Harry Styles’ “Sign of the Times” Lyrics Meaning

As the title of this song (“Sign of the Times”) suggests, it is indeed based on the general state of the world during the time it was written, as perceived by Harry Styles. More specifically, even though the lyrics are a bit ambiguous, he is speaking of certain universal realities which trouble him, such as lack of regard for equal rights.

Narrative

But more the point of the narrative, the singer is actually taking on the role of a mother who has just given birth. As such, the addressee would be her child. Moreover, even though she has successfully brought this baby into the world, the mother herself is not going to survive. Therefore we can conclude that these are her parting – and only – words to the child. And accordingly what she is doing is advising and educating him, if you will.

So the baby comes out crying. And in this particular case, such is meant to be symbolic of the fact that he or she is able to detect that it was born into a troubled world. And that’s basically what the mother, i.e. the singer, is affirming to the child. Or stated differently, the troubling events happening in the world are the “sign of the times”. And as we all know, the general connation of the titular phrase is that it alludes to notions such as the prophesied End of the World.

“Just stop your crying, it’s a sign of the times”

Indeed this song has even been labeled apocalyptic by some critics. But Harry Styles doesn’t go there per se. However either way, you can tell that the singer is not flattered with the overall state of the world and considers it to be a sinister place.

Music Video

The music video to this tune had Yoann Lemoine as its director. And it was filmed at a location in Scotland called the Isle of Skye. The flying effect Harry Styles achieved in the clip was actually accomplished via him being harnessed to a helicopter and flown around a good 1,500 feet in the air. And apparently it was worth effort, as upon appearing online, the video achieved 500,000 views within the time span of 30 minutes. Moreover, it actually won a BRIT Award in 2018 in the category of Best British Video.

Is this song really about a dying mother and her newborn baby?

Yes. And the reason we know that is because Harry Styles himself said that. In an interview he granted to Rolling Stone, he said the following:

Harry Styles

Release Date of “Sign of the Times”

This is actually the first song Harry Styles released as a soloist. It came out on 7 April 2017 via Columbia Records, Erskine Records and Sony Music Entertainment. And it is featured on his debut solo album which is entitled “Harry Styles”.

Did Harry Styles write “Sign of the Times”?

Yes. Styles contributed to the penning of “Sign of the Times”. It was subsequently produced by the trio of Jeff Bhasker, Tyler Johnson and Alex Salibian. They also co-wrote the song along with Mitch Rowland, Ryan Nasci and Styles himself.

The conception of the track is actually credited to Styles while he was in Jamaica. And according to the history of the tune, it was recorded in just three hours.

Global Success

And “Sign of the Times” went on to be a resounding success and proper launch to Harry Styles’ solo career. For example, it reached number one on his homeland UK Singles Chart. And it also topped music charts in Scotland, Australia, Croatia, Finland, Poland and Latvia.

Directly across the Atlantic, it peaked at number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 6 on Canada’s Hot 100. And overall, it outstandingly charted in nearly 40 nations not only in Europe and North America but also Oceania, South America and Asia.

And in terms of its certifications, it has gone multi-Platinum in seven countries, most notably achieving quadruple-Platinum status in Australia and triple-Platinum status in the United States.

Special Live Performance of “Sign of the Times”

The first time Harry Styles is on record of having performed “Sign of the Times” live was on “Saturday Night Live” dated 15 April 2017.  This was also the first time he is noted to have performed alone without his former One Direction bandmates.

Did “Sign of the Times” win Styles a Grammy?

The song won a number of awards but never a Grammy Award.

13 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    when i first heard it i actually went for a completely different theory. i know harry himself said the version you posted is the real meaning but i just wanted to share incase anyone will need or want to hear it.

    personal opinion is that the song is about creating something new, and not being afraid to show it. its about starting a new chapter in your life.

    i don’t think it’s about death, but i think it’s about inevitable change like death.
    like acting despite fear. like ‘here’s what i want to say, and here’s what i want to do’ knowing that at any minute it could be all done.
    it’s like ‘why stop out of fear? why are we always running from the bullets?

    were always trying to evade death, so instead of evading death, we accept the fact that we’re going to eventually die someday or that eventually, we are going to get hurt,
    so we need to turn on and face it head-on, like go do something great! it’s not like we are going to live forever but the impact you can have can.
    like wanting to communicate optimism or positivity or joy before it’s too late, take advantage of this time now and live your life to the fullest so stop crying.

    we can meet again somewhere far away from here, which could mean both death, but also change. it could be the world, here, in the same place but after the impact you make, and after all the changes in the world, and after spreading things like positivity, equality, optimism and support the world could be so different, most likely to the better, but could also be to the worst, but we will meet again and you will impact and do so much stuff that it won’t feel like the same place, it’ll feel like we’re somewhere far away from where we are now, but I will meet you in a changed and better world so go, live your life to the fullest, but also try and make an impact.

    that is my personal opinion and i just wanted to share that.. thank you if you read all this and im glad if i could help in any kind of way.

    • Britt says:

      This is what I’ve also interpreted, along with the fact that we seem not to learn from what we’ve previously experienced and we therefore refuse to go out and properly recover after a ‘not so ideal situation’ … so we repeat the same trend again and again.

    • Julia says:

      I also share the same thoughts, i got myself reflecting about these song even it was realized a while ago. Because it was a soundtrack for a wedding in a tv series, and it makes me wondering about the suitable meanings and situations for it. Seams just right

    • Anonymous says:

      Well put…

    • Zazou says:

      Thank you very much for sharing your interpretation… I was very confused with these lyrics and I couldn’t stop thinking about. I think you’re right. He was inspired by the story of this dying young mother. But I think that the point is the message she told to her baby. It’s maybe a message for us all.
      Enjoy your life, stop crying, stop running from death and talk more about what you want from life !

      Anyway.. this song is beautiful and the message is wonderful. Thanks for your help to understand it !

    • Anonymous says:

      Sending bundles of love and blessings from this end, may you always have the opportunity to spread the light, which I believe is rooted in Christ Jesus

    • Pat Padden says:

      I think you’re spot on. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    • Jerseyscribbler says:

      Well said, and I agree with you. I think Harry’s a bit of a trickster. He might have wanted people to think about those lyrics, as you did here, and come up with a slightly different and more positive interpretation.

  2. Debi says:

    My favorite song… my daughter passed away and left me 3 beautiful grandchildren… this song hits home.

  3. Anonymous says:

    My point of view is we never learn, we are at war again, are we incapable to stop suffering in our world?

  4. Larry says:

    How can one call themself a songwriter if it took 5 other co-writers to put together one song?

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