Harry Styles Debuts Stunning Solo Ballad ‘Sign Of The Times’

It’s the moment that’s been a long time coming—Harry Styles has released his first piece of solo music outside of One Direction. Verdict? It was worth the wait.

While the rest of One Direction have been busy making babies—actual ones and in the form of new solo material—Styles has been silent on the music front, instead spending much of 2016 filming the upcoming Christopher Nolan historical drama Dunkirk. There were rumblings that Styles had finally made his way back to the recording studio, but little information about what form his new music would take had been leaked.

In March, Saturday Night Live revealed their April line-up, which included Harry Styles as the musical guest on April 15. Finally providing fans with window of time for new music, Styles began promoting his new single in March, including airing a commercial announcing the title “Sign of the Times” during X Factor in the UK.

Now Styles has dropped his highly anticipated first single “Sign of the Times,” an epic six-minute track that draws inspiration from David Bowie, Queen and late Beatles. The soaring single, which will surely open Styles up to a whole new audience, tugs on listeners heartstrings, with the lyrics feeling both universal and timely. Piano, string instruments and a backing choir all add to the build of urgency throughout—with Style’s vocals sounding stronger than ever, while still giving off a gripping air of vulnerability.

Aside from Zayn Malik, who left One Direction prior to the hiatus to release his own unique and impressive blend or R&B pop fusion music, the rest of the Directioners haven’t strayed very far from the boy band’s sound. Louis Tomlinson’s track “Just Hold On” with Steve Aoki sounds like a 1D B-side, while Niall Horan’s “This Town” had fan’s double checking the credits to see whether the guitar ballad was written by frequent One Direction collaborator Ed Sheeran.

As for Styles, “Sign of the Times” takes his music in a totally new direction, ironically enough, although the singer told BBC Radio 1 host Nick Grimshaw that he did consult with Sheeran. “I played him (Sheeran) a few songs after the album was finished. He didn’t say that he didn’t like any but he did like one song that isn’t on the album. So I did have a bit of a minute of like hmmm no but…”

Although Styles didn’t reveal in the interview when the full album would be released, he did say it’s his new favourite music to listen to. “In the least weird way possible, it’s my favourite album to listen to at the moment. I think if you put out something that you don’t stand behind and really love, then if it doesn’t go well then you could regret not doing what you wanted to do.”

Styles’ SNL performance likely means fans will hear a second single from the upcoming solo album, which we’re pretty sure will top the charts. Styles is less confident. “Whereas if nothing happens with it, I love it, you know, so I think that’s what you should do,” said Styles. “I think that’s been my favourite part to the overall thing is listening to the album and making all the changes – it has been fun to watch over it all.”

Much like Robbie Williams’ departure from Take That and ensuing solo career, it appears Styles will follow in the former boy banders footsteps, using his solo material to show the theatrical and mature side of his music, stunning listeners with his big vocals and musical arrangement. Like Williams and more recently Malik, Styles’ solo endeavors reveal that what fans saw in One Direction was only a small sliver of his talent. To see how great Harry Styles is, he had to do it his way.

Styles has been spotted filming a music video for “Sign of the Times,” with paparazzi shots showing the singer suspended from a helicopter. The video will likely be impressive judging by the big budget stunt, but at this point it doesn’t even matter. Styles’ musical coming out this morning was more than enough to cement him as one of the most exciting artists of 2017.