Harry Styles: A New Chapter | Emily Bashforth

Harry Styles: A New Chapter

The day is April 7th or 'National Harry Styles Day' as I now like to refer to it as because, today, my favourite person on the planet and just all round perfect human being (Harry Styles) starts a new chapter in his life. 

April, which has become colloquially known as Hapril due to Harry making his debut as a solo artist this month, is set to, in my opinion, become the month Harry Styles puts himself truly on the map and leaves the world speechless. He began his carefully thought out plan of world domination today by releasing his first solo single and, oh my lord, it's a beauty.

The build up to the song's first play has been an intense one, as you'll know if you're a part of the Harry fandom (which I suspect you are if you're reading this). We, as fans, experienced quite the drought throughout 2016, rarely hearing Harry speak or waking up to new photos of him online. It was a struggle, I'll be the first to admit, going from watching new interviews and videos of someone every day to just, well, nothing. He fell off the face of the Earth in our eyes but he was quietly beavering away in the studio, writing and recording his debut solo album which he was to deliver to his adoring fans the following year. Harry spent half of 2016 writing and fine tuning his album and the remaining six months filming his first movie, Christopher Nolan's 'Dunkirk,' which is set to premiere in July. He wrote his album in Jamaica, saying that he "wanted to be somewhere he wouldn't get distracted" and he "liked being away from everything." 70 tracks have been penned in total and narrowed down (damn I just want to hear them ALL, is that too much to ask?) When the album is set for release, who knows, but it's finished and it's somewhere in Harry Styles' house. He's probably listening to it as you read this. 

The first track from his upcoming inevitably successful record is entitled 'Sign of the Times,' which Harry announced on social media accounts after posting a series of cryptic blank white squares, hinting that a new era was upon us and exciting times were ahead. He unleashed the artwork for the single alongside it's name which is a beautiful photo of an orange sunset and what appears to be Harry with his back to the camera, sitting in the water looking off into the distance. It's a stunning cover, or could be rather chilling, depending on how you interpret it. The artwork, however did not give much away about the song itself or what the world should expect it to sound like, which only left us fans more on edge. The title intrigued me, personally, and left me curious to learn what the lyrics were and the story behind them. It also seemed such a quintessentially 'Harry' title to me, so thought provoking, unique and something that sounded like the name of a song that was going to be popular for a very long time. It was a title that seemed to really signal the start of a new era.


It was announced shortly after, (well, I say 'shortly' but, as a Harry fan, days feel like weeks and weeks feel like years) that Harry's single was of premier on the BBC Radio 1 breakfast show as well as a two hour interview between Harry and host Nick Grimshaw. I know, right? Two hours. Of Harry Styles' voice. Heavenly, or what? Especially after not hearing it for so long.
So, the world was counting down the days until April 7th, the day when Sign of the Times was going to become all of our favourite song. 
Personally, I've never experienced excitement like this. I've been a One Direction fan since they were baby bean sprouts, therefore, I've endured many excited sleepless nights thanks to their antics. However, something about this just felt different. Harry was releasing solo material and it just filled me with so much happiness, especially as someone who loves Harry Styles more than she loves life. I think it was the sense of mystery that surrounded the whole thing which got me so hyped up. Harry remained tight lipped, his team stayed mute, the press could only speculate. None of us knew what to expect from solo Harry. There were just two iPods in the world with his new single on (both with no internet connection to prevent hackers from leaking the tune) and only a handful of people close to Harry had heard it prior to its release. All we knew was that Harry Styles was releasing a song on Friday April 7th and it was going to be incredible. Critics had reported it as "a five minute song of 70s Brit rock" and said Harry's sound was "a mixture of David Bowie and Queen" which, of course, made the whole thing even more exciting. Knowing Harry had been working so hard on a project for so long and knowing he'd poured his entire heart into every tiny bit of it made me so excited to hear what he'd produced. I knew I was going to love it, of course, not just because I'm so far up Harry's behind that I should probably pay rent, but because I love him as an artist. I don't just claim to like things just because they have his name on them, I'm genuinely in love with everything he gets involved with because he always ensures is the best it can possibly be. Take the songs he's written for 1D for example. They're all so beautifully crafted and it's clear that real soul has gone into them. He's written tracks like Fools Gold and If I Could Fly, which make me so emotions with their poignant, deep lyrics. He's written songs like Stockholm Syndrome and Where Do Broken Hearts Go which showcase his talents in writing a good jam then there are songs like Walking in the Wind, which showcase Harry's ability to take inspiration from his favourite artists like Paul Simon, and inject their melodies and styles into his own songs to bring old school music forwards into modern society - people like him are the people who keep good music alive. Harry's an extremely talented individual, in more ways than one, but, when it comes to music, he has everything needed to really make it as a solo artist. Sure, he's charming, attractive and a bloody lovely guy, but he's also got a true passion for art, he loves exploring new ideas, he'll persevere until things are top notch, he can spot what the music industry needs and, also, he makes GOOD STUFF. 

