Do you worship at the altar of a certain floppy haired British dreamboat? Then, you're probably not all that surprised to hear that in the "Sign of the Times" music video, Harry Styles walks on water. After all, you always knew he could work miracles. This is the man who broke out a soaring falsetto in "If I Could Fly" when he crooned, "I'm missing half of me." This is the musical wizard who pulled off that note change in One Direction's "Fireproof." If you're a believer, you weren't even phased by his surreal new video, because it just confirmed everything you've always known to be true. But it isn’t just the special effects that are awesome. Arguably, the best aspect of the new short is the way the music video trolls the Styles-solo-career disbelievers in the audience.
It opens on the typical boy band-member-going-solo shot: our hero is shot in soft focus, dressed in a roll neck sweater and some sharp tailoring and it looks like your default boring ballad video. We think it’s just going to be images of the beautiful landscape, contrasted with the even more stunning contours of a certain someone’s face. And then, just as the audience gets set to click away, he takes flight. You punch the air.
Of course, the video doesn’t just provide you with a fun reason to pull out your best Hagrid impression (“You’re a wizard, Harry.”) It’s also extra acute in how well it functions as a metaphor for the Brit’s decision to leave the most popular band in the world to strike out on his own.
For every Justin Timberlake, there’s a Nick Carter. Let’s not mince words: he’s taking some seriously wild chances here, flying solo. After all, One Direction isn't just another band; they’ve broken records all over the place. Four of One Direction's albums debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart, making them the only group in the chart’s history to see their first four albums launch at No. 1. In 2014, their Where We Are tour was the bestselling tour that year, outgrossing those by Justin Timberlake, the Rolling Stones, and Katy Perry. In 2015, their first Zayn-Malik-free single, "Drag Me Down," broke the the record for the greatest number of streams in one day on Spotify. (This record has since been surpassed by Ed Sheeran for "Shape Of You," but bear in mind this took just under a year and a half for someone to beat, and that's still damn impressive.)
The scary thing about making a solo record is that it will inevitably be compared with the anthems of One Direction. Given the wild popularity of the musical group, it’s easy to imagine that any solo record will always come up short in comparison. The Styles' decision to make his own record and make himself vulnerable to critique defies easy logic — much like flying. And this is what makes it so powerful: the music does exactly what the video claims. If you listen to the track, you find, sure, Styles can fly. It was a crazy, arrogant decision, but also the right one.