“Every place you’ve ever been will never be the same, and neither will you.”
There is no other way to perfectly summarize this new era Harry Styles walks us into with the release of his new single, “As It Was,” for his upcoming album, “Harry’s House.” Succeeding his stunning sophomore album, “Fine Line,” “Harry’s House” is to be released on May 20, 2022. This release is not only preceded by a Grammy-winning album, but also a recent nail polish collection drop from his beauty brand, Pleasing. It is safe to say that Harry Styles is anything but disengaged with his fanbase.
Any fan knows that Styles adores his extensively detailed teasing of new projects prior to their release. “As It Was” is no exception. Beginning March 18, a promotion for Styles’ new project surfaced through a mysterious website called youarehome.co [HYPERLINK – youarehome.co] linked to several social media platforms. The website featured a beige door that would open to reveal a different image each day at noon. Images would range from art from Haruki Murakami’s novel “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle” to a very complex puzzle of various mushrooms, all of which are known by fans to be tied to Styles. Linked to these updates were tweets from @youarehome on Twitter, posting various phrases to cause introspection — many of which listeners learned were lyrics to his new single.
Three days later, on March 22, Styles followed @youarehome accounts on both Twitter and Instagram, confirming that this was a project of his. The following day, he announced the release date of the album across social media platforms, garnering millions of likes and hundreds of thousands of reshares. On March 28, Styles announced that his next single, “As It Was,” was to be released on April 1 at midnight in England.
That day, hundreds of thousands of fans across the globe were glued to their screens, waiting for the commencement of this new era of Harry Styles. Currently, the song stands as Spotify’s most-streamed song in a single day in 2022 and the most-streamed song in the United States in a single day in Spotify history.
Taking on a beat familiar to A-ha’s “Take On Me,” Styles uses sounds nostalgic of the ’80s in a style similar to “Golden,” a single from “Fine Line,” where dejected lyrics are masked with an upbeat melody. Styles reflected on his perception of himself and how that has shifted between quarantine, his personal life and career endeavors by saying the song was about “metamorphosis and embracing change, and former self and perspective shift and all of that kind of stuff” in an interview with Audacy.
The music video brings these themes to life with various symbols representing Styles’ metamorphosis. The video opens with him hiding behind a semi-translucent door as the song begins to play, where his goddaughter asks him to pick up her phone call. The door separates two rooms, one of which represents the inside of his mind and the other representing the outside world. As Styles walks forward through what represents the outside world, he is wearing a large, Bianca Saunders red coat, standing out among the people around him all wearing neutral tones or blue.
As the lyrics begin, he progresses backward to go back to the door, returning back to the inside of his mind, as everyone else continues to walk forward. He sings behind this, “gravity’s holding me back,” suggesting that the person he presents is not necessarily him at his full potential. Here, he trades his large coat for a custom Arturo Obegero sequined jumpsuit of the same color, suggesting a more free and open version of himself within his own mind that is not obvious to the rest of the world. In this room is a spinning platform, remarkably similar to a record player. On the platform is a woman in an identical jumpsuit, but blue in color — potentially as a nod to the 1999 science fiction film, “The Matrix.” The contrast between Styles and the woman is remarkably similar to the red and blue pills of the film, where the red pill brings you back to reality while the blue pill allows you to resist the changes you need to face. Furthermore, in the first verse, Styles sings “What kind of pills are you on?” reminding us of the idea of facing reality versus living in ignorance. There is tension between the two as they attempt to reach other but continuously miss, barely embracing one another — suggesting a person or state of mind that he has always nearly had, but never able to fully grasp.
The screen pans to Styles in front of a pool with people in neutral tones and the woman in blue, as they begin to undress to swimwear and Styles embraces the woman, who is still wearing the entire blue jumpsuit barely adjusted. At this point, he removes the gloves from his hands, symbolizing the end of the “Fine Line” era. This scene does not last long, as it quickly moves to a room painted abstractly where Styles and the woman are pinned down similar to the renowned photo of Charles and Ray Eames, well-known furniture designers. They are barely grazing each other’s fingertips, as they are pulled apart from one another. Here, Styles refers to bearing himself to the world as he is and opening his heart and mind to the public and bringing those he loves to the spotlight, who may not open themselves entirely to the world, yet get torn to shreds by critics and fans online regardless.
The screen pans back to the inside of his mind, on the spinning machine running in place as the bridge plays until he sits down. The focus moves to him standing in front of the outside world watching three white doves fly away. Here, Styles reaches a sort of breaking point where he no longer fights change as reality forces him to adapt. Throughout the entirety of the video, Styles fights change by being stuck running in place. He finally hops off the machine and begins to dance around the different rooms until all of his dance moves are synchronized between different settings. The person within himself as well as the person he presents to the rest of the world has finally become one confident, lighthearted person. He lies down on the spinning machine with his limbs spread out, suggesting he embraces the uncertainty that life has to offer and is willing to take on these challenges fearlessly with some very interesting choices of choreography.
“Harry’s House” is largely interpreted as a metaphor for Styles’ mind. “As It Was” confirms this as Styles sings about himself, specifically. In the second verse, Styles breaks the fourth wall as an artist by calling himself out for self-isolating and not coping with challenges in the most effective way. Additionally, he directly references his relationship with Olivia Wilde as he sings, “Leave America. Two kids follow her” during the bridge. Furthermore, he alludes to the criticism he’s faced over the last year with “I don’t wanna talk about who’s doin’ it first” in reference to his Vogue shoot. Such lyrical transparency is not common with Styles’ typical songwriting as he normally writes more subjectively, leaving much of his lyrics open to the interpretation of the listener. Here, he takes a much more objective approach and makes it crystal clear that this upcoming album is about Harry Styles, and he does not care for any questions, comments or concerns.