By Emily Stellakis, Editor-in-Chief ’20
Following a nearly two-and-a-half-year stretch completely devoid of new releases, Harry Styles, the hallowed former One Direction member, face of Gucci, and subject of widespread teenage fanaticism, has finally released a single off his greatly-anticipated album. Serving as an indication that his second album is soon to come, Styles revealed the single “Lights Up” at midnight on October 11, blindsiding longtime fans who have waited since the end of his sold-out 2017-2018 tour for Harry to debut new music. His first album, aptly titled “Harry Styles”, rid the teenage star of his clichéd boyband stereotype due to its mature sound, rock inspiration, and deeper-meaning lyrics; considering the vast success of his debut release, music connoisseurs (and most notably among them, One Direction fans) have impatiently awaited his return.
Differing slightly from Styles’ 70’s rock reminiscent premier album, “Lights Up” boasts a more breezy and soulful sound, with pulsing synth chords and a faint gospel choir establishing a refreshing and unexpected tone. The song takes an introspective and personal turn in the chorus as Styles bluntly questions “Do you know who you are?”, a phrase that also appeared on posters plastered on walls and billboards across the globe the day prior to the release. With the midnight release of “Lights Up” on streaming platforms also came an unexpected music video that fans have interpreted as a confirmation of his sexuality. In the video, Styles is seen dancing in a crowd with both men and women, a visual that coupled with the song’s release on National Coming Out Day has convinced many fans of the star’s assumed bisexuality. Though “Lights Up” could be interpreted in a myriad of ways, the song most clearly appears to discuss Styles’ unwanted prominence in the spotlight and uncertainty regarding his identity.
Though this track tops both the British and American charts, “Lights Up” serves as a refreshing deviation from pop music’s most overused tropes. Unlike some solo songs from the other former One Direction members, Styles’ music effortlessly earns its way to the top of the charts without employing any of the ingredients for The Successful Pop Song™; Harry’s pop-rock ballads are completely devoid of the electronic dance beats, rap verses, or clichéd bubblegum choruses that commonly plague the Hot 100. Despite sounding reminiscent of decades prior, Harry Styles manages to gain popularity in an era of ever-changing musical style.
Harry Styles is expected to perform the new single as well as an unheard song off of the album on British late-night show “Later… with Jools Holland” in early November. On October 22, the singer teased the new song, assumedly titled “Watermelon Sugar”, on twitter by tweeting “Kiwi walked so Watermelon Sugar could run”, “Kiwi” referring to one of the most popular songs off of Styles’ first album. The release of another new song only further hints that a second Harry Styles album is within reach, so teenagers everywhere are gearing up for what will likely be another year-defining album. Harry Styles fanatics anxiously await the drop of his second album, with “Lights Up” serving as a positive indicator of another extraordinary album to come.