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Something very pecoo-liar is going down in the shadowy realm of stan Twitter, and it has to do with a certain Gucci-sporting ex-boybander’s music video. Some artists enigmatically wipe their Instagram clean in the weeks preceding a release. Others drop surprise albums. But has anybody in the history of album promo ever devised an elaborate alternate reality game (ARG) of a fake island off the Scottish coast, planted standalone social media ads on fans’ Twitter feeds, and let chaos and teenage fans’ FBI sleuthing reign supreme?
Much like many Gen Z sexual awakenings, the answer is “not until Harry Styles.” It all began when poor, unsuspecting Twitter user @TheBrotographer stumbled upon a mysterious ad for a tourist site advertising a fake island called “Eroda.” At first, the linked website seemed to be a commonplace scam, especially given its fairly elementary design (what is that font — Cambria? Georgia? So help me God, is that f-cking Caslon?) and use of stock photos of Nordic landscapes. But upon further investigation, things were much stranger — and sexier — than they appeared to be.
For one, the site’s individual pages are littered with cryptic messages. “Don't mention a pig in the pub,” advises the webpage of the local Fisherman’s Pub, while a listing for privately chartered fishing boats recommends that passengers “wear one peculiar gold earring,” “for extra good luck.” Elsewhere, the site cautions against leaving Eroda “on odd numbered days.” Um, what the hell? On top of that, the site doesn’t even have a means to give it money. Nary a PayPal link or a Venmo username? Pretty ineffectual scam you got there.
Unless it wasn’t a scam at all, as shrewd Harry Styles devotees quickly discovered. The “Attractions” page locates the swine-free pub at the corner of “Cherry Street” and “Golden Way” — tracks three and five, respectively, from Styles’ upcoming release, “Fine Line.” (Admittedly subtler than “Having Sex Avenue” and “Feeling Sad Road,” which would’ve been my picks. I guess there’s a reason I’m not in marketing!) A number of other close readings proliferated — some which are probably reaches, like this weirdly popular hypothesis about the Greek poet Herodas (some of us didn’t take HUM-10) — but ultimately the dead giveaway was track four, “Adore You.” What’s Eroda backwards? Yep, you guessed it. Polish up your tin foil hats, because Eroda is officially Illuminati confirmed, everyone.
Eventually, all became clear on Monday when Styles’ official channel released this explanatory trailer, in which Eroda was revealed to be, indeed, a promotional campaign for “Adore You,” the singer’s new single and music video. In between was some weird guerrilla marketing, in which some poor Columbia Records intern made fake Harry Styles stan accounts to tweet obviously manufactured missives like “Eroda is…” and to pretend to leak some shaky handheld footage of a movie theater ad. One profile’s Twitter bio reads, “I’m just a simple Harry fan... like all of you.” Why is this the most unsettling thing I’ve read all day? The ominous energy of this sentence! The ellipses! That period at the end! No self-respecting digital native punctuates their Twitter bio. It’s psychopathic. If anything, this phrase is more convincing that the profile is actually managed by a very personable serial killer, or perhaps a benevolent axe murderer. Or someone’s mother trying to cyberbully their kid’s enemy on a fake Instagram. How do you do, my fellow kids? This is the least successful catfish of our generation, but go off.
With the allure of a conspiracy in the air, few denizens of the Harry Styles cybersphere are focusing on the actual music video (including this writer, so enjoy the following two-sentence, extremely surface-level reading). The video seems to revolve around a “pecooliar” boy — Harry G.D. Styles himself — with a literally megawatt smile, whose charisma is so intense that it sets umbrellas on fire and even paralyzes the fish. The poster features a stained-glass-like silhouette of Styles in a vaguely Christlike pose, surrounded by more fish. Fish… loaves… Nietzsche was wrong. God is very much alive, and his name is Harry Styles. Step aside, God! There’s a new lord and savior in town. #Blessed.
— Staff writer Caroline A. Tsai can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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