Harry Styles’ “Sign of the Times” Is Surprisingly Good and Spiritually Deep

First single from his solo debut album will hook music fans who wouldn’t be caught dead listening to One Direction.

For graduates of boy or girl band stardom, starting a new, more serious musical chapter calls for some kind of grand gesture, a clear signal to fans, critics – even themselves – that they’ve put their poppy past behind them.

Harry Styles’ first single from his self-titled debut album is just such a gesture. After years of boxing himself in with the English-Irish boy band One Direction, Styles has co-written a soaring, spacey power ballad that harkens back to David Bowie, Pink Floyd, and other 70s rock out of the U.K. It’s a surprisingly powerful tune, one that will hook scores of music fans who wouldn’t be caught dead listening to One Direction.

But it’s not just the sound of “Sign of the Times” that’s compelling. There are also the lyrics, which (at the expense of a little ambiguity) wade into some deep waters:

Just stop your crying, it’s a sign of the times
Welcome to the final show
Hope you’re wearing your best clothes
You can’t bribe the door on your way to the sky
You look pretty good down here
But you ain’t really good

We never learn, we been here before
Why are we always stuck and running from
The bullets?

Just stop your crying, it’s a sign of the times
We gotta get away from here
Just stop your crying, it’ll be alright
They told me that the end is near
We gotta get away from here

Just stop your crying, have the time of your life
Breaking through the atmosphere
And things are pretty good from here
Remember everything will be alright
We can meet again somewhere
Somewhere far away from here…

We don’t talk enough, we should open up
Before it’s all too much
Will we ever learn? We’ve been here before
It’s just what we know

Stop your crying, baby, it’s a sign of the times
We gotta get away

In a Rolling Stone piece by Cameron Crowe, Styles said that the song came from a concern about “fundamentals” like equal rights. He then offered the interpretation of a mother dying after childbirth: “The mother is told, ‘The child is fine, but you’re not going to make it.’ The mother has five minutes to tell the child, ‘Go forth and conquer.’”

Then, in an interview with the New York Times, Styles circled back to the theme of social and political upheaval, conceding that the “outside chaos” of the world crept into his songwriting. “We’re in a difficult time, and I think we’ve been in many difficult times before,” he explains. “But we happen to be in a time where things happening around the world are absolutely impossible to ignore … It’s very much me looking at that. It’s a time when it’s very easy to feel incredibly sad about a lot of things.”

But “Sign of the Times” feels like more than a political song. It feels eschatological.

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SOURCE: Aleteia – Matthew Becklo

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