Does Pop Music Have a New King?


Harry Styles poses in the press room at the 63rd annual Grammy Awards at the Los Angeles Convention Center on Sunday, March 14, 2021. Courtesy of AP Images.

Annisyn Krebs-Carr, Staff writer

Rolling Stone has claimed that there’s a new “King of Pop,” and they could not be more wrong.

Last week, Rolling Stone labeled Harry Styles the new “King of Pop,” and received almost immediate backlash. Undoubtedly, Styles is one of the top pop artists in our generation. With songs like “Adore You,” which spent 50 weeks on the Billboard Top 100 chart, and “Watermelon Sugar,” which spent 39 weeks on the chart, his ability to produce a good pop song is undeniable. But there is a difference between being a pop icon and being the “King of Pop,” a difference that people need to be made aware of.

With the release of his latest solo album, “Harry’s House,” Styles has only grown in popularity. And while he makes good music, the overplaying of his most popular songs has caused much of his music to grow stale.

The constant playing of “As It Was,” since the moment of its release in April, serves as a prime example. It comes to the point where many of his songs are simply background noise playing from the speakers in H+M. So while he is extremely accomplished in the era of overplayed pop songs, the title of “King of Pop” should remain with Michael Jackson.

Jackson was appropriately given the title in the early 80’s, after the release of his top-selling album, “Thriller.” Winning 13 Grammys, 86 Billboard Awards, and 26 American Music Awards, he was one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. Jackson revolutionized music while breaking racial boundaries, and paved the way for modern pop music. His music has had a lasting impact on people, and to give his title to someone who hasn’t made even a quarter of the same impact is disrespectful. 

What is also disrespectful is Styles’ outfit choices. Disrespectfully ugly. Last December, Styles’ fans applauded him for being one of the first men to break gender norms, after wearing a dress on the cover of Vogue. His outfit immediately sparked up conversation about gender identity and queer culture, his fans praising him for breaking boundaries that had already been broken decades earlier. 

While Styles’ sexual fluidity and femininity is something to applaud, he was not the first man to wear a dress for a magazine shoot. He wasn’t the beginning of the men’s movement into feminine dressing. There are many male artists who did it before him, and did it better. Prince. Elton John. David Bowie. And while Styles’ ability to put on a dress might be commendable, the dress was ugly. 

So while Styles may be a pop icon, it’s going to take more than an ugly dress and overplayed pop songs to be considered the “King of Pop.” Maybe he can be considered the “Prince of Pop.” Or the Duke.