Styles’s new single falls short of expectations

Natalie Walker

The day? March 23. The expectations? High. The anticipation? Building. 

Harry Styles, the former boy band member turned pop icon, had recently announced his new single “As It Was,” which is the first track off his third studio album, “Harry’s House.”

I can’t say I am a devout “Styler,” but I enjoyed his last studio album “Fine Line.” And, with an homage to Joni Mitchell, an artist I am highly fond of, in the album title, I was expecting something great.

But, when the release date came, and I attentively listened for the first time, the strongest emotion I was feeling was disappointment. 

With such nuanced and unique work in the past, this new single feels mass-produced, monotonous, even, dare I say, kitsch. The light upbeat tempo is pleasant, but common. The structure is just as you would expect from most pop songs: intro, verse, chorus, repeated but with different lyrics, bridge and ending. Like most pop songs today, the lyrics are melancholic and reflect on the “good ole’ days.” It seems we can’t escape songs about good times and the loss of them.  

This same description could be applied to various other pop rock hits. In a world of highly accessible entertainment, an artist needs variation to catch the consumer’s attention. Yet somehow, this uninspired song is turning the heads of everyone. 

This song isn’t bad per se. I am very fond of the bridge and the post production effect placed over Styles’s voice, which makes it sound as though he were singing through a telephone. But, this fairly orthodox song doesn’t bring enough to the table to be “great.” 

“Great,” “amazing,” “heart wrenching” are not adjectives that come to my mind when I listen to this song, but I’ve seen it described as all of those. Positive reviews are pouring from my Instagram feed. 

Another factor that makes me even more disappointed in the content of the song is the music video that accompanies it. This video has the typical abstract movements and aesthetic color palettes commonly seen in “artsy” music videos, but there is an emotion evoked through the actors that I didn’t even begin to feel while listening to this song. 

With so many other phenomenal works contained in Styles’s arsenal, such as past critically acclaimed releases, entertaining music videos and even multiple acting awards, this song is just lacking. 

For as long as I’ve been an active music fan, I’ve seen enough differentiation in releases to know that artists naturally change with time. They are people after all, and their art is ever-changing. 

I don’t believe that Styles has sinister or deliberate motivations behind the change in his work. Those supporting him could be influencing the switch toward this more tawdry music. 

So maybe this change isn’t even Styles’s doing, but regardless, from an objective point of view, this song is a downgrade from his previous work. Not unlistenable, but far from “great.”