What Harry Styles Thought When He First Heard ‘What Makes You Beautiful’

“What Makes You Beautiful” remains One Direction‘s most iconic song. Although it’s associated with Harry Styles and company, it was actually written by a songwriter named Savan Kotecha. Kotecha opened up about the song’s origins and what Styles thought when he first heard it.

Harry Styles | Terence Patrick/CBS via Getty Images

What inspired ‘What Makes You Beautiful’

Kotecha has written songs for a number of successful pop artists including Britney Spears, Justin Bieber, and Christina Aguilera. Among the songs he’s written, he’s particularly fond of “What Makes You Beautiful.”

Kotecha told The Hollywood Reporter how the song was written. “I had the melody of the chorus in my song for about a year until I was in a hotel room in London with my wife and she was having a bad morning. She was like, ‘Oh, I feel so ugly’ and I was like, ‘No, you look beautiful. You don’t know how beautiful you look.’”

He added “‘That’s a good song! Hold on!’ And I wrote that down. I actually wrote the song for my wife, so I went to the studio and it took a process of a couple weeks to really tweak it, but the core of it was written within two days and then tweaked a few things here and there over a couple weeks, but I mean, I still have the text message from Harry [Styles].

What Harry Styles and Savan Kotecha thought about the song

“What Makes You Beautiful’ by One Direction

Kotecha recalled what happened when Styles first heard the demo. “When he heard the demo, I was in Miami on my way back to Sweden, and he sent me a text message saying, ‘I think you got it. I think you got the one here.’ I still have that text message.”

The Hollywood Reporter asked Kotecha which of his songs has the best lyrics. He replied “Gosh, I guess since I’m being all sentimental with One Direction – I guess ‘What Makes You Beautiful’ because I wrote that for my wife. I’ve written a few songs for my wife, but that’s the one that became the biggest hit, so I’m kind of proud of that.”

Kotecha reflected on what the song means for his relationship with his wife. “That’s a couple of Valentine’s Days and Christmas presents all ready there. If I ever forget one day I’ll just be like, ‘Hey, remember ‘What Makes You Beautiful’?” He also called the track “one of those, you know, lightning strikes.”

Can the new Harry Styles coexist with “What Makes You Beautiful’?

Harry Styles performing “What Makes You Beautiful” solo

Though the song was a massive hit, Billboard reports Harry Styles is not concerned with having hits during his solo career. He told Zane Lowe “If you don’t hit the top of the chart, your life doesn’t change. Realizing that if that was what I was aiming at, and then it didn’t happen, then I’d feel so much worse. Redefining it for me has been amazing to be like, ‘Oh but that’s not the game I’m playing.’ There’s a freedom with that.”

Since he left One Direction, Styles has completely changed his music. He now produces a mix of folk, rock, and indie pop songs. However, he hasn’t abandoned “What Makes You Beautiful” as a solo artist. Billboard says he performed a spirited rendition of the track during a concert on Dec. 9, 2019. Although he’s evolved as a musician, Styles still knows the song is, well, beautiful.