In Rotation: Harry Styles by Harry Styles

In Rotation: Harry Styles by Harry Styles

Harry Styles took an immense amount of risks in order to release this album. After 6 years of releasing generic radio pop songs with his former band, One Direction, Harry made a complete 180 and started releasing heavy ’70s-inspired tracks. Many artists, such as David Bowie, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac, and Pink Floyd inspired his writing and production throughout this album. Within the record, Harry follows themes of heartbreak, jealousy, death, and loneliness. One of the biggest things he touches on is communication and how a lack of it has led to many devastating events that he speaks on. This album (more specifically “Sign of the Times”) introduced me to Harry, and he’s remained one of my favorite artists since then. So, let’s get into the breakdown–


Meet Me in the Hallway

Sign of the Times


Two Ghosts

Sweet Creature

Only Angel


Ever Since New York


From the Dining Table



1. Meet Me in the Hallway 

Synopsis– In this song, Harry depicts the feeling of sorrow and lonesomeness after he and his partner’s inevitable breakup. He doesn’t want to be away from them, and is practically begging for them to just “meet [him] in the hallway.” Maybe for the last time or to reconcile, but to at least see them one more time before they become strangers to each other. He laments the love that he has lost and understands that he needs to get over it, but he feels as though he cannot function without them. This is a very common theme throughout this album and even more of Harry’s work.

Lyric Pullouts–

“I walked the streets all day 

Running with the thieves 

‘Cause you left me in the hallway” (Verse 2)

Throughout the track, Harry uses the “hallway” as a metaphor for kind of the middle of his journey. It’s not the end he started at, in which he was still with his partner, and it’s not the end that he will arrive to, which is him finally being over what the relationship was. Instead, he is stuck in this hallway. He’s no longer in a happy, loving relationship with this person, yet he is unable to move past it. Although he wants his partner back, he can’t help but blame them for leaving him in the hallway, forcing him to wallow and sit with his sadness while they have already moved on.

“Just let me know, I’ll be at the door, at the door 

Hoping you’ll come around” (Chorus)

Harry has been unable to even move down the hallway towards the other end where he’ll be happy and over this relationship. Instead, he wants his ex to know that he’s still at the door, where they were still in a relationship, for whenever they’re ready to come back. He spends his time hoping that they’ll show up, that they’ll realize they were wrong and come running back into his arms. No matter what, even if they do not get back together, he still wants to see them in this hallway for any sense of closure.

2. Sign of the Times 

Synopsis– This track came after Styles’ 5 albums and 4 world tours with the band One Direction, and he took a huge risk by releasing a 5 minute and 41 second pop-rock ballad as his debut solo single. Over a year after the start of One Direction’s indefinite hiatus, this song came out on April 7th, 2017, and has only broken so many records for Harry, including reaching #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 list and soaring to the #1 slot of the UK Official Singles chart. The track draws inspiration from songs released by ’70s rock icons, including David Bowie and Queen, and is about avoiding emotion and reality during times of hardship and grief, essentially following a mother who is spending her final moments during birth before passing away.

Lyric Pullouts–

“We never learn, we’ve been here before 

Why are we always stuck and running from 

The bullets, the bullets?” (Pre-Chorus)

The bullets in these lines are meant to represent feelings and emotional issues, which could refer to Harry himself carrying around all of these problems and hard-hitting emotions, without having any way to deal with them. It also follows what he mentioned in an interview with Rolling Stone, “Most of the stuff that hurts me about what’s going on at the moment is not politic, it’s fundamentals. Equal rights. For everyone, all races, sexes, everything…This isn’t the first time we’ve been in a hard time, and it’s not going to be the last.”

“Remember everything will be alright 

We can meet again somewhere 

Somewhere far away from here” (Verse 2)

These lyrics reflect on the mother in the song wanting to escape the situation. She wants to spend the rest of her life with her child, which she will do, but she doesn’t want it to be as short as it is. Throughout the track, she expresses to the child that although life will be tough, especially without her, they must continue on no matter what. These few lines specifically show the mother comforting her newborn, reassuring them that they will see each other again, someday. The theme of things and people being “alright” is something that Harry carries with him, even to his next album.

“We don’t talk enough 

We should open up 

Before it’s all too much” (Bridge)

This connects to the lines in the pre-chorus about the bullets (emotions) as well as conveys the entire theme of the track. Harry is expressing that it is extremely important to, instead of concealing your feelings, discuss one’s personal struggles with others. The cycle that comes from keeping them bottled up can become too much, as Harry states, and can lead to destroying any and everything, from relationships to lives.

