By Allison O’Reilly

Harry Styles (finally) released his first solo single, “Sign of the Times” on Friday, April 7, and it was relatively shocking.

The song, an almost 6-minute ballad, had an undeniable glam-rock influence and showcased Styles as an artist, opposed to a boyband byproduct.

By means of a slow melody, powerful guitar riffs, intriguing falsetto and repetitive lyrics, Styles proved to be both vulnerable and powerful. The biggest negative of the song is its length, but even that is reminiscent of possible influences like David Bowie and Elton John.

The single comes off to be about an inevitable end to an unhealthy relationship – something many of his original fans could likely relate to now that they’ve grown up and are out of their fangirl stage.

There is a lot of repetition of the phrase “we’ve been here before” within the lyrics, which seems to be symbolic of unhealthy patterns in love.

Styles is the fourth of the five original One Direction members to release solo work, even though he is arguably the most popular. “Sign of the Times” makes it clear that Styles worked very hard to create a unique sound, mold himself as an artist and make music with merit.

It also sounds nothing like any of the work Styles was a part of with One Direction and differs entirely from the work of his fellow group members.

Zayn Malik steered toward the R&B sound, collaborating with artists like Chris Brown and PARTYNEXTDOOR to create sexually-driven radio hits. Niall Horan opted to channel Ed Sheeran with his acoustic guitar-heavy, emotional song “This Town.”

Louis Tomlinson went for a club vibe by collaborating with Steve Aoki on “Just Hold On,” a tribute to his late mother, Johannah Poulston, who passed away this past December after a battle with leukemia. Liam Payne is the only member of the quintet without any solo music, but he signed a deal with Capitol Records.

During the glory days of 1D, I was a Louis girl, but Styles and Malik have created the music I would be most likely to listen to on my own accord, not just out of loyalty when I hear it on the radio.

Watching a band or artist grow up is always interesting — and a little sad. It feels like just yesterday I heard a young Styles belting on One Direction’s debut album; now he’s developed enough to whine to music for a whole 5 minutes and 41 seconds.

Styles is set to perform on Saturday Night Live April 15, where he will debut a second song.

Assuming the rest of his first solo project follows in the footsteps of “Sign of the Times,” Styles will likely be in good shape for success as his own entity.

And, to all the 1D fans upset that all of this solo work may be marking the end of an era, take Styles’ advice and “just stop your crying, it’s a sign of the times.”

Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of Harry Styles’ Facebook page.

Allison O’Reilly is a freshman journalism major and can be reached at aoreill1@terpmail.umd.edu. 

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