The musician, who Billboard reported signed with Columbia Records last June, released Sign of the Times to fans anticipating his first single sans the other members of One Direction. "Drop the song," @ridagamall requested in the comments of a blank Instagram Styles uploaded. "I'm so anxious to hear your song harry I know it's beautiful because it's you," @pyt.carlisha wrote.
Style's solo venture sounds different from the sugary pop produced by 1D. The rock ballad's drum-heaving chorus, seemingly calling for a metamorphosis, allows the 23-year-old Dunkirk actor to showcase his powerful vocals.
"Just stop your crying / It’s a sign of the times / We gotta get away from here / We gotta get away from here / Stop your crying / Baby it will be alright / They told me that the end is near / We gotta get away from here"
The song was trending on Twitter Friday morning, shortly after its release, with numerous users praising the track. We surmise the social media site will also be ablaze when Styles appears on Saturday Night Live April 15 with host Jimmy Fallon.
Twitter had a kinder review of Sign of the Times than Styles' stepdad did of the solo album, the artist explained on The Radio 1 Breakfast Show with Nick Grimshaw. "I played it to them the first time and there’s one song on the album where there’s a bit with a vocal effect on it," Styles reportedly said. "The whole album finished then my stepdad said, 'I've one question, where did you get the duck from, how did you get a duck in the studio?' I was like, 'That was me, thanks.'"
|Hello, Harry. (Photo: Steve Jennings, WireImage)|
Harry Styles' Sign Of The Times: Everything you need to know about Harry's solo debut
After a build-up that can only be described as "epic", Harry Styles has premiered his first solo single on BBC Radio 1.
Titled Sign Of The Times, the majestic ballad is his first material since One Direction declared a hiatus in January 2016.
Here's everything we know about the song...
It's about the end of... something
What's it about? To be honest, we're not sure. The lyrics are a bit of a riddle.
"Just stop your crying, it's a sign of the times," sings Harry as the song opens. "Welcome to the final show, hope you're wearing your best clothes."
It's about the end of something, then. But what? A relationship? A boyband? An episode of Sherlock?
Harry's not telling. But he offers some hope towards the end: "We could meet again somewhere, somewhere far away from here."
It sounds a bit like David Bowie
Honestly, we're not making this up.
Although it begins with a series of sombre piano chords (Harry's been practising in private for years), the chorus soars like a miniature Life On Mars, replete with slide guitar riffs and impassioned vocals.
It threatens to collapse under the weight of its ambition towards the end, though, piling on more bells and whistles than a clown convention.
Seriously, was that choir necessary?
It's not the Prince song
It might share the same name as Prince's three-decade-old classic, but that's where the similarity ends.
Although Harry received a bit of flak from Prince fans, Sheena Easton, who duetted with the star on U Got the Look, says the Purple maestro would have approved.
"I'm sure he doesn't mind," the Scottish-born singer told the BBC. "Prince was such a giving, loving person, I'm sure he's up there saying 'go for it'."
Prince might not be so happy that the final 30 seconds are a carbon copy of Purple Rain, though.
He's feeling a bit nervous about the whole thing
He told Radio 1's Nick Grimshaw: "It's a bit weird. I feel like I've been hibernating for so long... and now it's time to give birth
"It's the song I'm most proud of writing."
You can hear it now
Shortly after the song premiered on Nick Grimshaw's Radio 1 show at 08:00 BST, Harry helpfully uploaded it to Spotify, Apple and YouTube... All five minutes and 40 seconds of it.
That makes it a full 70 seconds longer than anything One Direction ever recorded.
It links Harry Styles to Kanye West
Harry's co-conspirator on this track is Jeff Bhasker. You might not have heard of him but, since connecting with Kanye West on 2008's moody 808s and Heartbreaks album, he's become one of the industry's most in-demand writers and producers.
