Announced: Bad Bunny, Lizzo, Sam Smith, Steve Lacy, Mary J. Blige & More Confirmed
(Clockwise, L-R): Bad Bunny, Kim Petras, Sam Smith, Luke Combs, Steve Lacy, Brandi Carlile, Lizzo, Mary J. Blige

Photos Courtesy of the Artists

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2023 GRAMMYs Performers Announced: Bad Bunny, Lizzo, Sam Smith, Steve Lacy, Mary J. Blige & More Confirmed

The first wave of 2023 GRAMMYs performers has been announced: Bad Bunny, Mary J. Blige, Brandi Carlile, Luke Combs, Steve Lacy, Lizzo, Kim Petras, and Sam Smith. Catch them all on Sunday, Feb. 5, on CBS, Paramount+, and live.GRAMMY.com!

GRAMMYs/Jan 25, 2023 - 03:00 pm

We all knew Music's Biggest Night would be explosive this year. Now, GRAMMY night just got bigger! The first round of performers for the 2023 GRAMMYs has been announced. Taking the GRAMMY stage will be current nominees Bad Bunny, Mary J. Blige, Brandi Carlile, Luke Combs, Steve Lacy, Lizzo, Kim Petras, and Sam Smith.

Live from Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles and hosted by Trevor Noah, the 2023 GRAMMYs will be broadcast live on Sunday, Feb. 5, at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on the CBS Television Network and will be available to stream live and on demand on Paramount+.

Prior to the Telecast, the GRAMMY Awards Premiere Ceremony will be broadcast live from the Microsoft Theater at 12:30 p.m. PT and will be streamed live on live.GRAMMY.com. Additional performers will be announced in the coming days.

On GRAMMY Sunday, fans can access exclusive, behind-the-scenes GRAMMYs content, including performances, acceptance speeches, interviews from the GRAMMY Live red-carpet special, and more via the Recording Academy's digital experience on live.GRAMMY.com.

Read More: Where, What Channel & How To Watch The Full 2023 GRAMMYs

Learn more about the 2023 GRAMMYs performers and host here and below:

Two-time GRAMMY winner Bad Bunny is up for three GRAMMY nominations: Album Of The Year (Un Verano Sin Ti), Best Pop Solo Performance ("Moscow Mule") and Best Música Urbana Album (Un Verano Sin Ti).

Nine-time GRAMMY winner Mary J. Blige is nominated for six GRAMMY Awards: Record Of The Year ("Good Morning Gorgeous"), Album Of The Year (Good Morning Gorgeous (Deluxe)), Best R&B Performance ("Here With Me"), Best Traditional R&B Performance ("Good Morning Gorgeous"), Best R&B Song ("Good Morning Gorgeous"), and Best R&B Album (Good Morning Gorgeous (Deluxe)).  

Six-time GRAMMY winner Brandi Carlile is nominated for seven GRAMMY Awards this year: Record Of The Year ("You And Me On The Rock"), Album Of The Year (In These Silent Days), Best Rock Performance ("Broken Horses"), Best Rock Song ("Broken Horses"), Best Americana Performance ("You And Me On The Rock"), Best American Roots Song ("You And Me On The Rock"), and Best Americana Album (In These Silent Days). 

Listen Now: The Official 2023 GRAMMYs Playlist Is Here: Listen To 115 Songs By Beyoncé, Harry Styles, Bad Bunny, Kendrick Lamar & More

Luke Combs is up for three GRAMMY nominations: Best Country Duo/Group Performance ("Outrunnin' Your Memory"), Best Country Song ("Doin' This") and Best Country Album (Growin' Up). 

Steve Lacy is up for four GRAMMY nominations: Record Of The Year ("Bad Habit"), Song Of The Year ("Bad Habit"), Best Pop Solo Performance ("Bad Habit"), and Best Progressive R&B Album (Gemini Rights). 

Read More: A Look At The Nominees For Album Of The Year At The 2023 GRAMMY Awards

Three-time GRAMMY winner Lizzo is nominated for five GRAMMY Awards: Record Of The Year ("About Damn Time"), Album Of The Year (Special), Song Of The Year ("About Damn Time"), Best Pop Solo Performance ("About Damn Time"), and Best Pop Vocal Album (Special).

First-time nominee Kim Petras is up for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance ("Unholy").

Four-time GRAMMY winner Sam Smith is nominated for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance ("Unholy").

Keep checking back here on GRAMMY.com for more details on the 2023 GRAMMYs — and tune in on Sunday, Feb. 5, at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT to watch who takes home GRAMMY gold. And head to live.GRAMMY.com for a dynamic and expansive online experience where you can explore Music's Biggest Night in full.

2023 GRAMMY Nominations: See The Complete Nominees List