It’s been around two and a half years since we have heard new music from One Direction golden boy Harry Styles, but his new single Lights Up was certainly worth the wait. The single is presumably the leading track from his highly anticipated second album, which has been self-described as “all about sex and feeling sad”.
Within the song, there is a clear departure from his self-titled debut album: no longer is his inspiration dominated by 1970’s rock, but instead there is a more of a dreamy, laid-back tone, with the production reminiscent of Zayn Malik’s own R&B debut album. The track is unapologetic and self-assured, much more so than his previous work and certainly miles away from his One Direction days. He declares he is “never coming back down” and, after stepping into the light, he is “not ever going back”. Whether it is a reference to his fame, a breakup, or his sexuality, it does not matter: the conviction and confidence with which he sings these lyrics suggests it to be a pivotal point in his career, if not his life.
The video feels like a psychedelic, Californian dream in which Styles is always shirtless. Figures in varying stages of undress crowd up against him as the camera flits between reaching hands and his butterfly tattoos. He rides on back of a motorcycle in a billowing shirt down empty Californian roads, with his arms outstretched. He floats in pink tinged water, a scene reminiscent of the artwork for his first album. Despite the gospel-like chorus of “shine” which persists through the song, the video itself is shot primarily at night, adding to its dream-like quality; perhaps the release of the track, and later the album, is the real step into the light for him.
“Do you know who you are?” as Styles asks, repeatedly in the track. Perhaps I don’t, but it is clear from this song that he certainly does.
[Eleanor Fletcher – she/her – @eleanorlf_]