Harry Styles ended Ed Sheeran’s 13-week reign on top of the UK Official Singles Chart when his debut solo single “Sign of the Times” shot to No. 1, effectively bumping Sheeran’s chart-smashing hit “Shape of You” to No. 2. The margin was narrow, though, with an Official Charts report revealing “Sign of the Times” only clipped “Shape” by 3,000 copies.
Overall, Styles’ sweeping art-rock anthem, which is the lead single from his upcoming May 12 self-titled solo album, has been downloaded 39,000 times and amassed 3.5 million streams in the first seven days of its release. Here are three reasons Harry Styles’ chart domination is impressive.
“Sign of the Times” Gives Harry His First No. 1 as a Solo Artist
Harry Styles launched his solo music career as a member of British boyband royalty. One Direction established him as a global superstar and Directioners mourned the day the band announced its hiatus. The question of whether the 1D split is permanent still gnaws at everyone’s minds.
Styles’ fans waited patiently for solo material while Niall Horan released his romantic folk ballad “This Town,” and Louis Tomlinson offered up an emotional tribute to his late mom with his Steve Aoki collaboration “Just Hold On.”
Neither Tomlinson nor Horan snagged a UK Singles chart-topper with their respective tracks. Departed One Direction member Zayn Malik is the only other former band mate to snag a No. 1 spot on this chart. Malik did it in 2016 with his debut solo single “Pillowtalk.”
The fact that Styles batted a UK No. 1 hit straight out of the park with his solo debut track confirms his global superstar status as a solo artist. The world still loves One Direction. But, embracing Styles’ first solo song in such a fierce way means fans embrace him on his own as well. It also bodes well for his solo future.
“Sign of the Times” is Boldly Different from a One Direction Tune
“Sign of the Times” is intended to be a spacy, art-rock ballad. It also marks a sharp stylistic departure from One Direction material. The track lacks a traditional verse/chorus structure and fans and critics even speculate about the song’s meaning.
Styles sings “Just stop your crying, it’s a sign of the times/Welcome to the final show/Hope you’re wearing your best clothes.” Maybe he’s referring to One Direction’s end and his future as a solo artist. We don't know.
Ultimately, the song's meaning is shrouded in mystery. But, the arrangement and the allure of this kind of big rock anthem grabs an audience. Styles' vocals are pure and captivating. The "Drag Me Down" singer arguably took a huge risk launching his solo career on this track. But, it paid off. The fact fans embrace it in a chart-topping way is impressive and exciting.
Harry Styles Went Toe-to-Toe with the Biggest Male Pop Star on the Planet –and Bested Him
Ed Sheeran has dominated the music landscape for the first quarter of 2017 with the massive popularity of his third studio album Divide. His rhythmically-infectious and sensual lead single “Shape of You” has smashed streaming and chart records across the globe.
“Shape” held the top UK Singles Chart spot for a staggering 13 weeks. Then Harry Styles crashed onto the scene and bumped Ed Sheeran off their shared native country’s musical throne. This is pretty impressive, considering Sheeran is a Grammy-winning, songwriting heavyweight, who was recently named recipient of the 2017 Songwriter’s Hall of Fame Hal David Starlight Award. He even penned several songs for One Direction.
Divide is still at the top of the UK Albums Chart. And, Styles’ victory margin was small, given just 3,000 copies separate them. It’ll be interesting to see how long “Sign of the Times” will hold onto the lead. Still, to be the one to defeat a musical wunderkind like Ed Sheeran carries some pretty impressive pop star gravitas.