We weren’t sure exactly what kind of sound Harry Styles would deliver on his first solo effort. Now that he’s released his first track, the sweeping “Sign of the Times,” on Friday, we can say the former One Direction singer surprises in the best way.
The track is rather stripped down, beginning with a simple backing piano and Styles’ strong vocals. After a minute and a half, percussion leads a crescendo packed with wailing guitars, creating a sound that is reminiscent of glam rock ballads of days past. It’s clearly a mature, evolved sound from his days as one part of a boy band where his voice continually impressed: Alone, his vocal talents take center stage, and the result is grand and memorable.
We weren’t the only ones to pick up David Bowie vibes from what Styles was laying down. In an article about the singer’s solo efforts, The Guardian’s Tim Jonze asked, “Is he really the new Bowie?”
“If it is indeed Bowie-esque, then it’s the Bowie of Hunky Dory rather than Bowie the drug-ravaged aesthete of the ‘70s,” Jonze concluded, before clarifying that a “Bowie-esque” sound doesn’t elevate the pop star to the status of the Thin White Duke quite yet. “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.”
The album also earned a very clear nod of approval from indie rock mainstay Father John Misty. His fellow former bandmates Niall Horan and Liam Payne love it, too.
Uh, we’re not crying or anything.