Harry Styles Trades Retro-Rock for Synth-Pop in New Song, ‘As It Was’ « CmaTrends

Harry Styles has used his solo career to lean into the music of bygone decades before, with his first two albums heavily drenched in the rock singer-songwriter stylings of the ’70s. His new single, too, has a flair for music as it was — but it’s far from a rerun of those previous albums. “As It Was,” released late Thursday, sounds like it has its roots in the synth-pop of the 1980s. You could even say he’s vaguely in a Depeche mode… or having an A-ha moment.

It may not sound anything but contemporary to younger listeners, though, who may think that, if anything, he’s adopting the style of the Weeknd, whose “Blinding Lights” also looked to some of those same catchy electro-pop bands for inspiration.

But enough about a flock of inspirations. What may really blind some fans is the “As It Was” music video and its generous offerings of Styles’ torso, in a tank top and eventually without it. There will be a fine line between who’s having a better Thursday night, his still predominantly female fandom or gay Twitter (or even just neutral tattoo enthusiasts).

Styles indulges in the great pop tradition of calling himself out by name in the lyrics, singing in the second verse, “Answer the phone / Harry, you’re no good alone / Why are you sitting at home on the floor / What kind of pills are you on?” Earlier, the track begins with a child’s voice imploring, “C’mon Harry, we want to see goodnight to you!” The lyrics are distinctly less cheerful than the music throughout, with calls that go unconnected and doorbells going unanswered. It’s like a quarantine-era mood squeezed into a post-pandemic synth banger.

There is human connection in the video, though, as Styles, wearing a glittery red jumpsuit, meets up with a female companion in a counterpart blue one-piece for a pas de deux atop a spinning platform, before she gets spun off. They reconvene in what looks like a swimming pool with concentric circles of diving boards, and Styles doffs his shirt, though the mood stays cool without ever completely heating up. In the end, there’s a musical payoff, at least, to the “Ringin’ the bell / And nobody’s coming to help” lines, as actual bells give the song a happy-sounding musical ending, even if the two principals seem destined to keep spinning separately.

“As It Was” is the first single from “Harry’s House,” which the singer announced only three days prior will be coming with a May 20, 2022 release date.

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