In her Fans to the Front column, Brittany Spanos dives into what's happening in fan culture on the Internet.
Before Harry Styles' tour kickoff gig in San Francisco last month, hundreds of fans were equipped with homemade pink construction-paper hearts. During the singer's performance of recent solo single "Sweet Creature," they all held them up at once, creating a sea of hearts as the floral-suited performer sang "When I run out of hope, you bring me home" on the Masonic stage.
The pink hearts weren't available at the merch table or gifted to the fans by Styles. Instead, they were part of a fan-led initiative started by 21-year-old Phoenix native Effy Phillips, a backer of One Direction since the beginning.
"They looked like a group of guys that I would want to be friends with," she tells Rolling Stone of her interest in the group. "I love them all equally, but I always felt like I connected with Harry more."
Styles' musical tastes especially resonate with Phillips. Fleetwood Mac is her favorite band, so when Styles rolled out an album tinged with the Mac's influence, she felt even more connected than before.
Along with a few friends who were also planning to attend Styles' San Francisco show, Phillips cooked up a plan to show thanks and appreciation to one of her favorite singers. "We got the idea for the hearts from an account that said, 'Hey, let's all do something for the tour to show how much we appreciate him,'" she recalls. Since Phillips was traveling from Arizona, her friend Hannah made the nearly 400 hearts, which featured his initials and instructions to hold up them up during "Sweet Creature" and the show closer "Sign of the Times."
Fellow fans were receptive as the group passed out the hearts and glow sticks beginning at 8 a.m. on show day. They ran out of the hearts by 3 p.m., and the fans who did get one had no problem going along with the plan.
"'Sweet Creature' is a song that the fans relate to when we think of Harry because, I know for me, he's my home," Phillips explains, noting that his first official solo single, "Sign of the Times," was more of a no-brainer. "I feel comfortable and safe when I listen to him. It's a beautiful song he wrote about someone he loves, and bringing them closer no matter what they go through. No matter what we as fans go through with him, we're always going to be there for him and he'll always be our home."
On Saturday, Styles will perform the final show of the North American leg of his first solo tour in Phillips' hometown, Phoenix. Given the response to the San Francisco hearts, she has worked to make nearly 1,000 fresh pink hearts for the show, and now she's combining her project with a separate fan project that began making purple stars with the lyrics to "Sweet Creature" on them.
"We really want to say thank you," she explains of the effort. "We're really trying to make this super big to get as many people as we can with those hearts so that when he looks out into that crowd at the end of his first solo U.S. tour, he's going to be like, 'This is it. This is why I do it.'"