A New Direction: The Maturation of Harry Styles

As I begin to write this article, I realize there’s a change from my usual writing environment. I’m writing from my old bedroom back at home in Portland, OR, where I spent many years obsessing over boy band members. Across from me is a Harry Styles poster I got from a J-14 magazine in 2013. The poster reminded me of a time where One Direction was my absolute favorite band, and Harry Styles was a love that I’m not sure will ever escape me.

I do find myself in a weird transition of music taste; what was once considered “amazing for it’s time” is now old news. I’m finding that I’m maturing along with the music I prefer. What’s even more bizarre is that the man in the poster across from me has also gone through a similar transition into becoming a solo artist.

After One Direction finally announced their indefinite hiatus in October of 2016, fans were devastated, but this break-up was long overdue. Some may be familiar with Zayn Malik’s decision to leave 1D in the fall of 2015, which was arguably the first sign that a transition was near. Before we knew it, the members were writing their own individual music, each deviating from the familiar pop sound we associated them with for so many years.

Fast-forward to now, and on March 31, 2017, Harry Styles tweeted out the release date of his first single, “Sign of the Times” (the date was April 7, 2017). Soon after that news was broken, the single became the number one track on Billboard + Twitter Top Track.

As a long-time fan, this release surprised me. Previously, we’d seen Zayn release “Pillowtalk,” which epitomized contemporary R&B. Shortly after, Niall Horan released “This Town,” an acoustic folk-pop tune, and then that was followed by Louis Tomlinson’s single, “Just Hold On,” which features famous EDM artist Steve Aoki. Now, Harry Styles has released a new single, and it veers similar to a classic rock ballad. Clearly there was a lot more to this boy band than what we were exposed to.

When I first listened to “Sign of the Times,” I didn’t recognize the once familiar voice I’d grown up with. This track was far beyond anything I’d expect from any artist today. The song actually reminded me of early David Bowie, which undoubtedly is an extreme comparison. However, there is a slight resemblance in the song’s instrumental. A more striking comparison is found in Styles’ vocals, though, which resemble Rod Stewart in his early rock years.

In a recent Rolling Stone article, Styles, who covers their May 2017 issue, says his inspiration for the song was made to let all know that “this isn’t the first time we’ve been in a hard time, and it’s not going to be the last time.” This song was meant to address the struggles of recent events, and the strive to “go forth and conquer.”

That being said, I feel as though “Sign of the Times” was the perfect single to begin his journey as a solo artist.

Styles recently performed as the musical guest on Saturday Night Live on April 15th, accompanying host Jimmy Fallon on the show’s first-ever entirely-live coast-to-coast show, where he performed “Sign of the Times” and surprised his audience with a new single, “Ever Since New York.”


And, of course, where there’s a single comes an album and we were right. Harry Styles let his fans know via social media last week that his self-titled debut album will be released on Friday, May 5, 2017. The preorder for the album is available on iTunes.

Could this album be the greatest of 2017? Only the sign of the times will tell (I’m sorry). One thing is for sure, though: Harry Styles, a buoyant fan favorite, has been promoting himself well.

Personally, after hearing his first two singles, I’m intrigued to see what else is in store. As aforementioned, my music taste has matured, so it’s nice to hear his sound mature, too. There’s nothing like growing alongside the musical artists that helped mold your taste from the beginning.

I think there’s a lot of potential in Styles’ album, and honestly, I’m happy about it, because if he does well enough, I can keep my poster up for a few more years.


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