Saturday 15 April 2017

it's a sign of the times: harry styles' new start

once again i've been neglecting this blog, though not without good reason. having spent all this week in the library laying out the magazine that will eventually form (the biggest) part of my final uni project, i think i've made something that looks half decent, despite my lack of indesign skills, and something that i'm actually proud of. next week, however, i have to show it to my tutors before i part with hundreds of pounds (that i don't have; my final project will be brought to life courtesy of the bank of mum and dad and my overdraft) to have it printed, and i'm fully prepared for them to rip it to shreds before asking me to change a good proportion of it. 

and amidst all this chaos, the light of my life harry styles went and released his first single as a solo artist, sign of the times, which i can finally review now that the majority of my uni work is done. now, i may be slightly biased as harry has always been my favourite member of one direction ever since the early days (i still remember watching them on the x factor every weekend), so i knew that whatever he released i was going to love, simply because it was him. the same can also be said for the wider public too; given his celebrity status, whatever he released as his first single was going to generate a huge amount of publicity regardless of what it sounded like. as one of the writers in this noisey discussion said, "he definitely stands the best chance out of all the directioners to evolve into an artist able to hold some genuine relevance for potentially the next few decades". no pressure then.

i will admit, i was nervous before i pressed play on sign of the times. various news outlets had said the song was reminiscent of david bowie and queen, and as someone who booked a tattoo to commemorate bowie's death within days of it happening, it's safe to say that i'm a massive fan of his music, and anything that vaguely resembles it. luckily harry didn't disappoint, and putting my bias aside, i love the song like i would imagine most parents love their first born child, i.e. a lot. for me, pop music has always been about The Drama, the highs and lows, the peaks and troughs, and sign of the times definitely delivers on this front. immediately it reminded me of life on mars, which is my favourite bowie track, and i have to admire him for releasing a single that's nearly five minutes long; hardly the most radio-friendly decision. 

this suggests to me that after being so heavily controlled throughout his time in one direction, both through their sound but also their image, harry is finally free to make the music he's always wanted, almost like he's earned the right to express his love of paul simon and elton john after five years churning out parent-approved pop. that's not to say that i don't still love the band's back catalogue, but i can't imagine how frustrating it must be to be contractually obliged to make music that's worlds apart from your own interests.  

lyrically, the song retains the ambiguous nature of which styles has become known for. in his pre-x factor days, he would tweet regularly, but as the band grew bigger many fans began to speculate that not just harry, but every member of the band's twitter, was controlled by their management. having been on tumblr for nearly seven years and heavily involved in the one direction "fandom" (god i hate that word) for a good three or four of those years, i've seen some pretty far-fetched theories, but even the casual observer would have noticed that he began to tweet less and less, sending fans into meltdown on the rare occasions that he did tweet or post a picture on instagram. 

however, once free from the shackles of syco, i was optimistic that he might start to tweet regularly again. granted, now that filming for dunkirk has come to an end, he does appear more frequently on my timeline, but the tweets seem overly formal for a social media platform and like they're still being written by someone at his management. it's frustrating, because despite styles being such a huge public figure, i still feel like i don't know an awful lot about him, something this noisey article from 2016 comments on. i've not had chance to listen to the full interview he did with nick grimshaw on radio one a few days ago, but this article provides a good summary, and an insight into the creation of his first - self titled - album, the track list of which was revealed earlier this week, on instagram of all places, though he still doesn't go into much detail about the songs themselves. it could just be that after years of relentless media attention he simply wanted time away from the spotlight, which is completely understandable, but as he has writing credits on every track, i'm hoping the rest of the album will afford us a rare insight into his incredibly private world. 

overall, i'm excited to hear more from harry's debut album, and am hoping a more upbeat track will follow, especially if he wants to be in the running for Song Of The Summer (side note: i know it's only april, but passionfruit by drake might just be it.), though clearly he doesn't want to play by the rules, and perhaps for someone at his level of fame, it's simply not necessary. as one noisey writer said, harry could release a song where "he just repeats "egg, egg, egg, egg, egg, egg, egg" in a monotone and his solo career would still be more successful than anybody else's." 

nevertheless, i commend him for making the music he wants to, rather than what's going to sell (see: the latest chainsmokers album), because in some ways i feel like i'm in the same situation when it comes to my uni work. after two (and a bit) years of being made to write about fashion, i was finally able to have full ~creative control~ of my magazine and write about something that's personal to me. it's a terrifying feeling, allowing people a glimpse into your life and writing about subjects that are so deeply personal (something i do every time i make a new post on this blog), so i can't imagine how nerve wracking it must be for harry when he has the whole world watching, and based on that alone i'm sure i'll love the album, whatever it sounds like, or however much of his life he chooses to share with us. it's his world, and we're just living in it.

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