Harry Styles, One Direction, And The Quest For A New Sound: Are They Suffering Enough For Their Art?

Harry Styles has in most ways achieved success and greatness. Yet Harry, as well as Zayn Malik, wants more. They have both worked in very different ways to achieve the golden kind of success they want. The kind of musical success that flows from hard work and yields something the artist can feel good about.

One Direction achieved a kind of popularity as a boy band that has not been seen since the Beatles. There were screaming girls and insane gross sales for concert tickets, merchandise, and albums. It was just like the Beatles, but not to Zayn Malik and not for Harry either.

If Harry Styles wants to be the next Paul McCartney, and he truly would like that, he feels he needs to up his game, and so do his band mates if they are going to keep up with him. The Inquisitr reported at length the similarities and differences between the two groups. It may not be fair to compare the innovations of the Beatles in their time to One Direction now, but that does not stop the longing in Harry’s heart to reinvent 21st-century music by improving upon his work as an artist.

“Stepping off the plane, the girls, the madness, it was exactly the same as when we got there – just 50 years earlier. But none of us think we’re in the same league as them music-wise. We’d be total fools if we did. Fame-wise it’s probably even bigger, but we don’t stand anywhere near them in terms of music.”

One Direction is lacking in only one aspect, according to Styles, and that is the music itself. It was too cookie-cutter and too vanilla for the guys to enjoy making. It kept them creatively unfulfilled even though it was making a lot of money.

Zayn Malik by Jason Kempin s

Harry Styles and Zayn Malik do not want to abandon their fans, and neither do the other 1D guys. What they want is to be allowed to grow up along with their fans so that they will continue to be appreciated.

Zayn Malik echoed Harry’s sentiments in his comments to Fader. Zayn left 1D because of the music. He loved and still has affection for every single member of the band, but he wanted to play a more complex type of music. He wanted to create something he was happy with.

One Direction’s music didn’t suit the musicians creating it. Zayn wanted a sound that fulfilled his desire to be a serious musician.

“There was never any room for me to experiment creatively in the band. If I would sing a hook or a verse slightly R&B or slightly myself, it would always be recorded 50 times until there was a straight version that was pop, generic as f**k, so they could use that version… We were told to be happy about something that we weren’t happy about.”

One Direction is not alone in seeking a new sound. Musicians the world over are seeking a new more interesting sound. Musicians are tired of music that sells. They want music that is great. So what makes great music? An interesting article recently appeared in New Sound International Journal of Music, where Professor Andrija Filipovic of Belgrade proposes that capitalism, money, and materialism interfere with musical creativity.

One Direction by Carlos Alvarez 2 c

One Direction already discovered that. Certainly, dealing with people who only care about profits and actually prefer mainstream vanilla music are counterproductive to the invention of a new sound, but the professor goes beyond that. He differentiates between being stuck in the current world of political and social interaction created by capitalism and moving into a creative and unifying space he calls the “infinite cosmos.”

Harry Styles and Zayn Malik, though using much simpler terms than this professor, are saying they want to transcend the idea of their music as a mass-produced product with the same basic recipe every time. One Direction songs are guaranteed to sell, but they want to make something personal and unique that speaks to individuals and humanity as a whole. They want music that speaks to people, not their wallets and their masks.

Can One Direction find this level of creativity? The professor echoes what has been said time and again in his closing statement, where he talks about the suffering of artists for their work. He speaks of struggle to survive becoming a metaphor within the struggle to create. One and the other are the same inside the heart.

“Books of philosophy and works of art also contain their sum of unimaginable sufferings that forewarn the advent of a people. Their resistance in common – their resistance to death, to servitude, to the intolerable, to shame and to the present.”

Harry Styles is fully aware that he needs to explore this creative place of psychic pain, self-discovery, and transcendence in order to become a real artist. He must find his struggle within, as well as on the outside. Although it is hard to fathom, truly great artists, including rich recording artists, really do struggle and suffer. Just consider Kurt Cobain. He was one of the most creative musicians of our time. He was perpetually depressed, and he eventually committed suicide despite millions of dollars in the bank. The place of creativity is not always pleasant or easy, and walking both worlds is confusing. Yet true artists need that suffering in order to feel fulfilled in their creations.

Is Harry Styles suffering enough yet? Is Zayn Malik? One Direction needs new direction beyond mainstream pop, but real creativity comes at a high price.

Harry Styles wants to explore his inner ability to create the kind of music that transcends this world, just as the Beatles did so long ago.

[Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images]