Listen to This: Harry Styles announces a new album with single ‘As It Was’

Read about this week’s most notable singles by Alexander 23, Father John Misty and more.


Susan Behrends Valenzuela

(Illustration by Susan Behrends Valenzuela)

Harry Styles is back — and the world is ready for it, with “As It Was” hinting at what fans can expect on the new album. This week, we also review songs from pop giants Alexander 23, Shawn Mendes and Olivia Rodrigo. On the softer, more indie side, there’s a new Father John Misty song too. Read on for more. 

“As It Was” by Harry Styles

Paree Chopra, Staff Writer

Harry Styles gives us a glimpse into his upcoming third album “Harry’s House” with the lead single “As It Was,” which evokes vulnerability and self-reflection in a way we’ve never seen from him before. The most exciting thing about Styles’ music is how he surprises fans with the direction he takes — beginning a new era with an alt, indie-pop theme is a highlight in itself. Sonically, the song features up-tempo synths and ’80s melodies. In contrast, its lyrics are more reflective, expressing Harry’s need to change as a person on the inside and outside. If description can do melodies and lyrics justice, then “As It Was” describes a hauntingly beautiful oxymoron where Styles speaks to his former self: “Answer the phone / Harry, you’re no good alone.” In a recent interview, he described the song as being about “metamorphosis and embracing change, and former self and perspective shift.” As the song moves through the bridge, we hear a dizzying murmur of lyrics that leads into the anthemic final chorus. If “As It Was” is a preview of Styles’ upcoming album, then we’re in for 13 introspective and eclectic tracks. 

“Crash” by Alexander 23

Candace Patrick, Staff Writer

Alexander 23’s most recent single, “Crash,” explores the complex feelings that can arise after heartbreak. While he confesses to missing the person he was involved with, he also acknowledges that their breakup was likely for the best and demonstrates no regret. The bittersweet song starts off with a quiet guitar riff and whispered vocals before blossoming into a soft pop-rock track. Interspersed with filtered vocals and an electric guitar solo in the post-chorus, “Crash” marks a tonal shift for the artist, who is known for somber ballads like “IDK You Yet” and “Cry Over Boys.” The chorus clearly expresses his complicated attitude toward his heartbreak as he sings, “I miss you but I don’t miss us / ’Cause apart we’re great, but together we suck / I’m sorry for the way it ended / But ending it, baby, not so much.” This stream-of-consciousness songwriting style enables the up-and-coming artist to let honesty and vulnerability permeates his work, generating anticipation for his upcoming debut album. 

“The Next 20th Century” by Father John Misty

Holden Lay, Staff Writer

On “The Next 20th Century,” Father John Misty preaches of the coming apocalyptic future with all the disaffected swagger of an ’80s Leonard Cohen cut. A similarly Cohen-esque drum machine — coupled with quietly shimmering acoustic instrumentation — creates an implacable surreal sound. The track joins the rest of his fantastic catalog of six-minute-plus epics, covering Val Kilmer, Buddhism and the futility of love in the modern world, all in a devastating package tied together by a brutal, fuzzed-out guitar solo that hits out of nowhere. This song’s dynamic variety is wonderful and in line with the more theatrical direction of recent singles like “Funny Girl.” With lyrics like “I’ve seen him wearing aviators and a black baseball hat / Stalking airports ’cross the bardo quiet as a wildcat,” “The Next 20th Century” is some of his most stunning writing to date.

“When You’re Gone” by Shawn Mendes

Candace Patrick, Staff Writer

Shawn Mendes is totally transparent and vulnerable in his latest release, “When You’re Gone.” 

Addressing his recent and highly publicized breakup with Camila Cabello, he admits to the pain and difficulty of letting go and moving on. In the chorus he sings, “Hold on / I don’t wanna know what it’s like when you’re gone / I don’t wanna move on / I don’t wanna know what it’s like when you’re gone for good,” as he attempts to desperately grasp the memories of a past relationship. The track’s surprisingly springy sound contrasts its melancholy message, with a forceful percussive beat driving the song forward. It continues to build further in the bridge and the beginning of the final chorus before erupting into a roaring finale, featuring retro-sounding synths and echoey vocals in the background. A more uptempo sequel to his previous breakup single, on “When You’re Gone,” Mendes pours his heart out, proving that leaving this relationship was by no means easy. 

“baby is you” by Olivia Rodrigo

Brian Savino, Contributing Writer

On “baby is you,” Olivia Rodrigo opens with a soft lullaby and slow guitar strums, as she voices sorrow that she cannot forget her ex-lover in the effortless way that he has forgotten her. As the song builds, her vocals crescendo, during which her sadness is mixed in with frustration and fear: “Don’t you think I want to move on, too? / But I can’t love anyone the way, the way I loved you.” Rodrigo’s vocals shine on this song. It is as if she is speaking directly to the listener — her voice conveys strain and despair as she contemplates her ongoing heartbreak, still struggling with what she has been desperately trying to overcome. All the anger and misery comes out at once, underpinned by her exquisite pitch and volume control.

The guitar, though so simple, follows Rodrigo’s vocals and complements her emotions, almost like a friend comforting her during a difficult time. It picks up amplitude ever so slightly in the song’s latter part, maintaining its gentle sentiment and mirroring the hostility that Rodrigo expresses. Originally an unreleased song, “baby is you” was featured on Rodrigo’s documentary “driving home 2 u” and is the perfect representation of what shot the artist to massive fame.

Contact the Music Desk at [email protected].