After almost two and a half years, music sensation Harry Styles has released a new song — “As It Was” — and an accompanying music video Thursday night. This is the lead single off of his new album “Harry’s House” that is set for release on May 20.
The album and “As It Was” was written during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021, a time when Styles was forced into a period of self-reflection, he told Capital FM radio. Styles views this song as a “metamorphosis and embracing change, and former self and perspective shift,” he said in an interview with Audacy Friday morning.
Styles takes a stab at an 80s pop melody with the inclusion of a steady backbeat, cymbals, bells and a synthesizer — a change from the 70s influence of his first album “Harry Styles” and the cohesive mix of modernity in “Fine Line.”
Though the tempo is upbeat, it is contrasted by deeply personal lyrics, even starting with an adorable old voice message from his godchild, director Ben Winston’s daughter Ruby, saying she wants to say goodnight to Styles. This immediately adds a sentimental and personal aspect to the song, similar to his inclusion of his ex-girlfriend’s voicemail in the end of his second album’s “Cherry.”
There are certain lines in this song that particularly glisten as elusive sentiments and give the listener further insight into Styles’ mind. In the first verse, “I want you to hold out the palm of your hand / Why don’t we leave it at that?” shines as an indescribably relatable sentiment — Styles is seeking comfort, asking to hold another person’s hand, but doesn’t want to explain what he’s truly feeling.
The second verse — “Answer the phone / ‘Harry you’re no good alone / Why are you sitting at home on the floor? What kind of pills are you on?’” — showcases a common theme in Styles’ writing — his loneliness, which can be heard most notably in “Fine Line” and “To Be So Lonely.” Although this is a common theme, it’s still surprising to hear Styles continue to talk about his loneliness, especially alluding to times when he is at his lowest and seems to retreat from others to sit with those feelings.
In the media, Styles appears to have it all together — he’s physically attractive, extremely talented, has had a fruitful career and has been spotted with multiple beautiful women throughout his time in the spotlight. Styles is frequently placed on a pedestal of luxury, but it's comforting to know that behind his public persona, he still has his own struggles.
The music video
The video for the song is a masterpiece — it artfully captures a relationship in its decline. Styles walks into a large, empty room with a round spinning stage in the middle. There, he meets a woman and they walk in opposite directions, occasionally embracing, until eventually, she rolls off of the stage. Styles is then seen stripping down to his underwear while she remains fully clothed and the two are pulled apart on different floors. When they appear back on the stage, Styles chases after her but can’t quite catch up. At the end, he seems to break free from his desire and performs an energetic, contemporary dance without a care in the world.
This is a notable transition for Styles — dating back to even his days in the worldwide boyband sensation One Direction — a singular, identifiable love interest is rarely found in his music videos. Styles knows his fanbase is predominantly women, many of whom fantasize about being in a relationship with him. This addition seems to signify an unspoken understanding between Styles and his fans: He’s ready for them to realize he has his own personal, private romantic life and thinks his followers can now handle the reality that they won’t be the one he ends up with.
Styles stripping down to a pair of underwear while his partner remains fully clothed appears to allude to his open and vulnerable nature in his past relationships, which he frequently mentions in his past work such as in songs “From the Dining Table” and “Meet Me in the Hallway.”
The world was shocked to see Styles’ abilities in his 2020 music video for “Treat People with Kindness” after he spoke for years about how he wasn’t a dancer. This video is the second time we’ve seen Styles perform a dance routine in a music video, and it's arguably even better than the first. Though his previous routine was fantastic, this time, we’re able to see Styles truly emote through his movements. This ultimately ties the whole video together and signifies his ability to become independent after a relationship’s end.
Styles will perform “As It Was” for the first time at the Coachella Valley music festival in mid-April. Following the release of “Harry’s House” in May, he will start the second half of his “Love on Tour” in June, and he has two films — “My Policeman” and “Don't Worry Darling” — set to release in fall 2022.
Rebecca Carcieri is an arts & culture editor. She is a senior from Warwick, Rhode Island studying political science.