I have so much to say and not enough words to say it, so let’s get right down to business. Last Friday, Harry Styles released his new single and video “Lights Up” at 12:14am EST. I was still awake when it dropped (#WestCoastPrivilege) and basically couldn’t sleep for another three hours.
The video is….I’m not sure how to describe it. It’s definitely one of those things that you have to watch over and over again. This is how it went for me:
First 5 – 10 times: I’m looking at nothing but Harry Styles’s sweaty, sweaty chest. And armpits. And nips. And face.
11 – 14 times: This is kind of a weird video. Why are there so many quick cuts? Who directed this? I’m going to keep watching, only to see if it gets better. Definitely not because Harry is very pretty and very sweaty.
15 – 17 times: Okay, these outfits are amazing. I want all of them. Loving the fashion.
18th time: Sweaty chest again.
19 – 21 times: Oh right, there are lyrics to this. Probably should look them up.
22nd time: Oh, they’re kind of sad. Hmmm, maybe there’s more to this. Catchy though.
23+ times: How does one get the job of rubbing up on a sweaty Harry Styles, and where can I sign up?
It’s been over two years since we’ve heard music from Harry Styles, but we’ve been expecting Harry’s album for a while now. First there was that cryptic tweet and the mysterious posters all over the world that said “Do you know who you are” with Harry’s trademark TPWK stamp at the bottom. Then there were pictures of him filming a new music video. Finally, he talked about the upcoming album in his Rolling Stone profile from August, describing it as “all about having sex and feeling sad.”
A lot has happened since the last album. Harry became an actor in Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk. He co-hosted the Met Gala, a nod to his burgeoning fashion icon status. (Harry’s also the face of Gucci’s Tailoring campaign). Along with this, we’ve started seeing a shift in Harry’s persona. It’s a Harry Styles who has managed to increase his popularity and star status, without sacrificing or disparaging the platform and the people that got him there. It’s a teen boy glow-up minus the douchebaggery.
“Lights Up” is a really interesting piece of art. When I first watched the music video, I didn’t like how the video was directed. The video seemed random, disconnected, and “artsy” for the sake of being artsy. I hate when videos are weird for no reason. There’s a marked difference between the aesthetic and sound of Harry Styles 2017 and Harry Styles 2019. Look at the video for “Sign of the Times” in contrast.
Harry’s first album faced a lot of pressure. The first solo album after One Direction was highly anticipated and exceedingly judged because Harry had to prove himself as a capable artist outside of the group. With breakout solo artists, the second album is always more interesting (B’Day anyone?) Because their talent has been established, artists are free to be more experimental and diverse with the music that they create, showing us sides of themselves that we hadn’t seen before.
This is what I’m starting to see with “Lights Up”. There are layers to the song, undertones that are actually quite sad and introspective. There are also subtleties that become more apparent the more you listen/watch.
For example, the diverse crowd surrounding Harry consists of both men and women. Paired with the fact that the song was released on National Coming Out Day, and with lyrics like …
What do you mean?
I'm sorry by the way
Never coming back down
Can't you see?
I could, but wouldn't stay
Wouldn't put it like that
…people have started to wonder whether this means that Harry Styles is bisexual.
ok but harry styles dropping a low key bisexual bop on national coming out day? icon— Matt Bellassai (@MattBellassai) October 11, 2019
These details might be a coincidence or the desperate gay within me trying to find any scenario where I could date Harry Styles, but maybe Harry is trying to tell us something. Harry isn’t afraid to defy gender norms, as he showed us at the Met Gala, and fluid sexualities have become more accepted and visible within pop culture. It’s possible. Can you imagine if Harry Styles was bisexual, and for some reason Timothée Chalamet also came out, and they dated? Lainey would lose her sh-t.
There’s another angle to “Lights Up” as well. A week ago, Harry launched a website in honour of World Mental Health Day where fans could receive encouraging and positive messages when they typed in their name. It’s called “Do you know who you are”, a direct reference to the song. Maybe another way of looking at “Lights Up” is from a mental health angle.
What’s really cool about “Lights Up” is that the more you keep peeling the layers back, the more there is to discover. The whole album is shrouded in mystery, and right now all we know is “Lights Up”, and that it’s about sex and being sad. But maybe the album isn’t just about having sex and being sad. Maybe it’s also about who he’s having sex with and why he’s sad. That would be a fitting addition to how Harry has grown as a person and as a musician over the last two years.