Harry’s Commentary– Harry explains that “[t]he song is written from a point of view as if a mother was giving birth to a child and there’s a complication. The mother is told, ‘The child is fine, but you’re not going to make it.’ The mother has five minutes to tell the child, ‘Go forth and conquer.'” (via Rolling Stone)

3. Carolina 

Synopsis– In this song, Harry recaps the events that occurred and his thoughts following going on a blind date with a new potential partner for the first time. In one of the lines, Harry blatantly states the name of the subject, Townes. After “Carolina” came out, fans identified her to be one of them, a One Direction fan. Funnily enough, this song is also Harry’s father’s favorite off of this album.

Lyric Pullouts–

“How would I tell her that she’s all I think about 

Well I guess she just found out” (Verse 2)

Even though it was purely one date arranged by a mutual friend, this girl, Townes, wouldn’t leave Harry’s mind. He wants to let her know how he feels, or maybe even just suggest seeing each other again, but can’t bring himself to do so–maybe because he feels it’ll be too forward or maybe because he wants to know what she’s thinking first. He realizes though, that by releasing this song, and literally name-dropping her, she’s bound to find out about it sooner or later. However, he doesn’t feel too opposed to the idea of her knowing now.

“I met her once and wrote a song about her 

I wanna scream, yeah, I wanna shout it out 

And I hope she hears me now” (Bridge)

Feeling the strong emotions that Harry has after meeting Townes only once is kind of crazy. He is constantly thinking about her and he wants to see her again. He feels so strongly about her that he literally wants to shout it from the rooftops. The last line suggests that now since he’s written this song and put her name in it, he wishes for her to understand his feelings about her and hopes that maybe she’ll feel the same and/or reach out to him.

Harry’s Commentary– Harry recalls how he found out that Townes had heard about the song; he says “So the person who it’s about found out–I found out about how they found out that it was [on the record]. Their dad watches the Today Show and he, like, left her a voicemail saying, ‘Uh I think he just sang a song about you on the TV.'” (via BBC Radio 1)

4. Two Ghosts 

Synopsis– Harry reflects on the end of a relationship that he cherished in this track. He constantly sees his ex, or reminders of them, but he cannot have them and he feels distraught over it. He wants them back so badly but he knows that being in each other’s lives will just cause the both of them even further pain than their breakup ever could have.

Lyric Pullouts–

“Tastes so sweet, looks so real 

Sounds like something that I used to feel 

But I can’t touch what I see” (Verse 1)

Harry uses his senses to describe his feelings towards the end of this relationship. Many things remind him of this partner and every time he sees something regarding them, all of their memories come flooding back. Unfortunately for him, though, he is unable to actually be with this person again and instead resorts to anything that slightly resembles them for the idea that they are still around in some capacity. He’s unable to reconnect with this lover, and although he still sees them, or things that remind him of them, he can’t reach out, no matter how much he wants to.

“We’re not who we used to be 

We’re just two ghosts swimming in a glass half empty 

Trying to remember how it feels to have a heartbeat” (Chorus)

Post-breakup, both Harry and his ex have changed a lot, and neither of them are the same as they used to be when they were together. The idea of “swimming in a glass half empty,” however, conveys the pessimism that Harry has towards this, whether it be them not being together any longer, them changing, or the relationship as a whole. Ghosts are usually symbolic of what once was, something that used to be here and no longer is. Harry and his ex are “ghosts” in this situation as neither one of them are who they were when they were together, so their old lives are their ghosts. The last line is meant to kind of show Harry’s inability to be without this person. He’s doing all he can to “remember how it feels to have a heartbeat” but it is extremely hard since his heart used to belong to his ex.

Harry’s Commentary– Harry explains that this song was one he had originally written for One Direction while they were still together, he says “Two Ghosts,” I wrote for the band, for Made in the A.M. [their 5th and final album before breaking up] but the story was just a bit too personal. As I started opening up to write my more personal stuff, I just became aware of a piece of me going, ‘I want to sing this whole thing.’ Now I look at a track list and these are all my little babies. So every time I’m playing a song, I can remember writing it, and exactly where we were and exactly what happened in my life when I wrote it.” (via Rolling Stone)

5. Sweet Creature 

Synopsis– This song reflects on a relationship in which two people are facing difficulties with each other. They argue and are both stubborn, but know that no matter what, they’ll always belong together despite their differences. The track is heavily believed by fans to be about Harry’s sister, Gemma, with no romantic connotations involved.

