After a long, cold winter the 2021 Grammy awards raised the temperature, opening with Harry Styles performing “Watermelon Sugar”, the song he went on to win best pop solo performance for later in the evening.
Dressed in a leather suit with nothing underneath, and with a green feather boa draped around his neck, Styles sent the internet into a tailspin with the performance in which he lost the boa and exposed his toned, tattooed chest. The song from May last year brought some sweltering summer sunshine to the ceremony and showed there is no harder working man for the cause of male sexuality.
For years now Styles has continued to push the boundaries of masculinity when it comes to his sense of style: playing with proportion in his tailoring, donning dresses and jewelery, and generally earning the ire of those stuck in the Forties when it comes to what men and women are ‘allowed’ to wear. Thoughts and prayers for his critics this morning as Styles proved that just as easily as he can subvert the traditional image of male sexuality, he can also revert back to the classics and knock it out the park.
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The message here, not that it’s one Styles ever feels the need to point out, is that modern masculinity should be about affording men the freedom to express themselves rather than ticking a box and being forced to stay in it. The singer has long refused to label his sexuality and has spoken of his desire to tear down gender norms, and his Grammys performance was a reminder that he can have it both ways. Flinging off his feather boa to expose an Adonis-like chest is the perfect melding of old masculinity and new.
That’s the thing about Styles. Just when you think he’ll zig, he zags. When you’re sure he doesn’t speak for most ‘manly’ men because he’s wearing women’s clothes (can you imagine!), he whips out his toned abs and causes the western hemisphere to have a nervous breakdown. And if his critics are feeling riled this morning, just wait until they hear what “Watermelon Sugar” is really about.
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