Harry Styles ‘Sign Of The Times’ Lyrics: Channeling David Bowie Or A Lack Of Direction? [Opinion]

One Direction star Harry Styles finally caught up with Liam Payne, Niall Horan and Zayn Malik on Friday. Harry became the fourth member of One Direction to release solo material when his new single “Sign Of The Times” was finally released. As you would expect, Styles’ release sent One Direction fans into a frenzy, especially when a glitch on streaming platform Spotify prevented them from being able to listen to the new release. We were promised that “Sign Of The Times” indicates a change of direction for the One Direction star, so does Harry’s new song live up to the hype?

Styles fans have been desperate to hear Harry’s new music. Harry signed a huge record deal, worth a reputed $80 million, shortly after One Direction announced their hiatus. When Styles signed with new management and PR teams, Harry led fans to hope that they would not have long to wait for new Harry Styles songs. Of course, Styles has been busy filming for Dunkirk, his debut movie role, which is due for release this summer. Harry has also been keeping a very low profile.

Harry Styles New Song
(Image by Joel Ryan/Invision/AP)

Harry’s bandmates Louis Tomlinson and Liam Payne have both had children since the start of One Direction’s hiatus. Payne, Niall Horan, and Zayn Malik have all released new music that takes a different direction to One Direction’s music. Naturally, Styles fans have been eager to learn whether Harry’s new song would also reveal a new direction for the 23-year-old, and on Friday they finally got to hear Harry’s new song.

If you are one of the few people who have not yet heard “Sign Of The Times” yet, what can you expect? Does Harry’s new song mark him out as the new David Bowie, or is it simply another sugar sweet pop tune from a former boyband member? It’s fair to say the critics are divided, though the fans are most certainly not.

What Do The Reviews Of Harry Styles ‘Sign Of The Times’ Say?

Let’s start by throwing a thought in the air. It is difficult to find an objective view on Harry Styles and One Direction. Any new Styles song is certain to be loved by the fans, but many critics seem unable to move past One Direction’s X-Factor roots. We have some labeling Styles as the new David Bowie or Mick Jagger, whilst others will write Harry’s new song off as pop drivel, just because of his One Direction roots.

Harry Styles New Song
(Image by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for iHeartMedia)

The Guardian has never been Styles’ biggest fan. They are quick to play down any comparisons with the, admittedly incomparable, David Bowie, and they label “Sign Of The Times” as “a bewildering, bellicose dirge.”

“‘SOTT’ has been likened to David Bowie, but in truth it’s a bewildering, bellicose dirge that mistakes ‘far too long’ for ‘epic’ and sounds a bit like Snow Patrol shared one tiny spliff between them listening to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon.

“Throughout the song, Styles wails, as wise, tragic and gnarled as only a 23-year-old could be, when he’s lumbered with a signature look that sports all Mick Jagger’s rejected 1980s haircuts at once.”

The BBC are much more positive about Styles’ new song. They say that the sombre opening piano chords are indeed reminiscent of David Bowie, and that “the chorus soars like a miniature ‘Life On Mars,’ replete with slide guitar riffs and impassioned vocals.”

NME reject any comparisons between Styles and Bowie, claiming that Harry’s new song is more like another former boy band member, Robbie Williams. They are effusive in their praise for “Sign Of The Times” and say that “if this is just the starting point, then we can’t wait to hear where Harry goes next.”

What Do Harry Styles’ ‘Sign Of The Times’ Lyrics Mean?

“Sign Of The Times” is undoubtedly a departure from the kind of clean-cut pop that Styles produced with One Direction. The very fact that people are asking what the “Sign Of The Times” lyrics mean indicates that those lyrics are deeper and more ambiguous that anything recorded by One Direction.

What seems clear is that those lyrics are meant to be ambiguous, though it would appear that the new song is about an ending. It could be about the end of the world, the end of a relationship, perhaps even the end of a boy band. There is a feel of repressed emotion and a sense of grief. Like many great pop songs, Harry’s new song allows you to ascribe your own meaning, you can internally identify with the words and adapt them to suit your own feelings.

It can’t be denied that Styles has a great voice. “Sign Of The Times” showcases it beautifully and perhaps reveals that Styles is using his new song to address an inner emotional conflict. Put simply, “Sign Of The Times” is a great pop song.

Whether it will prove strong enough to unseat Harry’s pal Ed Sheeran from the top of the charts, we will have to wait to see. Don’t bet against it, though. “Sign Of The Times” has been streamed almost 9 million times on YouTube since Friday. Harry’s new song gained 150,000 views in the time it took to write this article. That’s the sort of exposure most can only dream of.

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