Harry Styles’ first ever released album, Harry Styles, includes his poetically genius song “Sign of the Times” as the second track. His debut album explores his mix of angst, frustration, and wonder about the future after his band separated and he became a solo artist. This album was released in 2017, but he released “Sign of the Times” earlier as a debut solo, and to this day, he sings it at every concert even after releasing two other albums.
In an interview with Rolling Stone, he revealed that the song was about the fundamentals of life, such as struggles of equality, race, and rights in our world, and is written from the point of view as if a mother was giving birth, and although the child would be fine, she was not going to make it. Through the song, Styles touches on his belief that it is not the first time the world has been through a hard time, and it is not going to be the last. In his lyrics, he uses the story of the mother being told she will die, but her child will survive to show that the mother is aware and saddened that her child is being born into a troubled world, but that they will meet again. This song is about the mother using her last breaths to tell her child to go forth and conquer, in her last five minutes of living.
“Just stop your crying, it’s a sign of the times”
In this opening line, we can assume that the baby comes out crying, therefore symbolizing the message that the child knows he or she was born into a troubled world, and the mother is affirming this to the child. The “sign of the times” are the troubling events that are occurring in the world, which shows Harry’s frustration with the state of the world and that it is a sinister place. The mother telling the baby to stop crying is a symbol of reassurance, that bad things happen in the world, but it will all be fine.
“Why are we always stuck and running from/The bullets?/The bullets”
These lines seem to show the mother talking to herself, questioning why the world is the way it is. Styles also is getting at the idea that we have overcome hard times before, and that we just have to push through them, like the child needs to push past this moment with the mother, and how we cannot be afraid of the world nor try to escape what is happening. The significance of the repetition of the bullets throughout the song shows that there is always something wrong occurring in the world, and it can metaphorically be seen as the things that come into our lives that we cannot stop from happening, like the mother finding out she will die after the birth. The bullets themselves can also be interpreted to represent the hardships of the world, so Styles uses that to convey the mother’s concern for the world she birthed her child into.
“Remember everything will be alright/We can meet again somehwere/Somewhere far away from here”
These lines are introduced in the middle of the song, and the mother is telling the baby that it is only the end for now and that they will meet again. It can also be inferred that Styles is making a reference to his ex-band here (what most of his fans like to think), meaning that they will meet again sometime in the future. However, his clever use of anadiplosis in these lines causes the listener to focus on where the mother and baby will meet and be able to be happy together.
All in all, the Harry Styles fandom seems to have many different interpretations of this song, such as his love for an old band member of his, but the song has much more meaning. Styles himself said it was the song with the most personal lyrics to him and his feelings about the inequality in our world.