We have now seen solo offerings from Harry Styles, Niall Horan and Zayn and without further ado I will examine them in no particular order…
SIGN OF THE TIMES – HARRY STYLES
Six co-writers (including omg i cant even Harry Styles himself). 120 bpm. Apparently (according to numerous sources) a “power ballad” featuring “influences from British rock from the early 1970s.” Also: boring as batshit. I’m sorry, teenage girls, your mate has truly failed to impress with this one.
Harry gave an interview with Rolling Stones where he said: “The song is written from a point of view as if a mother was giving birth to a child and there’s a complication. The mother is told, “the child is fine but you’re not going to make it.” The mother has five minutes to tell the child, ‘Go forth and conquer.'”
Harry is a 23 year old male, so that might be why I imagine a conversation between a mother on her deathbed and her newborn child would go a little differently than “Just stop your crying its a sign of the times,” and then a whole lot of whining about “the bullets, the bullets” – and then a jab like “hope you’re wearing your best clothes” when in such a situation the child would be completely naked. Like, the song was terrible to begin with. Such a nonsensical explanation for what Harry and the five co-writers were thinking when cooking up his next strategic career move with a whole lot of rich white men in suits quite frankly only makes me want to bang my head against the nearest solid object many many times in quick succession. Anyway, the kids seem to fuckin love it so let’s just move on from this unoriginal hot mess.
SLOW HANDS – NIALL HORAN
1 writer (Niall himself). 86 bpm. Slower – yet 100% more inspired than the previous offering. This song is everything Harry’s was not. Funky. Playful. Soulful. Instead of borrowing from 70s rock, it has a real mid 2000s indie rock vibe to me – stuff like The Strokes, The Killers, The Raconteurs. I guess the problem I have with the appropriated genres in Sign of the Times is that it is like the rock version of EDM-lite. Trying to lift all the successful elements from previous songs – only minus the heart and passion that made them so good in the first place. An insult to what came before, almost. Sorry, I’m having real trouble letting go of my anger towards Sign of the Times.
Anyway, like I said, by contrast this song is something that I can dig. Its like Niall has lifted all the fuzz and grit of an indie rock song, but made it even sweeter with a catchy pop vibe. This is to Cut Off Your Hands what Metro Station was to, say, Mickey Avalon.
Listening to this song makes me realise how much I miss a good indie rock album. Like, I wish this was like track 7 on an album with a cool continuity, that I could put in my CD player and know exactly which song came on next and how all the intros would start. In another life, I would know every word to every song on the album. But, it isn’t to be. Times have changed. Tough to be a CD kid in an mp3 world. I read the other day that now the mp3 is done and dusted.
It’s a cold world out there, babes.
STILL GOT TIME – ZAYN
Overlooking the fact that the whole guitar riff is blatantly lifted from Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa by Vampire Weekend, this is not a terrible song. 121 bpm. Four writers – but hearing a song like this, you know its got heaps of writers on it. It is what it is. It isn’t pretending to be anything but what it is. Jumping on the bandwagon of that soft and slow codeine RnB vibe… All Zayn had to do was get out of bed with Gigi Hadid long enough to mutter a few words into the mic and let the producers and autotune do the rest.
Lyrical content – something to make teenage girls feel the object of their affections sees them and cares for them, but still wants them to stay in school. I feel that. Its a responsible message.
PARTYNEXTDOOR is on this song. He is my age, yet his name is one word all in capitals, and he is also basically Drake. I didn’t respect him, but then I found out through Wikipedia that he wrote Rihanna’s Drake collab, Work, and now I respect him a lot because that song was fucking sick.
I don’t care. Whoever wants to make this music, make more of it. A lullaby for a range of people, from girls in their late teens who smoke pot, to boys in clubs with sleepy eyes who light your cigarette with theirs, to, I suppose, all the normies that tune in to top 40 radio. Background music for everyone. You want a hit, you got it. (Please note: by hit I just mean something nondescript and non-offensive. Like wallpaper that you look at for a moment, and think “hey that’s pretty cool”, but then go back to your conversation without thinking of it again.)
ANYWAY, IN CONCLUSION: once these songs are all tagged on the music scheduling software to make sure they don’t play next to a One Direction song, it is impossible to schedule any One Direction songs on the playlist. This makes me happy. Hearing Sign of the Times twice a day doesn’t. Harry Styles is soooooo overrated.
Niall can chill, though.