I was bracing for excellence and other-worldly beauty when I positioned myself in front of the live CBS airwaves on Sunday night to watch Harry Styles open the Grammys. Still, nothing could have prepared me for what soon graced my screen: a shirtless Styles in a leather suit bopping around the stage to a slow-jam version of “Watermelon Sugar.”
I’m still processing what transpired in those transcendent three minutes and 16 seconds, but Styles first emerged in what we now know to be a faux fur boa by—of course—Gucci that made my mind leap to Lenny Kravitz’s giant scarf of yore. “Does he not have a shirt on?” I exclaimed aloud, at the very same moment my 7-year-old daughter muttered “What a weirdo” under her breath. Ignoring that blasphemy, I watched Styles launch into a jazzy arrangement of 2020’s song of the summer, one of the only purely joyful pop cultural moments in a truly terrible year.
This alone was gorgeous: the occasionally haunting remix, his ringed hands gripping the mic (and an apparent new ring sighting at that). But then, in a moment almost as gripping as last Sunday night’s royal tea on CBS, Styles cast off the boa to reveal he was, indeed, shirtless and, in a very on-brand way, golden. It was the finesse of a true fashion icon. Everyone was wondering what he’d wear—a ruffled Bridgerton blouse, perhaps? Instead, his sartorial retort was to wear no shirt at all. Apart from his butterfly tattoo and an assortment of other ink, Styles also wore a cross chain and, as eagle-eyed fans noted on Twitter, Gucci’s cheeky “banana dick” necklace, as one does.
As an added gift to combat the Sunday scaries in a still ongoing pandemic, Styles went on to join his backup dancers in hip-popping choreography like one of The Supremes, making hearts across America ache. (Billie Eilish was all of us as she grinned and swayed in the wings.) The best part of the performance, though, was that Styles is a man audacious enough to go shirtless at his first Grammys, but also sweet enough to break into self-aware smiles throughout, as if amused by the whole thing.
This angel already won the night, even before he later won his first Grammy for Best Pop Solo Performance for “Watermelon Sugar.” Sadly, by then, he’d put on a shirt.