I could write about my whole experience at the Harry Styles show, but to spare you, I won’t – It was life-changing, transcendental, and one of the happiest nights of my life – but I’m actually here because I really want to talk about what the songs “Girl Crush” and “If I Could Fly” mean to me.
“Girl Crush” is a song performed by Little Big Town, released in December 2014. It dominated every kind of country music chart. I remember it being on the radio at any given second. When I first heard that song a few years ago, I remember thinking how genius it was. It was the first time I had ever encountered a song, where a girl was jealous of another girl because she had the guy, but stated in a way that was unique . She doesn’t only wish she had the guy for herself, but even more she wishes she was that other girl and not herself … Which, if you think about it, is profound … and sad.
The song became so popular that the radio played it too much, and I knew a lot of people who flat out said they hated the song and its concept altogether. I would roll my eyes. If you ask Little Big Town or any country radio host, I’m sure they’d say this song is obviously about love and jealousy, but it meant something different to me. I was translating the song into a message of self-worthlessness, but not one that was making me cry over that kind of feeling. It was just something that made me feel like I wasn’t alone.
My teenage experience was weird, rough, and long, and I’m sure it probably sounds abrupt to just throw this out there, but I would be lying if I said I never thought about drowning myself or falling asleep at night hoping I wouldn’t see morning or just seriously praying that I would wake up being anyone else except me. I was struggling with issues that had been ongoing things for a pretty long time. It wasn’t new to me. Wishing I could look or be like other girls wasn’t new to me either and not because there was ever a guy involved, but just because I wanted to be the way she did and that was it, and only then, finally, would someone, anyone, love me just as much as they would the next person.
So I guess the backstory I’m trying to tell here is … I pretty much hated myself.
I loved country music. It helped me a lot through that time, and no matter who laughed about it, I never changed what I loved about music for anyone’s approval, but I was doing a lot to myself and to my body to try and change me as much as I possibly could. I’m not saying the song was triggering for me because it wasn’t. In a way, I actually felt understood. It was a song that made me emotional, but in a way so different than how it was meant to mean. I really connected to it back then. It was sort of healing for me hearing my thoughts sang and spoken out loud like that. There was someone out there who wrote that. People felt that. They thought that, and that meant I wasn’t the only one who did.
I wanna walk you to where I am today though.
We have always supported One Direction here – that’s not news. So, I can tell you that I remember exactly when Harry Styles came out with his version of “Girl Crush.” I was at lunch alone, and then I saw on Twitter that he had released it on Spotify. I played it, started crying, and then found it more than impossible to finish eating my cheeseburger. I was praising Harry Styles already for the classic rock sound he came out with on his debut album, but then the fact that he chose this song to cover was everything to me. I remember picking up my phone and looking at it with blurred vision because of tears.
Now it’s July 2018, and Harry Styles is singing “If I Could Fly” in front of me. Undoubtedly, the song that was there for me on lonely late nights and too-rushed early mornings and in the car with me on a long drive when no one else was. Simply put – One of my favorite song One Direction has ever made.
I told myself I wasn’t going to cry that night which was a stupid thing to promise myself, except that I really was doing okay. I was happy and alive and happy to be alive. For once in my life. Until he got to the line, “Pain gets hard, but now you’re here and I … don’t … feel … a … thing ..”
I audio recorded this part of the show. You can hear me sobbing.
The tears fell out of me. The “For when you’re lonely,” the “Forget who are,” the “I’m missing half of me,” the way Harry sings “I can feel your heart inside of mine,” and the way the arena sings, “I feel it,” back to him. It wrecked me, but only because hearing it right there in front of you in a place where you finally felt like you belong meant so much more … and God, what a safe place he made for us. There were so many times this song brought me down from a panic attack and so many times that song filled my heart with hope when there wasn’t any to begin with, and that was the first time I was taking in seeing him sing it in front of me. I started to cry .. and if it’s possible to cry tears of joy, gratitude, and relief all at the same time, then that’s exactly what I did.
If I Could Fly by Harry Styles featuring the entirety of the Los Angeles Forum
Immediately after me being the most emotional I had been all night, Harry invites his band on stage, which is not what he usually does at this moment in the show. They set up for an acoustic song – Sarah Jones with her tambourine, Adam Prendergast brought his bass, Clare Uchima on vocals, Mitch Rowland with his acoustic, and Harry on his. I sit in silence, and then I hear the girl behind me say, “Oh, he’s singing Girl Crush.” I turn to my sister, who is my best friend and the only person I would ever wish to be at a Styles show with, and I say, “No, he’s not.”
The second he sings, “I got a ..” I break down.
I stopped breathing. I just remember being so grateful. There was no way he could have known what it would mean to me for him to play that song live that night. I don’t know how fate works but it felt like someone really knew how to hit me by having him play those two songs back to back – Just like before the show, when “Olivia” comes on and then immediately after it’s “Hey Jude” like I never asked for this.
Suddenly then, coming from that emotionally strange place, your heart gets lifted and thrown up into the air when just a few minutes later the entire arena is jumping along with you to “What Makes You Beautiful” – the song of our childhoods – live for the first time and people are cheering at the top of their lungs with you over rainbow flags and Black Lives Matter posters, and you’re thinking things like, “I have never honestly been in a safer place than this. I have honestly never felt so comfortable.” I don’t think I’ve ever felt that so strongly at a show before .. and it was amazing.
“Girl Crush,” for me, is tied to such a dark time in my life where I wasn’t thinking healthy things. To hear it just after “If I Could Fly,” a song that is such a promise of love and a reminder that love exists … I shouldn’t have been the least bit surprised that it’d be Harry Styles to remind me of it. Geez, and all I wanted that night was to scream at some rock music.
You get off your medicine. You stop the therapy. You forgive yourself. You look ahead. You think you forget your emotions sometimes. Until a song takes you back, and you cry. Even if it was a song from your darkest day, the truth is, you’re in the present now, and the song becomes past tense – so then it just becomes a reminder of, “So glad we made it. Look how far we’ve come.”
I honestly don’t know how he does it. Wherever I go .. In life, through the years, in time .. Somehow, he’s always known how to make us feel home and to this day continues to bring us home. In the best way possible. Thank you, Harry. Truly.
Here’s Harry and his crew performing “Girl Crush”
I just want to say one more thing because if there’s anything I’ve learned from going through all the things that I did, it’s this. Treat people with kindness . It truly keeps the world spinning. Give love. Choose love, but don’t forget about you. Treat yourself with kindness too. You deserve that, and I’m rooting for you.
Girl Crush by Little Big Town 2014