Skip to main content

One Video: Sign of the Times by Harry Styles

One Video: Sign of the Times by Harry Styles


Oh, it’s our boy

Share this story

If you buy something from a Verge link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Every week, a slew of new music videos hits the web. Watching them at your desk is not time theft because you deserve it; think of it as a nice reward for surviving another work week. But what if you don’t have time to watch every video? Maybe you have a deadline, a hungry pet, or other grown-up concerns. In consideration of your schedule, Lizzie and Kaitlyn bring you a series called One Video. Each week we’ll tell you “one video” you need to watch, why, and for how long.

Kaitlyn: First of all, we need to explain why there are three names at the top of this post instead of the usual two. Here’s the explanation: One Video with Kaitlyn and Lizzie is, for one special week, One Video with Kaitlyn and Lizzie and Rebecca Jennings from Racked. Rebecca knows more about Harry Styles than most living people, she also knows a lot about fashion, and today we’re here to discuss both. Plus we like her, she’s very nice to be around.

Rebecca: That was a wonderful introduction! I’m also currently wearing a T-shirt with an illustration of Harry’s face on it, which I feel like I needed to mention.

Lizzie: I would definitely be in the bottom ranking of this Harry Styles trivia team, but I’m just happy to be here.

This week’s video: “Sign of the Times” by Harry Styles

Kaitlyn: Harry Styles’ debut solo album Harry Styles came out today, and the music video for its lead single “Sign of the Times” came out on Monday. The week was all about Harry Styles, from the memes to the fan art to the Snapchat filters to the morning shows to the soft pink bubble hovering around my body and protecting it at all times.

Rebecca: If I were at all interested in higher learning I would probably write a master’s thesis about that soft pink bubble world. I would call it Sign of the Times: On Subverting Masculinity, Millennial Pink, and Childbirth Iconography in Harry Styles’s Album Art.

Lizzie: “Sign of the Times” by Harry Styles was directed by Woodkid, a Scottish musician who makes this kind of flush, ambient music that might soundtrack a heartbreaking indie drama. (Incidentally, he did soundtrack this 2015 movie starring Gael García Bernal and Jeffrey Dean Morgan.) He hasn’t released a solo album since 2013, but the “Sign of the Times” video looks enough like his music sounds that it doesn’t really matter. What I’m saying is: his music sounds like a countryside at dusk and a boy with windswept hair soaring through the sky.

Who is Harry Styles?

Kaitlyn: Harry Styles is, depending on who you ask, “a true rock & roll prince,” “the next Frank Sinatra,” “the latest art-throb at bat,” “a floppy-haired 23-year-old,” “the former de facto frontman of the UK boy-band sensation One Direction,” or “the Chelsea Hotel.” If you ask me, all of these things are true, except the last two — one of which is not especially fair to four other very famous people, and the other of which is a metaphor likening Harry to a large, haunted building. I don’t know how I would describe him, maybe Rebecca can try.

is harry the chelsea hotel or a baby sparrow?

Rebecca: Despite the fact that he’s been extremely famous since he was 16, Harry has managed to have had exactly zero scandals. He’s the kind of person for whom other extremely famous people go out of their way to express how nice he is. He doesn’t act like other pop stars, he doesn’t sound like other pop stars, and he definitely doesn’t dress like other pop stars (a topic I have written about at length).

He is a perfect, beautiful, androgynous sofa-print-suit–wearing baby sparrow. There, I think I got it.  

What’s special about “Sign of the Times” by Harry Styles:

Lizzie: Aesthetically, it’s got all the classic stuff down. Nice landscape, nice haircut, impossible feat of human accomplishment. But also, this video gifted us with more memes than most music videos usually do, in just one week.

The memes work because a) this is a very popular video that most people will immediately recognize, and b) it’s still pretty weird. Like Drake’s “Hotline Bling” video, “Sign of the Times” is pretty obviously asking its millions of viewers to make a GIF now and think of a joke later.

Rebecca: One of my favorite memes from the video is the juxtaposition of Harry flying and the One Direction song “If I Could Fly,” and those are sometimes placed next to a photo of some woman weeping proudly.

Kaitlyn: This whole conversation is reminding me just how much I too love weeping, especially out of pride. Lizzie is right though — I made several GIFs the first time I watched this video, mulled the GIFs over for many hours, and then came up with a couple of jokes. They were okay.

It’s also nice, sometimes, to read the comments on music videos. In the comments for this one, somebody wrote “HARRY’S THE FIRST HUMAN TO FLY.” This is a meme backed by pure joy and slack-jawed wonder. Harry. Can. Fly.

Rebecca: Yes, I especially enjoy the comments that said, “PROOF THAT HARRY IS JESUS,” because there’s one extremely GIF-able moment where he walks on water.

Also special: Harry’s outfit. The coat, which has tigers on the sleeves, is Gucci and costs $3,200. The sweater is Burberry and costs $895, and the boots, which are maybe the best part about this video even though he rarely uses them to walk on solid ground, are also Gucci and cost $1,200.

How long everyone should watch “Sign of the Times” by Harry Styles:

Kaitlyn: At least to the point (0:38) where Harry lifts off of the ground and starts flying, which will put you in the perfect frame of mind to go listen to the rest of his beautiful album.

Lizzie: Yeah, I would say you could get away with watching around a minute of this, then you can just kind of scroll back and forth through the rest of it. It is, perhaps, a sign of the times that I find it difficult to watch a five-minute video that only offers some visual pleasantries without any comedy or famous guest stars.

Rebecca: I’m going to go ahead with the assumption that you have definitely already watched this video, but a fun reason to watch it again is to see if you can spot a frame where you can see Harry’s horrifying stunt double. I’m pretty sure he’s not even in it at all, but maybe he is! You never know!