Pet shop boys

Harry Styles has entered his imperial phase – but his music still has no distinct identity

At the turn of this century, looking back on the late 1980s when the Pet Shop Boys could do no wrong and everything they touched turned to platinum, Neil Tennant coined the concept of a musician’s ‘imperial phase’. You can be hugely popular at other times in your career – you can sell just as many records – but the imperial phase is something different. The imperial phase is when an artist isn’t just selling records; it’s when approval of them has reached such a pitch that they can do no wrong. It’s when every magazine and newspaper uses any excuse to run photos of them, when their peers garland