So, when April 7th came, I was more than ready to witness the rebirth of Harry Styles. I say rebirth because that's what it felt like. He'd been in hibernation for so long and, now, he was going to share his baby with us. He'd been in a band with 4/5 other guys for six years, never truly allowing people to see who he was, not fully, but now, the spotlight was all going to be on him. Harry had gone away, stayed out of the public eye, got his head down and grafted hard on making something wonderful and it was time for him to come out as himself, on his own, and show us what he can do. I also say rebirth because a very cryptic TV advert to promote his music showed him dripping wet, stepping into a lit doorway, as if to say, this is me, I'm here, I'm clean, I've got so much to offer and I'm finally ready to show you who I am. 
I'm also talking rather calmly about the build up to Harry's single as if it was just going to be like any other song when, actually, I was on edge. Constantly. I had a heart attack each time my phone beeped in case he'd done something. I broke the record for the fastest time to check social media after opening my eyed in the morning. I refreshed Twitter ten thousand times a day. Every ounce of me was filled with such adrenaline and anxiety all the time because I knew a storm was coming yet I had no idea how to prepare myself. To be honest, I was just an emotional wreck 99% of the time because I'm a Harry fan through and through, (literally, cut me open and I've got 'Harry Styles' written through me) and I just so badly wanted to hear his voice, see his face and see him happy and loving life again. 
The night before the 7th was the worst. It was like Christmas Eve, but it was Harry eve and Santa wasn't coming but Harry was and the presents I was to receive were going to be Harry's interviews and song. I literally shaved my legs especially for national Harry Styles day and I don't shave my legs for anyone. I also got up at 6am the following morning especially for this child when, honestly, there is no one in the world who I would voluntarily even open my eyes before, like, 10am for, except him. Basically, I knew April 7th was going to be the best day of my life...and I was right.

I heard the song along with the rest of the world at 8am, who were surely listening with open ears and with the volume turned right up, keen to truly soak in every last second of Harry's solo debut. Now comes the part where I attempt to explain how much I adore Harry's debut single, Sign of the Times, but fail miserably because I adore it so much that can't even put into a comprehensive sentence how spectacular I think it is. I also doubt words could ever so it justice. 
Sign of the Times is a timeless masterpiece, just a day after it's release and it isn't just me who thinks so as it had shifted 11,000 copies less than two hours after becoming available to download. It's a song I know I'm going to be listening to on repeat for years and I can already picture future generations listening to it with their children, reminiscing on the good old days of music. The lyrics are ambiguous but that doesn't stop them from being beautiful. What I always love is how Harry writes such intricate, deep songs but never attaches a real meaning to them. His songs are never black and white and he never openly states what the story behind them is as he likes people to interpret songs in their own way. Harry's songs can be applied to your own personal situation. Sign of the Times seems to heavily focus on the loss of a loved one and, if you've experienced that, you can relate to this song but, if you haven't, the lyrics can still be applied to whatever you choose. It's a song about whatever you want it to be about. The song made me cry, not just because it's Harry's debut single but because there is something so magical about it. It's over five minutes long which, for any other artist, releasing a five minute debut solo single would be musical suicide, but not in Harry's case. It's a five minute masterpiece and it really takes you on a journey. The song begins with a beautiful piano instrumental, it starts off rather calmly but builds and builds and, as you're listening, you're waiting for that big crescendo. When it comes, it doesn't disappoint. Not only are Harry's vocals impeccable on the track but the instruments and just the song as a whole are world class. The drums especially get you right in the chest when they kick in. As I get really into the song, I turn into Bridget Jones when she belted out 'All By Myself' on the sofa, punching, kicking the air and banging her head backwards and forwards.
I don't just feel obliged to give Sign of the Times a positive review because I'm a Harry fan but it really is unlike any song I've ever heard. It almost sounds like a song that's been in my life for years because of how iconic it is. It's a real anthem and a rock ballad at its best. It was a risky choice for a first single because it isn't your conventional pop song. It isn't what you'd traditionally hear on the radio, it'll be a challenge to perform live and it probably isn't everyone's cup of tea but I'm proud of Harry for taking that risk as I think it was a wise decision. It really shows him off as an artist and, in my opinion, implies he's here to stay. Sign of the Times isn't some hardcore dance track about drugs or sex like everything else in the charts at the moment. It's different and, to me, it's real music. It's the kind of stuff I want to be listening to. I can already envisage this song filling arenas and filling each audience member with such joy as Harry performs it. The song really allows me go reflect and just takes me to a place outside if reality for five minutes and forty seconds. It's a little doorway to another world where problems don't exist because the songs is just so cathartic and really consumes every inch of your being. 
Additionally, I enjoy hearing Harry's influences in Sign of the Times and look forward to hearing them throughout his album. My initial reaction to the sing was that it had total Bowie vibes (is it criminal to use 'Bowie' and 'vibes' in the same sentence? Probably). And Lana Del Rey elements in the fist verse and bridge. Harry also said he's been inspired by his parents favourite artists, therefore, I can't wait to hear elements of Fleetwood Mac, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and many other legends in his coming songs.