He co-wrote Uptown Funk with Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars, and his other credits include Jay-Z's Run This Town, Fun's We Are Young and Lana Del Rey's National Anthem - itself a clear influence on Sign Of The Times.
Speaking to GQ in 2013, Jeff explained his theory of pop: "You have to have substance. The best art and music comes from a combination of vulnerability and confidence, where you're opening yourself up. The artists know who they are, and when they deliver that song, people believe them."
He's the only person who can dethrone Ed Sheeran in the charts
Ed Sheeran is on course to score his 13th week at number one with Shape Of You later today - but he should savour his last taste of the top, because Harry is almost undoubtedly going to unseat him next week.
Bookmakers have given Harry odds of 1/1 of scoring the number one next week - and 10/1 for having the best-selling single of the year.
He risked his life for the video
Harry was seen dangling from a helicopter off the coast of Skye as he filmed the video earlier this week.
It seems likely the clip will continue the watery theme of the single's artwork, which sees Harry wading through the sea towards a ghostly, submerged figure (Please, please let it be Leonardo Di Caprio).
The video was directed by French film-maker and musician Yoann Lemoine, who previously made promos for Katy Perry's Teenage Dream and Drake's Take Care.
Harry's been working on this material for five years
Long before One Direction called it a day (temporarily), Harry was in the studio writing with future collaborators.
In 2013, we spoke to Snow Patrol frontman Gary Lightbody, who'd recently spent a week in the studio with Harry and U2 producer Jacknife Lee.
"Harry loves Frightened Rabbit, so his music taste is very varied, it's not just pop," said Gary.
"We did four tracks together and hopefully some of them will see the light of day, because they're great tracks. He's got a great voice, he's the real deal."
He got the seal of approval from Ed Sheeran
"I played [Ed] a few songs after the album was finished," Harry told Radio 1.
"He didn't say that he didn't like any - but he did like one song that isn't on the album. So I did have a bit of a minute of, like, 'hmmm…'"
He will perform the song for the first time next weekend
US fans can tune into Saturday Night Live on 15 April to see him in action, while UK fans can catch him on the Graham Norton Show on BBC One on 21 April.
Harry Styles debuts Sign of the Times. Is he really the new Bowie?
t was Father John Misty who really got us intrigued about Harry Styles’ new solo material – not a sentence we ever expected to be writing. Last month, the arch singer-songwriter responded to a question on Twitter asking who his favourite member of One Direction was with the response: “Harry’s new album is FUCKING INSANE.”
Truth be told, nobody’s really been sure what to expect from Styles – would he follow the synth-soul zeitgeist, like his former bandmate Zayn Malik? Stick to his boyband roots? Or – as industry rumours suggested tantalisingly – swerve down a road marked “David Bowie meets Queen”.
Turns out it was the latter. Debuting Sign of the Times (title all his own work) on Nick Grimshaw’s Radio 1 breakfast show, Styles has revealed his first solo single to be a bombastic slice of bombastic piano pop that builds bombastically to a bombastic ending.
“Just stop your crying, it’s a sign of the times / Welcome to the final show / I hope you’re wearing your best clothes,” he croaks, in an artfully dishevelled vocal.
It’s a ballad, but not so much in the boyband style – more the kind of thing a mid-level indie band like the Walkmen might have put out in the mid-noughties. Not that it doesn’t have its pure pop strengths too – there’s a falsetto chorus that’s impossible to sing, a choir to bombastify the end (did we mention it’s quite bombastic?) and some crashing cymbals and widdly guitar solos that Noel Gallagher might have considered a bit too OTT for Be Here Now.
If it is indeed Bowie-esque, then it’s the Bowie of Hunky Dory rather than Bowie the drug-ravaged aesthete of the 70s. There are, of course, many things that made Bowie so special that have been overlooked here – the identity-blurring, the turbo-meta deconstruction of pop music itself. But as a credible piece of indie-pop balladry that moves Styles into a new arena, I’d say he just about pulls it off.