Tuesday marks the unofficial international holiday that is Harry Styles’ 28th birthday. The singer, ex-boybander, and budding fashion icon had a packed year at 27—he won a Grammy, joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe, launched a cosmetics brand, and brought his Love On Tour shows all over the U.S. But he may just outdo himself at 28, with the upcoming international leg of his tour, a headlining slot at Coachella, and a couple big movie roles, including one in Olivia Wilde’s next film.
When he’s not busy touring or incurring the wrath of Candace Owens for wearing a dress, the “Adore You” singer occasionally flexes his chops as a compelling cover artist. So in honor of his birthday, take a break from streaming Fine Line for the thousandth time and check out Styles’ best and most surprising covers below.
“Girl Crush” by Little Big Town
This ballad from the country group Little Big Town may seem like an odd choice for Styles. But the singer makes “Girl Crush” his own in this mournful, moody, obsessive rendition, which was released as a Spotify single in 2017.
“You’re Still the One” by Shania Twain
OK, so maybe country music and Harry Styles aren’t such an unlikely pairing after all. The former One Direction member is on the record as being a major Shania fan, and in 2018, he and Kacey Musgraves turned “You’re Still the One” into a dreamy duet that wouldn’t be out of place on the soundtrack of an early-aughts teen rom-com.
“Teenage Dirtbag” by Wheatus
It might be cheating to include a One Direction cover, but the band’s version of “Teenage Dirtbag” was a fan-favorite addition to the setlist of their 2013 Take Me Home tour. The hormone-driven pop-punk ditty was refreshingly edgy when stacked up against 1D’s catalog of originals (though the bar was not especially high).
“Leather and Lace” by Stevie Nicks with Don Henley
This is a deep cut from Styles’ 2017 secret show at the Troubadour in Los Angeles, immortalized on video by fans’ iPhone cameras. The singer is joined by his lifelong musical hero, Stevie Nicks, and you can see him beaming at her with sincere reverence as she sings her verses; it’s an exciting, intimate moment between a superfan and his biggest inspiration. Let’s pray to the pop music gods that 2022 will be the year we finally get an official Styles/Nicks studio collab.
“Big Yellow Taxi” by Joni Mitchell
Joni Mitchell is up there with Nicks as one of Styles’ main musical influences—his Fine Line song “Canyon Moon” is clearly inspired by the Canadian folk singer, down to the name, which evokes Mitchell’s Ladies of the Canyon album. Styles covered “Big Yellow Taxi” for BBC Radio in 2020 and unsurprisingly crushed it.
“Juice” by Lizzo
A classic Harry Styles moment, this cover of “Juice” is a blast. The December 2019 BBC 1 performance gave fans the early Christmas gift of hearing Styles declare, “No, I’m not a snack at all / Ooh baby, I’m the whole damn meal,” and seeing him grin as he sings, “You better come get your man, I think he wanna be way more than friends.” It may not showcase his strongest vocals, but it exemplifies what people love about him as a performer: his willingness to have fun.
“The Chain” by Fleetwood Mac
During his first solo tour, when he only had one short album of new songs to pull from, Styles included a cover of “The Chain” in his encore. As shown in this 2017 performance from the BBC 1 Radio Live Lounge, and unlike some of the other covers on this list, he’s not overly concerned with making it his own. It’s just a solid, straightforward tribute to a band and song that he loves.
“Sledgehammer” by Peter Gabriel
Styles and his band covered Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer” during a 2020 appearance on The Howard Stern Show. The artist told Stern he was inspired to cover the song after recording some of Fine Line at Gabriel’s Real World Studios in England. Styles seems totally comfortable and confident within the groovy, ’80s sound of the song, though his super talented (and unbelievably cool) drummer Sarah Jones almost outshines him. Almost. The bottom line? He would be smart to channel more of this funk and soul into more of his music. Maybe that should be his goal for 28.