So at about 3am EST, when most of America was asleep, a certain subset of music fan — mostly teens, bless them — was very much awake. Why? Because former One Direction heartthrob Harry Styles released his debut solo single, and the internet went N U T S. The song itself is pleasant enough — it’s a rather lovely power ballad that addresses the state of the world in reassuringly non-specific terms. The verse melody is one of those melodies that is super familiar but hard to place — it’s a dead ringer for the I-iii chord shift in the verse of Chicago’s “Hard to Say I’m Sorry”, but it also recalls something else that no-one at Flavorwire can quite place, and it’s driving us crazy, so feel free to email if you can put your finger on it.
At the time of publishing, the song had racked up nearly a million views in a matter of hours, and by the time you read this it will probably be well into the seven figures. And the reaction videos… oh, man, the reaction videos. If you’re not familiar with this YouTube phenomenon, then just have a look down YouTube’s “related videos” sidebar and you’ll see an endless stream of kids filming, yes, their reactions to the song. Said reactions generally comprise crying, squealing, shrieking, etc, but you’ll also notice that the ones with the largest viewing figures — and I’m talking tens of thousands here — also throw in a plug for some sort of product. Good on them for monetizing their fandom, I guess, but there’s something disconcertingly mercenary about suggesting someone go to a survey site before you cry your eyes out over Harry’s new song.
But it’s also a reminder that you never quite feel anything as strongly as you do when you’re a teen falling for your first love, be it musical, romantic, or whatever else. We’ve long fetishized the purity of teen love, and even in this cynical, capitalist world, there’s something genuinely lovely about watching some of the reactions to “Sign of the Times.” As this girl says, “I thought I’d film my reaction, because I’ll be able to look back at this in years to come. It’s a special moment for the world, that we were all listening to this, together, for the first time.” And she’s right! It is indeed amazing that in our ultra-connected world, One Direction fans in literally every part of the world were glued to their computers at the same time, waiting for their idol’s new song. I’m kinda glad that my moments of teen überfandom weren’t broadcast to the entire world, but in 2017, everything is ~shared~. What a time to be alive.