By Joanna Cosgrove
Harry has been a quiet, secretive man recently, head down in writing music and finishing the filming for his (technically) acting debut in Christopher Nolan’s war flick Dunkirk, but now we have seen what musical talent he has left over from his One Direction days. But now it’s him, and him alone, and he has taken himself down a different route.
With a post of a photo from a possible album shoot, stating the title “Sign of the Times” and today’s date (7th April) – and now we got that song! It’s been a long time, so let’s see how this re-introduction has been.
The song, straightaway, you can feel this isn’t the Harry Styles from One Direction. This man has matured, grown, and he has experienced his fair share in life; you can feel it all from the slow piano-led introduction.
Styles’ vocals have changed and honestly, improved. Not that he had a horrific singing voice prior, but it’s a lot stronger and much more confident. The song quickly builds up to a strong verse, as the percussion comes in, and if vocals can overshadow the drum beats, you’re doing something right – and Styles definitely is!
Let’s discuss that beautiful falsetto, that appears a fair few times throughout the tune. Styles puts his heart into every reach of a high note, and it doesn’t sound forced or pushed; it feels natural, and it feels passionate, and matches the change of key perfectly. Styles has always been known in his old boyband for having one of the best range of vocals, and when you give him five minutes for himself, you can tell that is 100% true. It tugs at the listeners’ hearts as his lyrics speak out, discuss how tears are just “a sign of the times”, which suggests a yearning to leave the anger and sadness behind to move forward into a better and easier environment.
This story can speak to a wide range of people, young and old, men and women. That’s how you know your song’s story is worthy: when a whole population of different people can hear it and picture a moment in their lives when they felt they had to sit and ask “why be here when I am not getting anywhere?”
Styles’ debut solo gives the feeling of a classic power ballad from the 1990s, and as he stated in interviews (particularly from the BBC Radio 1 interview with Nick Grimshaw), he had to work his own influences from songs he learnt and loved from his childhood, listening to what his parents enjoyed. That is evident when you hear the instruments work together, along with Styles’ strong but sensitive lyrics and voice, to give those older listeners a nostalgia trip. I’m sure they would sigh, lean back, and remember.
To conclude, this song is a great step towards a successful solo career, and I will support Harry as he continues this new and scary journey as I have and will with the other members. He knows his former 1D audience have grown and matured with him, and in a way, this song shows that he sees the fans are no longer the boy-crazy teenagers they once were. They have changed, their music tastes have broadened, and Harry is no stranger to change himself so he is welcoming them all.
Adults: don’t groan and shake your head! Give this a listen and I swear you will listen to it again. And again. And again.