Track Review: Harry Styles, ‘Sign of the Times’
Harry Styles delivers a gem on thoughtful, debut solo single, “Sign of the Times.” The maturity trumps the bubblegum nature of the songs by One Direction.
With One Direction on a hiatus, another member of the band, Harry Styles, drops a single, “Sign of the Times.” First, Zayn exited the band completely, dropping a debut album in 2016 (Mind of Mine). Niall Horan would go on to issue a successful single, “This Town.” Louis Tomlinson wasn’t left out of the mix, providing vocals on Steve Aoki collaboration, “Just Hold On.” “Sign of the Times” is easily the lengthiest single released, approaching the six-minute mark.
The first thing that stands out about “Sign of the Times” is the voice. Styles impresses with his tone, which is pure and perfectly suited for this rock-pop ballad. In One Direction, he was in the running for best vocalist, and nothing changes with him holding the reins himself. As “Sign of the Times” progresses and he is allowed to let loose, he truly shows his potential and abilities. In regards to performance, he checks off all boxes.
The song itself is unquestionably beautiful. Approaching six minutes, it’s ambitious for a debut single. Nonetheless, it is thoughtfully penned. Harry Styles avoids the schmaltziness of One Direction, even if he will always have some association with those boy band roots. The first notion of seriousness occurs at the jump:
“Just stop your crying, it’s a sign of the times / Welcome to the final show / Hope you’re wearing your best clothes / You can’t bribe the door on your way to the sky / You look pretty good down here / But you ain’t really good.”
Morbidity is written all over the first verse. He continues to deliver an emotionally-driven performance on the pre-chorus.
“We never learn, we been here before / Why are we always stuck and running from / The bullets? The bullets?”
On the chorus, there’s a sense of reaching heaven – escaping the times of which Styles references earlier.
“Just stop your crying, it’s a sign of the times / We gotta get away from here…/ Just stop your crying, it’ll be alright / They told me that the end is near / We gotta get away from here.”
The second verse continues to reflect the ascent to heaven portrayed on the first verse, transcending the pain on earth. The bridge suggests being open about issues as opposed to keeping them secret and letting them destroy.
“We don’t talk enough, we should open up / Before it’s all too much / Will we ever learn? We’ve been here before / It’s just what we know.”
Ultimately, Harry Styles has a winner on his hand with “Sign of the Times.” Although it’s a lengthy introduction, it’s an excellent one that thrives off emotion and substance. Will this song be a hit? Hard to tell given its serious tone, but unquestionably, this is a great first statement by Styles.