Harry Styles has begun releasing singles from his upcoming third album, Harry’s House, starting with an upbeat, ’80s inspired song, “As It Was.” The song is an obvious step forward for Styles in terms of experimenting with a new sound and digging deeper with his song lyrics. The words are melancholic and introspective, disguised by a synthy instrumental somewhat reminiscent of a-ha’s “Take On Me.” “As It Was” broke records within the early hours of its release, becoming Spotify’s most-streamed single in one day; the music video has already amassed almost 50 million views in just over a week.
As Styles steps out of his Fine Line era, he seems to step into an in-between space. “As It Was” is a story of loneliness, of feeling stuck between the past and the future. He’s running around in circles, something quite literally shown in the music video as he and his partner rotate in a circle, not meeting each other in the middle until he is all alone by the end. Styles acknowledges topics he hasn’t taken on in his music before, such as directly addressing his somewhat strained relationship with his father in the lyrics “Your daddy lives by himself, he just wants to know that you’re well.” While Styles has frequently discussed the feeling of being lonely in older tracks like “From The Dining Table,” this is the first time we’ve seen him give direct references to his personal life, and it feels like he is taking a step towards creating music that truly reflects his inner feelings.
Styles is certainly no stranger to using sounds inspired by older music and other artists, with this song taking inspiration from the ’80s to create something hauntingly beautiful. The poppy and bouncy instrumental perfectly counteracts the sadness and longing of the lyrics, creating a song that people will sing along to without even realizing what they’re saying, à la “Hey Ya.” This combination perfectly fits Styles’s public perception of just being a heartthrob with a good voice, so much so that fans will ignore his pleading in the lyrics of “As It Was.” It’s a strong track, hopefully suggesting a new and exciting direction for Harry’s House.
Daily Arts Writer Gigi Ciulla can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.