Getty Images for iHeartMedia
Getty Images for iHeartMedia
It's going to be OK.
The relentlessly popular British heartthrob is celebrating his 22nd birthday today—"happy birthday, Harry" has been the name of the game on Twitter since the stroke of midnight in the U.K.—and, while a case can be made for any of his 1D mates, Harry is conceivably the One who is going to have the easiest road to solo success.
First starters, he has a few things in common with a certain other young hit-maker who started out as one-fifth of a beloved boy band...
Kevin Mazur/WireImage.com, Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images
Yup, Harry is just about the age Justin Timberlake was when he cut his first solo album, Justified, during what was originally billed as 'N Sync's "temporary hiatus" and ended up being it for the "Bye Bye Bye" boys.
J.T., who just turned 35 yesterday (so they're astrological sign mates as well!), was a few months shy of his 22nd birthday when Justified came out in November 2002 and turned him into a bonafide one-man band.
They're not exactly the same kind of performers (unless Harry's got some dance moves he's just been waiting for the right time to bust out), but the overall similarities are there.
Though Harry's voice doesn't have quite the distinctive timbre of Justin's that made him so distinguishable among his band mates, he as well has obviously always been the unofficial frontman of One Direction. And like J.T., he has already amassed quite a few songwriting credits from the group's various albums—some of which he shared with Liam Payne, Niall Horan, Louis Tomlinson and Zayn Malik, and some with other members of the small village that contributed to 1D's many hits.
Asked about a potential solo project last summer, when he was still very much in the middle of a 1D tour, Harry told Billboard.com, "I think when you have so many goals that you feel like you have yet to achieve, it's hard to kind of see past those. It's important to kind of focus on what's going on and don't kind of lose track. So we're all working hard towards the same thing right now, and I don't think we're thinking much past that."
Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for iHeartMedia
But now that he has more time to think...what will he do?! Where will he go?! How will he sound?!
"Initially I did feel a little bit of uneasiness about being on my own because I didn't want the guys to think that I wanted to leave the group," he added.
Wait, just kidding! That's something Justin Timberlake said in 2002 when Justified came out. But we're expecting those sorts of parallels once the inevitable happens, and Harry Styles heads into the studio to cut his solo debut.
(Disclaimer: We're still not entirely certain that the lad, who's merely 22 after all, won't take a nice long break from the biz and be content to rest on his laurels and his bank account, see where it goes with Kendall Jenner and just be for awhile.)
To get down to brass tacks, Harry has a super-strong voice, his pipes really shining on "Story of My Life," and he sounds great live. Translation: He can hold his own onstage without three or four other guys muffling what he sounds like.
And among other solo-star requirements Harry already has:
A Certain Je Ne Sais Quois
The young man has charisma off the charts—and aside from "he's cute," you can't...quite...put...your...finger...on...it. But that's good! A certain undeniably magnetic charm is a trait shared by the most legendary pop stars, from Frank Sinatra to Pharrell, Jimmy Hendrix to Mick Jagger (who, of course, is Harry's separated-at-birth-plus-five-decades twin).
Like Justin, Harry was never the most generically handsome member of his group (JC Chasez 4-eva!), he sometimes borders on the too-skinny and he plays with his hair so damn much, especially now that it's so long—but we wouldn't alter a single thing about him. He's just the guy, from the tattoos to the teeny-tiny pants. End of story.
The Style Factor
Though his day-to-day is pretty hipster-standard, he pulled off a leopard-print T-shirt years ago and continued to take fashion risks, never one to shy away from a floral-patterned suit.
And he pulls off these not-for-everybody choices, from the man-bun to the white-shirt-and-skinnies outfit we'd be comfortable copying from head to toe.
He's Already That Kind of a Celebrity
Sure, Louis becoming a dad and Zayn's new relationship with Gigi Hadid are making headlines, but those blokes are not obsessed over to the level that Harry is obsessed over in the U.S. He's the one who's made it into a Taylor Swift song (allegedly), after all. For better or worse, Harry has already achieved the level of fame that gets any "next endeavor" off the ground. With that star power comes increased scrutiny and, thanks to social media, more real-time attention than J.T. could have ever imagined back in 2002—but what he does with all of that fame capital he already has is up to him.
"It was hard to say goodbye to that era, but I felt it changing," Justin would say later, in 2013, about leaving 'N Sync. "I felt music changing. And I felt myself changing."
Since joining 1D about five and a half years ago, Harry Styles hasn't had much time to pursue any alternate direction. But soon we're going to find out more about just what sort of changes may have been going on right under our noses, and more about what makes the man, all on on his own.
Happy birthday, Harry Styles—we can't wait to see what 22 has in store.