Lyric Pullouts–

“When I run out of road, you bring me home (Chorus)

Sweet creature 

Running through the garden 

Oh, where nothing bothered us” (Verse 2)

In an interview with Another Man, Gemma reveals that some of her fondest memories with Harry take place in their childhood home’s garden. She says “The first memories I have of him are a typically hazy mix. The little things are what stick with me most: our old house and garden, climbing the frame, family dog.” In the first line, Harry mentions how no matter what happens between each other and in their personal lives, they’ll always have each other to come back to.

“I always think about you and how we don’t speak enough” (Verse 2)

Communication is a big theme throughout this album and many of Harry’s other songs. He typically speaks about how there is very little communication within his relationships and how that negatively affects both him and the relationship as a whole. The topic of communication, or lack thereof, is something that plagues Harry heavily, and he comes to the understanding that it’s something he needs to work on.

Harry’s Commentary– Harry mentions that “[the song] is definitely written about one person,” and when asked if it was about anyone specifically, he responds with “In my opinion, I think most songs are written for one listener.” (via The Zach Sang Show)

6. Only Angel 

Synopsis– This track, which follows the ’70s inspiration that many other of the songs do, begins with a soft and ethereal opening, then breaks into a heavy rock beat. Harry is seen reminiscing on the undeniable attraction he has towards the subject of the song, even though he knows that she isn’t the greatest idea for him or for his future. Harry was able to record the track in only one take, in his own home.

Lyric Pullouts–

“Open up your eyes, shut your mouth and see 

That I’m still the only one who’s been in love with me” (Verse 1)

Throughout his career with One Direction, Harry was very often pinned as a womanizer, the womanizer of the group, even though when the band got together he was still a child, and very young in the duration of their time together. This idea of this “womanizer” title has linked Harry to every woman he’s ever been seen with. The media will continue to write cunning lies about him but he’s shouting, “Hey! You’re wrong! Stop spreading rumors!”

“She’s an angel, my only angel (Chorus)

Wanna die, wanna die, wanna die tonight” (Bridge)

This track is rumored to be written about Kendall Jenner, a Victoria’s Secret angel, whom he dated for quite a while. In the second line, he’s not referencing wanting to die in a bad way, but in the way that he is overwhelmed with the beauty of and thoughts about whoever it is he is singing about. With the woman being an angel, it means that when he does die, he’ll be able to see her again in the afterlife.

7. Kiwi 

Synopsis– This song follows the crazy and extreme rumors that Harry faces while being such a big face in pop culture, especially with his 6 year run with One Direction. In this track in particular, he talks about how a fan of his started to tell people that she was pregnant with his child and all he could think was “I don’t even know this girl.” He also kind of sings it in a way that’s making fun of her and I just find that very amusing.

Lyric Pullouts–

“…oh, I think she said (Pre-Chorus)

‘I’m having your baby’ 

‘It’s none of your business'” (Chorus)

Harry reflects on how this random fan, whom he had never met, is running around telling everyone that she’s pregnant with his baby, yet somehow it’s “none of his business.” Throughout the track, and these lines identifying the rumors in particular, he expresses the distaste he feels towards how rumors like these plague him and other celebrities in tabloids, even though he kind of finds it amusing and likes having the attention on him.

Harry’s Commentary– Harry states that the song “started out as a joke, now it’s one of [his] favorite songs. It’s one of the first ones [he] wrote for the album, when [he] was getting out a lot of energy. [He] hadn’t written in a long time and this [song] is what came out of it.” (via BBC Radio 1)

8. Ever Since New York 

Synopsis– This track, which was the second of Harry’s to ever be played live, is essentially about the sadness and inability of Harry to move forward after receiving heartbreaking news about a loved one. Harry first performed this live (along with “Sign of the Times”) on SNL on April 15th, 2017, less than a month before the release of the album. It is heavily thought to be about the moment when Harry got the news that his stepfather had been diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Lyric Pullouts–

“And I’ve been praying, I never did before 

Understand I’m talking to the walls 

I’ve been praying ever since New York” (Verse 2)

Harry is not someone who is outwardly religious or has a concrete belief in one religion and way of faith. But, after hearing the news about his stepfather, he couldn’t help praying, praying to anyone, anything, to make it go away. As someone who isn’t religious, I understand this completely. Whenever something goes wrong or I really want something, I’ll pray. Even if I don’t necessarily believe that there’s anything out there that can help me, it’s better to just attempt than to hope it’ll work out for me, which is what Harry is depicting in these lines.

