An analysis of “Sign of the Times”

By: McKenzie Welch

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“Sign of the Times”, a song belonging to Harry Styles, has been a long-standing favorite song of mine since I first heard it in the eighth grade, and I’ve listened to it continuously since that moment.

One of my favorite things about “Sign of the Times” is the lyricism that it harbors. The song tells a story, and, whilst the song is fun and easy to sing along to, it has a sadder tone that is often overlooked even though it is seemingly apparent.

Harry Styles has stated himself that the meaning of the lyrics is nothing if not a topic brimming with despair. The song illustrates the feelings that follow the death of a mother not long after childbirth. Trendell states, “… ‘Sign of the Times’ deals with a young mother being told she has five minutes left to live”.

Whilst belting out the lyrics alone in your car or at a concert along with many others, it’s easy to misconstrue the true meaning of the words, but, by taking a deeper look into them, you can see that the message of the song is fairly discernible. This is my perspective on the song and what the lyrics mean.

For example, in the first stanza of the song, Harry sings:

Welcome to the final show
Hope you’re wearing your best clothes
You can’t bribe the door on your way to the sky
You look pretty good down here
But you ain’t really good

These lyrics can be interpreted as a final goodbye. The use of the words “final show” is a reference to the last minutes of the mother’s life before she heads up to the door in the sky, of which she cannot bribe to let her come back down to earth and live longer. This part of the first stanza essentially means that whilst this woman wants to live longer, her time has run out, and it’s turning into a bittersweet goodbye.

The entirety of the fourth stanza is a reference to the idea of people having a better life in the after life than the one they were experiencing on earth. It reads:

Just stop your crying
Have the time of your life
Breaking through the atmosphere
And things are pretty good from here
Remember everything will be alright
We can meet again somewhere
Somewhere far away from here

By singing “breaking through the atmosphere”, Styles is conveying the idea that the woman is leaving this current life and making her way into the afterlife, where they will then meet again. Styles also sings, “remember everything will be alright” as though to comfort the woman by telling her it’s alright to move on, and that everyone left on earth will be able to move on eventually and live their lives in happiness.

The chorus of “Sign of the Times” is very clearly referring to the struggle of not wanting to die yet. Harry Styles sings:

We never learn, we been here before
Why are we always stuck and running from
The bullets?
The bullets
We never learn, we been here before
Why are we always stuck and running from
The bullets?
The bullets

By using “we never learn”, Styles is referring to the fact that it’s always hard to let go of someone no matter how many times one has to experience it. Also, he references the fact that people are always running from death, as the bullets are a metaphor for death. Styles is saying that people are perpetually stuck in a position where they are running away from death, most likely because they are afraid of it, but often accepting that it is your time, such as the mother after her childbirth, the death itself is more peaceful.

The lyrics are much more than just a song to sing as loudly as you can when you’re feeling upset. Instead, they have a deep story behind them, and some of the meanings of the lyrics can be applicable to other areas of life.

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