A very deep look at the important metaphors in Harry Styles' 'Sign of the Times' video 5 years ago

A very deep look at the important metaphors in Harry Styles' 'Sign of the Times' video

Harry Styles has a new video out.

It's for his single Sign of the Times, which you must have heard by now, whether you wanted to or not. The song is a clear departure from the bright pop of One Direction: Harry Styles is arriving as an Artist.


The video for Sign of the Times is similarly Artistic: a bold cinematic vision, full of wide shots of harsh landscapes, with Styles flying through the air in a way that even our official Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ never managed.

But what do these images mean? What's the story behind the story, and the story behind that story? Let's have a look.


Harry is in the wilderness. Alone. No civilisation, no life remains but that of his own, and in the lonely wilderness, what does it mean to live? What does it mean to love when you don't know what it means to live? What does it mean? What does it mean? What does it mean?


He stumbles, his big, clumsy shoes can't support the weight of his being. Perhaps he is not too big for his boots; nay, his boots are not big enough for him. Boots would actually have been more appropriate for this kind of terrain, really, but that'd be a little on the nose, metaphor-wise.



He reaches out a hand. Reaching out for who? Reaching out for what? Clutching the hand of someone no longer there, someone loved and long gone, or perhaps to pet a favourite dog or to grab a basket from the Tesco he frequented as a boy.



Harry's blurred face. It's him, but is it really him? Yes, it's him, but really, is it him?


Fear. The fear of being along, or maybe the fear that he's not alone. Does the majesty of nature overwhelm or disgust him? Perhaps it is both. Or neither. This metaphor is too deep to penetrate.



Harry lifts, then falls back to earth. He tries to fly, but the weight of the world brings him crashing back. Atlas dreams of soaring, but Atlas is duty-bound to bear the sky upon his shoulders. Also: heels that size are totally inappropriate for the outdoors. He needs different shoes, we can't overstate this.


Harry's eyes betray his innermost thoughts: "I am here, and here is where I belong. I can't expect you to understand, but I need you to trust me." His hair betrays the only thing we know for sure: it is quite windy outside.


He turns to the skies and sees his destiny on the horizon. At least, that's what it looks like from here. Can't really make it out. It's pretty cloudy.


With one mighty leap, Harry Styles leaves the land of mortals and joins that of the birds, who are also mortal but can fly and therefore have one up on mortal humans, but now Harry can fly like a bird too and shit on cars.


The glory of nature below, the foggy vision of heaven above, distant and unknown. The world around us is so clear, but the way ahead is blurred and hard to see. But who gives a fuck when you can fly?


Life on earth is hard and wearisome. Tired and weather-worn, Harry looks at the mountain again. Life is yours to witness, if you just open your eyes and look in the direction of the thing you want to see, like a big mountain, for exampleThat sort of thing. There's loads of it.


But up here, in the carless wonder above the seas and beyond the horizon, it's mint. It's really good fun. You should try it, if you're Harry Styles, which you're not, so just keep looking at the mountain. Be happy with the mountain, that's the lesson.


Now you know why his shoes are so big: flippers. They were flippers all along.




It's all too much. Being Harry Styles is too much for Harry Styles. He falls back, overcome with his own power, which is too strong to allow him to actually fall back, ironically. Too powerful to live, too powerful die. A poet said that, probably.


Water, the source of all life. Falling, like an angel from heaven. Water. Fall. Waterfall. Fuck. Waterfuck.


This is the clearest metaphor yet: in the face of huge rock cliffs and mountains, Harry Styles is really quite small. He is not as big as a mountain, and neither are we. Truly humbling.


There is no time! The time is now! Act now! Do something now! Quick! He's serious! Fucking do it!


While you're doing it, Harry will be up there, bathed in the light of the dying sun, moving to a higher place, a better place. A place far away.


Fuck off, planet.