“Tell me something, tell me something 

You don’t know nothing, just pretend you do 

Tell me something just before you go” (Bridge)

This lyric could be interpreted in two different ways. The most obvious is Harry begging his stepfather to say something, anything, before he passes. Harry doesn’t care if it’s coherent or understandable or even if his stepfather knows what he’s talking about, he just wants to hear something before he never will again. These lines connect back to “Sign of the Times” and how Harry comments that the mother is only given five minutes to tell her child to “Go forth and conquer,” but in this scenario, Harry is the child. The second, less thought about, interpretation is Harry pleading with the doctors for any information about his stepfather’s condition. Although they may know nothing or know something they are unable to tell him, he just needs something to put him at ease with the situation.

9. Woman 

Synopsis– The penultimate track on the record compliments many of his other songs, following his jealousy as he sees his ex with someone else, despite how much he believes she loved him. The pain of seeing her with someone else really gets to him and has him expressing that he’d do practically anything to be back with her. Throughout the song, he reflects on how much he’s missing out on not being with her, and maybe it was his fault that they’re not together.

Lyric Pullouts–

“Apologies are never gonna fix this (Hmm-mm) 

I’m empty, I know 

And promises are broken like a stitch is” (Verse 2)

It’s not clear who Harry feels needs to apologize, but listeners could gather that it’s probably him who needs to. These lines could be interpreted as, no matter how much Harry apologizes to his partner, things never seem to work out between the two of them, whether it be because of things he did, or some other underlying issue. Or it could be interpreted as how he feels like she was the cause of the problems in their relationship, but he knows that she’ll never apologize, so nothing will be fixed.

“This thing upon me, howls like a beast 

You flower, you feast” (Pre-chorus)

The “beast” in question is Harry’s wants to be back with his ex, despite how rough their relationship was. Even though they had quite a few issues and they both knew it’d never work out, he can’t help but be jealous when he sees her with someone new. Maybe it causes him to think about what he did wrong, or maybe what this new guy did right. All-in-all, the lack of communication is what ultimately drove them apart, and even if he did get her back, the same scenario would happen again.

10. From the Dining Table 

Synopsis– This track follows Harry’s journey after a devastating breakup and his attempt to get over it. He conveys the pain and emotional damage this provides him with, especially after seeing the person he loves move on to someone new. He even goes as far as to state that “[it] is the most personal to [him] and [he] think[s] [his] favorite one.” This song follows the theme of poor communication within a relationship, and the ultimate unravel of it because of that.

Lyric Pullouts–

“I see you gave him my old t-shirt 

More of what was once mine” (Verse 2)

These lines show that it is clear that Harry’s former lover has moved on from him. His ex’s willingness to give Harry’s clothes away to their new partner can indicate that they were not nearly as attached to the relationship as Harry was, and still is. The second line can be interpreted by listeners in multiple different ways. The most surface level being that his ex is just constantly giving away things that once belonged to Harry that he gave up to her. But on the deeper end, it could mean her heart and her love, which was once his.

“Maybe one day you’ll call me and tell me that you’re sorry too 

But you, you never do” (Bridge)

Harry is yearning for any sort of closure from his ex while also hoping for her to acknowledge her mistakes throughout their relationship. He too wants to be able to move on, but unlike her, he is incapable of it, especially because of how much it hurt him. The inclusion of the word “too” at the end of the first line signifies that Harry accepts his partial responsibility for their problems and ultimately the end of the relationship, but that is all that he seeks from her as well. Instead of holding a grudge or resentment, Harry longs for her and doesn’t blame her for the events that occurred, even though he knows he cannot attain her. Although their relationship has ended, he still wants to keep this lover in his life, whether it be for her eventual apology, or just to be a thought in the back of her mind.


One thing I wish that Harry kept throughout his career up to this point in time is the influences that inspired this album The soft-rock genre and sultry undertones of the songs fit so well with his lyricism and vocals, but as he continued to put out more music and 2 more albums, he started to lean back into pop-inspired tunes. Regardless, this record, and all of his music, is incredible and I’m grateful that Harry Styles exists in our lifetime. I do truly hope, though, that come his next album (which is hopefully within the next year) he reverts back to the production and instrumentals of this record. And finally–


1. Meet Me in the Hallway

2. Sign of the Times

3. Ever Since New York

4. From the Dining Table

5. Woman

6. Carolina

7. Only Angel

8. Two Ghosts

9. Sweet Creature

10. Kiwi





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