Harry Styles’ 5 Most Powerful Songs About Self-Discovery and Identity

The world got to know Harry Styles when he was a member of One Direction. But since the band’s 2015 split, he has pursued a successful solo career, embracing a unique identity and fearlessly expressing himself through music. The singer is renowned for openly sharing personal challenges and defying traditional gender norms (famously exemplified by his iconic photoshoot for Vogue magazine, where he sported a summery dress). 

Videos by American Songwriter

His career isn’t just about musical achievements. Styles has also forayed into the acting world, amassing film credits for Dunkirk and Don’t Worry Darling. His film career and high-profile celebrity relationship with Darling director Olivia Wilde (and oh yes: and more than a few chart-topping hits) have all contributed to his status as an influential player on the world stage. 

Even so, his true passion is still in music. The singer has used his songs to explore themes of identity, purpose, sexuality, and much more. In some ways, he has become the antithesis of toxic masculinity for the younger generation by repping a healthier and more creative type. 

Here are Harry Styles’ five most emotional and compelling songs about learning who you are. 

1. “Lights Up

Who doesn’t love a song about casting off their chains and rising up like a phoenix from the ashes? Styles released his second album, Fine Line, in 2019, and it’s not hard to spot the differences from his solo debut. Fine Line is noticeably free of the restraints his first album had—which, Styles said, were rooted in his anxieties about breaking out as a solo artist. This is never clearer than in the track “Lights Up,” a captivating blend of moodiness and hope. If you weren’t getting the message yet, the chorus centers on the repeated lines:

Step into the light
I’m not e­ver going back 

He might have been held back in the past, but “Lights Up” serves as a re­bellious and determine­d rejection of his previous limitations.

2. “Falling

Don’t dismiss “Falling” as your typical breakup song. Sure, it’s full of themes of packed bags, reliving old conversations, and adjusting to being alone. But it wouldn’t be a Harry Styles song without a deeper meaning. “Falling” is really about coming to grips with not having been the person you want to be. Is it an experience of terror or the first step on a journey of finding yourself? That’s exactly what the singer explores in this poignant piano ballad, performed impeccably. 

[RELATED: The Top 10 Harry Styles Lyrics from ‘Harry’s House’]

3. “Fine Line

Styles’ second and third albums played right along the line of being concept albums. Fine Line, appropriately, was about identity and self-discovery. It all comes to a climax with the title track, which is the very last on the album. Determined to be truer to himself with his second record than he had been on his first, Styles concluded things on a high note. To the singer, “Fine­ Line” symbolizes his aspirations in his musical career and personal life, encompassing the quest for balance, identity, and love.

4. “Treat People with Kindness

Is the world becoming a kinder place? Well, Harry Styles hopes so. The singer was inspired to write his song “Treat People with Kindness” after hearing it used as a mantra. The track’s message is all about the importance of kindness and compassion, even if they’re on a different path. We’re all on this journey together, so to speak, but that doesn’t mean we’re all going to make the same choices. The core idea behind “Treat People with Kindness” is that, by embracing compassion as the fundamental part of the journey, we’ll all find our way. As far as life philosophies go, it’s not a bad one. 

5. “Sign of the Times

After le­aving One Direction, Styles re­leased “Sign of the Time­s,” a poignant pop ballad that explores theme­s of loss, hope, and the esse­nce of existence. The singer imagined it as being everything a parent might want to pass on to their child if they only had a few moments. It’s hard to imagine what you would say in that situation. In mere minutes, “Sign of the Times” makes a bold attempt to articulate a whole life philosophy. Now that is bold—but bold is kind of what Harry Styles is all about.

Photo by John Phillips/Getty Images

Leave a Reply

4 Classic Rock Songs That Tackle the Theme of War