Harry Styles debut solo single “Sign of the Times” was not exactly what people were expecting from Styles. The lyrics seemed at first to be rather cryptic. Was this song about a sign of the apocalypse, a terrorist attack, tough economic times, or fleeing bank robbers?
“Sign of the Times” was chosen to introduce Harry Styles as a solo musician. Styles described “Sign of the Times” to NPR as “middle ground” between the rock songs and the “acoustic, kind of picked ballad songs.”
Harry Styles spilled soon after the release of “Sign of the Times” that the story he was focusing on was a more personal tragedy.
“Sign of the Times” is about a woman told she had only five minutes to live due to complications of childbirth. It’s a song about what someone would tell a child they wouldn’t live to see grow up.
Still, Harry Styles spoke about the bigger picture of how things are going in the world, as he described the message behind “Sign of the Times.” Styles told NPR “bad stuff” is happening.
“Yeah, I think we were thinking about — there’s a lot of bad stuff going on in the world. And it’s not the last time that we will be in a place like that.”
The “Sign of the Times” lyrics aren’t specific to these times or one situation. Like Harry says, “it’s not the last time.” There is always a bad sign or omen, and always tough situations on the horizon. Yet, Styles insists in “Sign of the Times,” “it’ll be alright.”
Harry Styles says he is well aware that things are not quite right with the world. Despite his ever-present smile and confident demeanor, Styles knows the current situation is a bad sign. All the bad news is alarming, even for Styles. Harry was reflecting on the personal tragedy but also problems in the world, when he wrote “Sign of the Times.”
“I think the way that we receive information all the time now, it’s really difficult to ignore that stuff — and I think it would have been weird for me to write an album and not acknowledge that there’s anything bad going on in the world.”
Harry Styles is a rock musician now, and it would have been strange not to mention that the state of the world is less than perfect in these times. After all, rock music has always acknowledged injustice, war, troubled times, and dark spiritual influences. Very few serious rock musicians have just ignored these kinds of things.
Harry Styles’ decision to focus on the microcosm of one woman and her child for “Sign of the Times” is unusual, but the song could apply to a number of situations. The message though remains simple; “it’ll be alright” as the song says.
“I think we were writing it from a place of — you have five minutes to say, ‘It’s going to be alright.'”
“Sign of the Times” actually has a run time of five minutes, 42 seconds. This sets “Sign of the Times” apart from commercial pop and fits neatly within classic rock tradition.
Is Harry Styles right? Is everything “going to be alright”?
“Sign of the Times” has a totally different message than most rock anthems and ballads. It is strangely reassuring. Rock music has historically not been reassuring when speaking of things that are wrong in society.
Harry Styles knows we live in dangerous times. This came into clear focus when Ariana Grande’s Manchester concert was attacked by terrorists killing 22 people and injuring 59 others, according to NBC News. Styles tweeted, sending his love to victims.
I’m heartbroken over what happened in Manchester tonight.
Sending love to everyone involved. H
— Harry Styles. (@Harry_Styles) May 23, 2017
Harry Styles was obviously impacted by this tragedy which hit close to home. Not only is the incident somewhat reminiscent of “Sign of the Times” lyrics, Manchester is a mere 27 miles from Harry’s hometown, Holmes Chapel.
Harry Styles called a fan the very next morning, just to say “I love you.” Freya Lewis, who received multiple fractures, lacerations, and burns in the suicide bombing, got a phone call from the “Sign of the Times” singer. CBS reports that Harry called Freya and reached out to her while she was in her hospital room.
Harry Styles told his young fan, “I love you.” Not only did Freya tell Harry she loves him too, even Freya’s dad had to admit he loves Harry too for calling to comfort his daughter.
Harry Styles may actually hate to admit that things are not exactly right with the world, but when things go wrong for fans, Harry is always comforting, always loving to these little girls who adore him so much.
Harry Styles’ “Sign of the Times,” unlike the rock ballads of the past, is reassuring and takes a higher more transcendent perspective. There is no railing against the system, or angry rebellion in “Sign of the Times”, only gentle reassurance.
RELATED REPORTS FROM THE INQUISITR
Did Harry Styles write “Sign of the Times” to comfort and reassure his young fans in whatever hardships they may endure?
[Featured Image by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images]