By Hans Ebert
Remember a short, chubby guy named Robbie Williams? Used to be with a boy band called Take That, then went solo, lost weight, got lotsa tatts, and became huge. And then he grew old and became even more huge. Which leads me to Harry Styles, formerly with OneDirection, and his first solo single, Sign Of The Times.
Don’t know if Harry Styles is his real name, or if the pop music Svengali who put OneDirection together-Simon Cowell- gave him that one, but Sign Of The Times, reminds me of the Robbie Williams hit called Angels. In fact, when she heard the opening chords on piano, my friend stopped making me some ratatouille and started to sing Angels until I told her, Wrong era, baby.
While Angels kinda made sense and made many people cry, Sign Of The Times is rather obtuse. What’s Harry trying to say? In the accompanying video, he flies a lot- over water and valleys and hills and dales and even “does a Jesus” and walks on water before something goes wrong, or to show his great torment, we see him grimacing and bending over clutching his balls. One can almost hear the director screaming out, “Nice one, ‘arry! Give us a little more…hurt! The girls will love it! Grab yer balls, mate and think of Taylor and Kendall and all the other birds you’ve shagged! Come on, my son, give me more, pain! Yeah, baby, grab those balls!”
My friend Kat reckons Harry’s checking to see if they’re still there. His balls. She might have a point, because after opening sounding reasonably manly over a melody that reminds me of something Peter Cetera might have sung, it sounds like he’s singing, “You can’t bite the door on the way to the sky”. Huh?
The video shows close ups of his right hands where his fingers twitch nervously, the heels of his boots, and Harry staring into the camera like Mark Wahlberg before suddenly taking a running jump before taking wings and flying off like Peter Pan into falsetto land and sings about how we can run and fall before repeating what sounds like, “Da police”, or “dispose this.” Dispose what? A joint? His boots? But by now, he’s flying because it’s the sign of the times and he and his girl have to get away from this here place.
For the life of me, I don’t understand what the hell the opening line means: “Just stop your crying/It’s a sign of the times.” Perhaps it’s meant to mean exactly that? Nothing. The songwriting credits include around six names, so maybe everyone wanted to have their say, and what you now have are some random thoughts about nothing in particular. Who knows? Probably not even Harry.
It’s all rather Heathcliff and Wuthering Heights stuff with Harry looking suitably morose and pouty at the beginning of the video atop a mountain whereas all that flying about looks like the director ran out of ideas and money, plonked Harry in front of a blue screen and told him to pretend he’s a bird flying off alone in different directions. It’s all very unsettling.