Harry Styles debuts indie sound, tackles change, vulnerability in new single ‘As It Was’

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Photo courtesy of Harry Styles HQ Twitter

Harry Styles announces the release of his new single “As it Was” on March 28. The song has broken the record on Spotify for the most-streamed song in a single day.

By Carolina Garibay, Staff Writer

The over-two-year drought of new Harry Styles music ended Friday with Styles’ new, highly anticipated single  As It Was.”

Styles announced the single on March 28 as the first song off his upcoming album Harry’s House,” which hits stores and streaming services on May 20.

After the announcement, fans immediately took to social media to celebrate the singer-songwriter and welcome him back to the music landscape.

When “As It Was” dropped with an accompanying music video Friday, that excitement grew into visible dedication.

Fans quickly started streaming the song non-stop, and Spotify reported on Saturday that it officially broke the record for the most-streamed song in the U.S. in a single day in Spotify history.

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    The song was written with Styles’ past, trusted collaborators and producers Kid Harpoon and Tyler Johnson with band guitarist Mitch Rowland on drums; It features both head-bopping, dance-worthy beats contrasted with somber, introspective lyrics.

    Songs with dynamics like these are common within the indie-pop genre, a direction fans had been speculating Styles might take after he released a teaser from “As It Was” last week.

    The teaser is also the intro of the single, which features ’80s-like synths and a tag from a child’s voice saying, “C’mon Harry / We wanna say goodnight to you,” which Styles has confirmed is from a voicemail left for him by his goddaughter.

    “She had a streak of calling me every night before bed, and I missed it once, and she wanted to let me know she was quite angry with me about it,” Styles said on Heart Breakfast Friday morning.

    That line is followed by a poignant drumbeat that continues throughout the song, creating a cohesive sound that complements Styles’ soft vocals that aren’t as energetic as the beat.

    We know Styles can sing and even belt, but he doesn’t in “As It Was,” which makes sense because this song isn’t exactly the most uplifting.

    The lyrics are dim but honest. He sings about change, whether that’s referring to a breakup or simply to the passage of time is unclear, but as Styles has said about past songs, he’s a big supporter of leaving songs’ meanings open to interpretation. 

    The first line of “As It Was” seems to be Styles’ admittance of a struggle to come to terms with change and transition as he sings “Holdin’ me back / Gravity’s holdin’ me back.”

    He asks for help moving on or perhaps a rescue from having to change, singing, “I want you to hold out the palm of your hand / Why don’t we leave it at that?”

    The call for help, though, turns into what could be an acceptance that change is inevitable and “In this world, it’s just us / You know it’s not the same as it was.” 

    In the second verse, Styles sings of someone’s worry as they attempt to contact him, pleading “‘Answer the phone / Harry you’re no good alone / Why are you sitting at home on the floor?’” 

    It’s reminiscent of quarantine times when no one really knew what everyone else was up to, and isolation took over as people were forced to cope on their own.

    But again, it could also be about someone who might be going through a depressive episode after a breakup or other sort of situation that involves unwanted change.

    The bridge is probably the most indie-sounding element of the song, with a slightly distorted, fast talk or chant, similar to something you might hear from Wallows or Tame Impala. 

    The song’s structure is relatively simple: short verses and a repetitive chorus. Its message of the inevitability of change, though pretty self-explanatory, can be a tough one to accept in real life.

    But the features of the song are a bit more complex. The contrast between the song’s energetic flow and melancholic lyrics makes it unclear whether Styles wants you to dance, cry or both.

    This theme continues in the music video for the song, which was directed by Ukrainian filmmaker Tanu Muino. 

    The video introduces Styles dressed in a big, red trench coat, which he later removes to reveal a sparkly red jumpsuit.

    Styles’ main female counterpart in the video wears a matching jumpsuit in blue as she and Styles do what seems to be an interpretive or expressive type of dance.

    A recurring theme between the two in the video involves Styles chasing after her, unfulfilled handholds and literally running in circles, which may be a visual representation of Styles’ desire to hold on and avoid the change that he sings about.

    At one point, actors in the video start taking their clothes off, and Styles follows and embraces his counterpart from earlier, who is fully dressed, which could be a symbol of his vulnerability and delicate state in comparison to others.

    The video shifts to solo moments of Styles spinning on what fans have joked looks like a microwave plate.

    Later moments show Styles dancing dramatically and enthusiastically as if he’s overcome or healed from whatever had been holding him back and can finally be free.

    The video closes with a happy Styles smiling from ear to ear and running away from the camera — a seemingly happy close to a heavy topic.

    With “As It Was,” Styles addresses the raw emotion that can come with accepting change while stepping out of the box musically with a style that confirms Styles might just be in his indie-pop era (fingers crossed!).

    “Harry’s House” comes out May 20 and will feature 13 tracks. Styles is also set to headline Coachella in April and tour the UK in June with Mitski as his opener.

     

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