Earlier this week, we predicted that Harry Styles will be “The Next Justin Timberlake,” but after hearing his first solo single “Sign of The Times,” it seems the only thing the ex-boy banders have in common (for now) are their supremely athletic falsettos.
Rather than latching on to the zeitgeist—the way Zayn did with his brand of woozy R&B in Mind Of Mine and the way Timberlake did on his Timbaland-produced solo debut—Styles is going back in time, and positioning himself as the U.K’s stadium rock savior. Think: a cross between David Bowie, Freddie Mercury, and, dare we say, Robbie Williams?
As a lead single, it’s an odd choice. Clocking in at 5:42, it’s the kind of self-indulgent power ballad that won’t get a lot of radio play. That being said, it would be one hell of a way to close out an episode of Riverdale, wouldn’t it? The truth is, it doesn’t really matter. When you’re a star of Styles’ magnitude, your first solo single doesn’t have to fit into the current pop landscape to make an impact. Styles could’ve released a Kraut rock track and it would still obliterate the charts.
In fact, Styles’ single already broke Adele’s record as the fastest song to reach number one on iTunes in the U.S. and currently holds the top spot in 81 other countries. It’ll be a while before we get the official streaming numbers but Drake has officially been put on notice.
The biggest takeaway from today’s release however is just how good Styles sounds when he doesn’t have to harmonize with four other dudes. Styes was always One Direction’s strongest vocalist, and on “Sign of The Times” — with his tender croon and that silky falsetto that very few contemporary pop stars possess — Styles reminds us why he was always One Direction’s most likely breakout candidate.
We’ll get to see how the song plays live when Styles makes his solo television debut on Saturday Night Live on April 15th.