When boy bands splinter, there’s only ever room for one breakout star. For N*SYNC, it was Justin Timberlake. Take That spawned Robbie Williams. Wham = Andrew Ridgeley.
For One Direction, it was looking likely to be the brooding, serious Zayn Malik, who struck out solo first, and went down the slinky Timberlake route, with a dash of Serious Indie Artist to boot. But One Direction fans don’t really want pillow-talk, and U.S. radio programmers certain don’t want Serious Indie anything. They want straight down-the-middle classic FM radio. Heartland guitars, stadium-worthy ballads, stuff that sounds like the radio and ice cold cans of Coke.
Harry Styles’ debut single ‘Sign of the Times’ certainly ticks all those boxes, and while its success both on sales charts and Top 40 radio was an inevitability given his 1D past, Styles made a very important move over the past week – he debuted on Billboard’s Adult Alternative Songs airplay chart, two months after being released.
This is the rock-centric chart, where Pearl Jam and Kings of Leon sit at the bar drinking whatever whiskey the station is sponsored by. As Billboard point out, Portugal. The Man and Dan Auerbach from The Black Keys currently sit at #1 and #2 on the chart.
Billboard credit rock and classic radio programmers’ open-mindedness with the song’s inclusion in the chart, highlighting KGSR Austin, Texas, a rock station which played the track 32 times in the week ending June 4. The station’s program director said “The word that permeated so many conversations about the track consistently was ‘surprise.’ Harry surprised us all with a song that shook the conventional boy-band-member-goes-solo aesthetic. And often, that surprise turned to genuine delight.”
Styles might be able to cruise on his boy band fanbase for a few more pop singles, but by being accepted by those who control rock radio playlists, he just added a good thirty years to his career. Unless he becomes mates with Pitbull, or something.