The dimples, the manicures, the enigmatic persona, the Gucci bell bottoms. In today’s pop music scene, Harry Styles prevails as one-of-a-kind. The Holmes Chapel native teased the release of his “Watermelon Sugar” music video at a time when us fans are missing him the most.
Instead of posting on social media upfront to promote the video, Styles and his team took a stealthier route to build anticipation. In early May, the website doyouknowwhoyouare.com was updated with pink and green aesthetics, like a watermelon (hint number one).
Styles and his team originally created the site in October 2019 on World Mental Health Day in order to tease Styles’ first single “Lights Up” off his sophomore album, “Fine Line.” Back then, fans could visit the website, enter their names and receive auto-generated love notes like “You are brave” or “You are a sweet creature.” Currently, the messages align with the summery, sweet feel of “Watermelon Sugar”: “You are so wonderful and warm” or “You are infinite summer.” Every message is signed off with an endearing reminder to “Treat people with kindness. Love, H.”
In the past couple of days building up to the “Watermelon Sugar” video, after fans entered their name into doyouknowwhoyouare.com and received their love note, they would be redirected to ijustwannatasteit.com, named after a lyric from the new single. Of course, this new website sparked buzz amongst Styles’ fans — self-dubbed “Harries.” At first, the website just displayed an image of an empty table set up right next to the beach. Over a few days, supporters started to notice that more and more items were added to this table setting: a napkin, a croissant, a coffee cup, some orange juice. Some speculated that once the table was completely set, Styles would drop the music video for “Watermelon Sugar,” causing a lot of us, I’m sure, to check the website every day.
And unsurprisingly, we were right. That image of the table is, in fact, the opening shot of the “Watermelon Sugar” music video, which dropped on Monday, May 18. One fan tweeted: “Harry Styles is the only one who can make his fans obsess over a table.” Without question, Styles expertly played into his mysterious public persona, but moreover, made great use of his admirably observant and clever fan base.
The singer-songwriter is notoriously cryptic about his personal life, telling Rolling Stone in 2017 : “With an artist like Prince, all you wanted to do was know more. And that mystery – it’s why those people are so magical! Like, f—, I don’t know what Prince eats for breakfast. That mystery … it’s just what I like.”
Though the magic of Styles could easily be intrinsic to who he is, the mysterious air around him contributes to his unattainable and overpowering appeal. Because Styles has a more reserved or curated presence on social media, what he chooses to share online generally sends us fans into a spiral. What does it mean? What’s coming next?
With the similarly cryptic way Styles has promoted his music in the past, his fans have had to become expert sleuths. We’ve endlessly connected the dots before all his releases, tracking the “Do You Know Who You Are” posters around London and LA in October 2019, then reading into the famous “Do” tweet (which we later found out was a sleepy mistake) and even finding out about the visiteroda.com website months before the “Adore You” music video was dropped.
Some artists out there might be embarrassed or weirded out by the devotion of their fan base, particularly artists whose fans are detectives in the making. Styles, as he fully embodies his own slogan, “Treat People with Kindness,” supports his fans and their antics by feeding us more and more obscure and mysterious promo. The “Watermelon Sugar” teasing seems to be the crux of his obscurity, almost as if he’s testing us and our well-practiced investigative skills.
Styles has always known that his fans, largely consisting of teenage to young adult women, are passionate and dedicated, and that’s not something he seems to be afraid or ashamed of. Rather, he wholeheartedly encourages it. As he told Rolling Stone: “How can you say young girls don’t get it? They’re our future — our future doctors, lawyers, mothers, presidents, they keep the world going. Teenage girl fans — they don’t lie. If they like you, they’re there. They don’t act too cool. They like you, and they tell you.”
When it comes to empowering a young and predominantly female fan base, Styles continues to do it right. In the “Watermelon Sugar” music video, which symbolically seems to be all about women’s sexual pleasure, women and people of all skin colors, body types and backgrounds can be seen frolicking along the ocean, wholeheartedly enjoying the taste of summer fruits with Styles himself.
A dream brought to fruition while all of us are quarantined, the video is “dedicated to touching.” The women are never overtly sexualized or objectified but rather often at the forefront of the video, enjoying themselves in summery ’70s-inspired Gucci getups, looking altogether angelic and powerful. Capturing his sunny disposition and free spirit in the video, Styles inspires some optimism, if not for the coming summer but for more summers to follow. And, until then, he reminds us to treat people with kindness.