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Harry Styles’ ‘As It Was’ is Nakedly Vulnerable — and Unlike Anything He’s Done Before

The first single from Harry’s House is a both a straight-from-the-heart cry and an irresistible dance-floor challenge

Harry Styles has dropped his hotly anticipated new song “As It Was.” It’s the lead single and video from his upcoming third album, Harry’s House, due May 20 — the first music he’s released since his 2019 blockbuster, Fine Line. It’s one of the most emotionally powerful songs he’s ever done. He sings about facing up to personal transitions, with the chorus “In this world it’s just us/You know it’s not the same as it was.”

It’s a daring change-up for Styles, unlike anything he’s done before musically. He kicked off his first two album eras with grand statements, “Sign of the Times” and “Lights Up.” But “As It Was” is more nakedly vulnerable, a straight-from-the-heart cry that’s also an irresistible dance-floor challenge. It begins with children’s voices calling “Come on, Harry, we wanna say good night to you!”

But the song goes deep into feelings of isolation and melancholy. The lyrics are a plea: “Answer the phone/Harry, you’re no good alone/Why are you sitting at home on the floor?/What kind of pills are you on?”

“As It Was” swerves into Eighties-style synth-pop, in the vein of A-Ha or Depeche Mode. The synth hook sounds like warped steel drums, with tolling chimes at the end — Styles is credited with playing “tubular bells.” His vocals are bittersweet, almost piercingly poignant, with the intimate vibe of a journal entry. Yet it also feels like it’s about a relationship, full of secret confessions shared between two people — the first time he’s ever started off an album era with a love song.

It’s the first taste from his astounding new Harry’s House, which is even better than you hope it is. The 13-track Harry’s House will be released globally on May 20, on vinyl, CD, and cassette, available on preorder now. The vinyl will include exclusives like Sea Grass Green (on Harry’s website) and Target Translucent Yellow; there’s also a CD photobook with 32 new photos. Later this month, he’s headlining the Coachella Festival, on the weekends of April 15 and 22, where he’ll debut “As It Was” live. This summer he returns to the road for the international stretch of Love On Tour, starting June 11 in Glasgow with Mitski, and stretching into December.

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