‘Sign of the Times’ Proves that British rock never goes out of Style

It was only a matter of time until Harry Styles released his own material. Since One Direction’s hiatus in December 2015 and the release of his other bandmates’ solo records, fans have been anxiously awaiting Styles’ return to the stage.

Two weeks ago, Styles finally gave his fans a glimpse of what he’s capable of. The new single, aptly named ‘Sign of the Times,’ jump-starts Styles’ career as a solo artist. With influences from the height of the 80s rock era, the song is a fresh take on a classic British glam rock sound.

Starting off slow, the song showcases Styles’ strong vocals accompanied only by the sounds of a piano. This soft introduction is the only somber moment in the whole song, until the first guitar chord is struck. After that, the song transforms into a glamorous rock ballad that feels reminiscent of legendary British artists like Bowie, Mercury and maybe even a little bit of McCartney.

After the initial push, the remainder of the song sounds like it’s slowly inching up to something big, but hasn’t quite gotten there yet. But until to the bridge, it all makes sense. The song moves from a repetitive mantra to an epic crescendo of instruments and voices. The steady beat of the drums combines flawlessly with the electric guitar riffs, enhancing the real star of the show — his voice. The bridge really projects Styles’ range, with his raspy falsettos perfectly complemented by the background choir vocals. The song comes to a close shortly after, leaving the listener breathless, with a hint of melancholy.

The vintage sound is not something we’re familiar with in today’s pop culture scene, but Styles makes it work. The music perfectly blends a feeling of nostalgia with a contemporary twist that’s totally unique to 2017.

As to what the song is really about — well, no one really knows. There are numerous interpretations, but it’s clear that it’s about the end of something. Maybe a relationship, an experience, an era of boyband rule? It’s anyone’s guess. Either way, the ambiguous lyrics, though not exactly poetic, are insightful. In one line, Styles sings, “You can’t bribe the door on your way to the sky. You look pretty good down here, but you ain’t really good.” Although the lines don’t sound vastly complex, they point to a mature departure from the bubblegum pop rhymes of Styles’ boyband past.

With this record, Styles chose a sound that is unique to his personality and a story honest to his own experience. Many fans expected nothing less when he chose the classic rock vibe, which starkly contrasted from his other bandmates. This vintage sound is something that we can expect from the rest of his album, which is set to release in early May. Styles claimed on CBS’s AMP Radio Show that ‘Sign of the Times’ “in terms of honesty, is a good representation of the album.”

This is just the beginning for Styles and his epic musical progression. With a distinct sound, strong vocals and an established fanbase, there’s no doubt that he’s headed for unparalleled success.