So we may be a little, tiny behind on the times, considering that this single has been out for around a week and is already, and without surprise it’s reached number one of the official UK trending chart, but there was no way we could bypass it, and not mention it at all. When the most well known member, if not the lead of an incredibly successful group or band goes solo, it’s always a cause for interest and all eyes head immediately to what they produce. In One Direction’s case, they’ve pretty much all gone on to do solo material, apart from the one that’s having a baby with Cheryl Cole, but even he has landed himself a solo recording contract. They’ve all gone in very different directions and tackled different sounds but Harry’s is the one that has my attention. Now I’m not claiming to be a One Direction fan of any description and certainly not a Harry Styles fan in particular, but Styles has always been the one that stood out as having a little more credibility musically. His style and attitude lean a lot more in the rock n roll direction than any of the others and I’ve heard accounts that he’s a big fan of the iconic indie bands from the 80’s that revitalised British rock n roll and paved the way for the incredible rock groups that followed them. So would he head for a sound more befitting of what we already know him for, rather than sticking to the manufactured pop sound that the X Factor imposed on him and his bandmates back in 2010?
Well, ‘Sign Of The Times’ has been his first release from an upcoming album (one of three already confirmed) and it would appear that all our expectations were met, potentially exceeded and the success he’d already garnered through his previous work followed as well as social media blew up and people were talking about one thing and one thing only. A lot of hype was launched into the release so the pressure must have been really on, but he’s combatted this by creating a grand, over the top ballad that tackles state of mind and escapism and all that goes along with it, socially poignant and full of substance. I may be looking too deep but it appears to look at the disconnection of people nowadays, which with social media and instant access entertainment is all too real these days. It’s a far cry from the disposable pop standards he helped turned into household anthems all those years ago. At only 23 years old, the long haired lothario from Redditch has injected his inner being into his own music, and with his signature vocals and moved entirely away from what he’d done before, or perhaps been pushed towards doing, and whether you’re a fan or not it’s good to see. There’s tones of Bowie in the track, I can even feel some Guns & Roses in the guitar and piano combination. The title alone makes me think of Prince every time it’s brought up (due to the album and track of the same name). The lyrics are smart throughout and the chorus takes over entirely. I don’t see it to be such a catchy song but I’ll be damned if I didn’t go to bed with it in my head and wake up again with it still there.
So, I’m not saying I’m a One Direction convert, and I’m not saying that Harry Styles is this generations Leonard Cohen, or 2017’s David Bowie, but… it is good, and there’s apparently much more to come. We’ll be watching.
Words by Stuart Green (@mojo20_music)