Harry's a fantastic story teller and I now look forward to hearing more of his stories now he's a solo artist. I look forward to hearing him tell stories in interviews but also through his lyrics. He has so much to bring to the table and so many fascinating experiences to share. He's the most intriguing person on the planet to me. I once heard him described as an "enigma wrapped up in a Gucci suit" and that's totally accurate. Harry doesn't over-share so, consequently, she he does share things with people who aren't involved in his private life, it's for a reason. I'm so excited to start to find out who Harry Styles really is a person and I feel like he's really opening up to us through his music. He's offering us a little piece of his heart and I'm willing to take it and wrap it up in bubble wrap to protect it forever.


So, he's here. Solo Harry Styles has been born and he's out there, alive, kicking and  he's got the entire music industry quaking in their boots. He's singing in falsetto, playing piano and writing lyrics that would make any poet proud.
I'm so proud of Harry and only wish to be able to tell him that. I'm also proud of myself as a One Direction fan and my 1D family for what we have created together. Thanks to us, Harry is able to wake up and live his dream every morning and I love how we will do anything to ensure he succeeds. Harry has come so far, as both an musician and a person. Back in 2011, we saw him cry on TV after people Tweeted him nasty comments on his first performance of What Makes You Beautiful. Now, he's wearing plaid trousers, floral shirts, leather chokers, heeled boots and he's doing what he loves, regardless of other peoples opinions. At concerts, Harry would always tell fans to "do whatever makes you happiest in the world" and, now, that's what he's doing. He took some time to figure out what kind if artist he wants to be and now he's going to be that artist totally unapologetically. Harry isn't concerned with chart positions or sales figures as he's someone who just genuinely cares about art and wants to dedicate their time to producing it. He wants to make people happy, whether that's through his music or just his shining personality, and he's certainly doing that right now. 
I love Harry Styles and I have no shame in saying that and I'm beyond looking forward to what the future holds for him. He sounds amazing, he looks better than ever, he's well rested, comfortable, confident, happy and, most importantly, he's totally in control. He's going about things in the ways which he feels happy with and the fact that he wants to be so involved with what he's putting out there is a real reflection of the kind of musician he is. 

Harry Styles was born to be a star. I mean, his surname is STYLES, come on? But seriously, he has it, whatever IT is, he has it and people love him. As I finish writing this, Harry's single has been out for three hours and it's already number one in 61 countries soooo...you do the math. I've followed H for a long and and don't plan on leaving his side any time soon as he ventures out into the big wide world as a solo artist and puts himself on stages across the world for people to witness how fantastic he is. I'm going to buy his music, watch his interviews, attend his shows (when I'm not poor), buy his merchandise (see previous brackets) and support him in whatever way I can because people like Harry Styles deserve the good things in life, they deserve a break and they deserve recognition for the fact that they bring light into very dark and scary times. Nobody makes me as happy as Harry Styles and, if you feel that way too, don't be afraid to admit it. If you aren't a 1D fan, don't feel ashamed to announce that you're a Harry fan. Support him with pride because he only deserves people in his life who are willing to give their whole heart to him.

So, I'm off to go listen to Sign of the Times on repeat for the next three decades now as I'll probably sob aggressively as I do so. Here we are, at the start of a new Harry Styles era. What a time to be alive. I feel so blessed.

"Just stop your crying, it's a sign of the times."
I love you, Harry.

Love, Emily.

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