By Maryjane Perez | 7 April 2023
April 7, 2023 marks the six-year anniversary of Harry Styles’ debut solo single “Sign of the Times.” Upon its release, the track hit number one in 19 minutes—breaking Adele’s record of 50 minutes at the time. It has since surpassed 1 billion streams on Spotify and is certified 5x Platinum.
Let’s take a step back in history to honor its release.
Everyone remembers where they were when “Sign of the Times” dropped, marking the start of Harry Styles’ solo career. I was 16 years old, lying on my bedroom floor with earphones in and my eyes closed, ready to let the music sink it. I had no idea what to expect, but as the first few seconds of the song went by I remember being sort of wonderstruck. Taking a completely different route from the One Direction sound, Styles dropped a powerful 6-minute pop-rock ballad, similar to the likes of David Bowie and Queen.
I didn’t know it then, but the song would later become something that holds a lot of personal significance throughout different phases of my life.
At 17, it was a great comfort for the loss I’d experienced. A reassurance that eventually everything would be alright and I wouldn’t be stuck in my grief forever. Although I’m unsure about what comes after death, there's something soothing about hearing Styles sing the lyrics, “We can meet again somewhere / Somewhere far away from here.”
When speaking to my friend Renata about the importance of this song to her, she also mentioned these lyrics in a different context. For her, she was ready to leave behind her high school experience and all the hurt from that time in her life. The lyrics were a revelation that she could free herself from those circumstances and still reconnect with people she once cared for in a place, both physically and emotionally, far away from where she felt anchored down.
Her interpretation of the song reminded me of what makes “Sign of the Times” so special: it is universally applicable.
Now, at 22, it serves as a reminder that even in the darkest moments, there is hope for things to get better. That despite the pain and sadness I may feel, I am still deserving of the good parts of life—and those parts will always be waiting on the other side. “Breaking through the atmosphere / And things are pretty good from here.”
The best songs are those that change us and change with us. “Sign of the Times” is one of those songs.
Sign of the Times was released on the 30 year anniversary of Prince’s album Sign O’ the Times. Coincidental or not, I think this can be seen as a sign that Styles’ career will be nothing but iconic (just as Prince’s was). Without further ado, here are six indicators that Styles is well on his way to becoming legendary.
6. Friendship With a Rock Goddess
Rock legend Stevie Nicks is an idol and inspiration to many, including Harry Styles. Though they first met in 2015 after Styles attended a Fleetwood Mac show, their friendship seemed to bloom after the launch of his solo career in 2017. The pair performed at the historic Troubadour in 2017, Styles later inducted her into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2019, and they took the stage again in 2020 for One Night Only at the Forum for Fine Line. Nicks has all the love for him as well, calling him the son she never had. It’s safe to say that he is living out the dreams of all those who wish to befriend their heroes.
5. Acting Era
Since launching his acting career with the role of Alex in Christopher Nolan’s award-winning film Dunkirk, Styles has also taken on leading roles in the films Don’t Worry Darling and My Policeman. Most surprising is his appearance in the post-credit scene for Marvel’s Eternals. He makes an entrance as Starfox/Eros, Thanos’ brother—a huge moment for fans of both Styles and Marvel. Future projects will certainly solidify his role in the MCU.
4. Harry Styles, Cover Star
Fans who have been around since the beginning of his solo career have witnessed the releases of Styles’ iconic magazine covers from Another Man to Rolling Stones and everything in between, but the award for most historic cover goes to Vogue. He is the first man to ever grace the cover of U.S. Vogue and did so effortlessly in a light blue gown.
3. Love on Tour Residency
Love on Tour is the tour that keeps on giving, but the Love on Tour residency shows were huge indicators of Styles’ rising level of success. After playing 15 shows at Madison Square Garden, he was awarded a banner, making him the third artist to have earned such an honor (the other two being Billy Joel and Phish). He also received a commemorative banner at the Kia Forum for his 15 sold out shows there.
2. Grammy Nominations and Wins
Styles has received a total of nine Grammy nominations throughout his career. Fine Line earned him 3 nominations at the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards in 2021, and Harry’s House earned him 6 nominations at this year’s 65th Annual Grammy Awards, resulting in his 3-time Grammy-award winning artist title.
The Grammy wins were for Pop Solo Performance for “Watermelon Sugar,” and Best Pop Vocal Album and Album of the Year for Harry’s House.
1. As It Was
Even though “As It Was” lost the Grammy nomination for Song of the Year, it continues to break records that prove how deserving it was of the award. The song remained number one on Billboard charts for 15 weeks, earning it the record of longest running number one by a solo artist. It broke the record for most streamed track on Spotify from a male artist in 24 hours, accumulating over 16 million streams. Oh yeah, and it broke another Spotify record for most streamed track in 2022, accumulating 1.5 billion streams. Did I mention that it also became the fastest song to surpass 2.1 billion streams on Spotify? Obviously, “As It Was” is not only a fan favorite but the world’s favorite.
Releasing his debut single all those years ago propelled Styles into a world of infinite success and endless opportunity. Time will only tell where this superstar will land next, but it looks like things are pretty good from here.