Music & Theatre 7 April 2017 Harry Styles’s new song Sign of the Times is David Bowie via Oasis “I think it’s hard to not have influences from what you grew up listening to.” Vevo Sign UpGet the New Statesman's Morning Call email. Sign-up One Direction and classic rock aren’t often put side-by-side, but they probably should be. As Brodie Lancaster notes in this detailed analysis of the influences behind One Direction’s last album, Made in the AM, the band “slowly established a pattern of picking up inspiration from rock history” as their releases developed. Harry Styles, in particular has made his interest in classic rock clear in everything from his dress sense to his gig choices – and now, with the release of his new single, “Sign of the Times”, it’s more obvious than ever. “I think it’s hard to not have influences from what you grew up listening [to],” Harry told Nick Grimshaw on Radio 1 this morning, just after the song debuted. “I had a good mix between my mum and my dad, because my dad was into, like, Fleetwood Mac, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Queen; while my mum was like, Norah Jones and Savage Garden.” “Sign of the Times” continues in that vein. “He delivered a true spacey rock ballad,” declares Billboard, “something that might fit in more with David Bowie’s catalogue or perhaps even an epic Nineties rock jam like Spacehog’s “In the Meantime” than it does with today’s top 40”. Yes there’s lots of Bowie in there. And if the lyrics seem familiar – it’s because they are. Obviously, there’s that Prince reference, but there’s more, too. Let’s break it down. Just stop your crying, it’s a sign of the times Those first chords sound a lot like Robbie Williams’s “Angels”, but then we get a whooshy noise straight out of "Space Oddity". What an opener. David Bowie’s “Five Years” meets Oasis’s “Stop Crying Your Heart Out”. Welcome to the final show Hope you’re wearing your best clothes I’m in yesterday’s t-shirt, if I’m honest, Harry. This has something of David Bowie’s “Life on Mars” with its doomsday glamour: “He’s in the best-selling show”. You can’t bribe the door on your way to the sky Ah, the old “heaven as a nightclub” metaphor. Makes me think of The Stone Roses’s “Breaking Into Heaven” and Alex Turner’s lyric: “It’s like you’re trying to get to heaven in a hurry / And the queue was shorter than you’d thought it would be / And the doorman says, ‘You need to get a wristband’." You look pretty good down here But you ain’t really good Your looks won’t save you come the end of the world, as we know from Lana Del Rey. We never learn, we been here before Why are we always stuck and running from the bullet? The bullet We never learn, we been here before Why are always stuck and running from your bullet? A bullet Enter falsetto. Finally, the mix of Foster the People and “Heroes” the public have been waiting for. There’s also a hint of Radiohead’s “Daydreaming”. Just stop your crying, it’s a sign of times We gotta get away from here We gotta get away from here Just stop your crying it will be alright They told me that the end is near We gotta get away from here Just stop your crying, have the time of your life Breaking through the atmosphere And things are pretty good from here Remember everything will be alright We can meet again somewhere Somewhere far away from here “It’s fine, it’s only the apocalypse, darling.” Basically. This is the part that sounds the most Bowie – lyrically, "Watchtower"’s “There must be some kind of way outta here” with the stretched out diphthong of “aways” on Oasis’s “Don’t Go Away” and “Stand By Me”. There’s a Drop of Jupiter in here somewhere, too. We don’t talk enough We should open up Before it’s all too much Will we ever learn? We been here before Its just what we know Like that “bullet” bridge, there’s an overarching futility here lyrically similar to Bastille’s “Pompeii” and Coldplay’s “We Never Change”. It’s a dense call-back to rock of decades past, and, to the casual observer, it might seem like a huge departure from Styles's earlier work. But, as culture writer Lancaster notes, it won’t seem as much of a leap to dedicated One Direction fans. *** Now listen to a discussion of Harry Styles’ new single on the NS pop culture podcast, SRSLY: › Labour should stop indulging its Scottish party and broker a progressive alliance with the SNP Anna Leszkiewicz is culture editor of the New Statesman. Subscribe For more great writing from our award-winning journalists subscribe for just £1 per month!