Harry Styles's "Lights Up" Explores Freedom and Acceptance

It begins with a faded in synth pop rhythm that transports listeners back to a youthful memory. Acoustic guitar riffs mingle and disrupt the reminisce of time. Pounding of drums snaps listeners back to reality with an essential question, “What do you mean?”

‘Lights up’ is an honest depiction of Harry Styles’s growth as an individual and as an artist.

Being released on National Coming Out Day, fans speculate this is his “coming out” message. Whether that was his intention or not, ‘Lights up’ explores the meaning of freedom. Throughout the song, gospel choirs elevate the meaning of what it is to be free. Free of judgement from the outside world and within oneself. It’s a reminder to be authentic. Achieving comfortability within oneself is the ultimate destination.  

Lines like “All the lights couldn’t put out the dark/Running through my heart/Lights up and they know who you are/Know who you are/Do you know who you are?” delves in Harry’s journey of acceptance. The light exposes his fears and denials. Individuals cannot run away from the truth. The truth will catch up. Confronting the core essence of who someone is the path to the light. Styles acknowledges this brutal reality of life and accepts every imperfection and perfection of his character.

In the bridge, Harry invites his audience to “Step into the light” and how it is “So bright sometimes”. He declares “I’m not ever going back”. Depriving oneself of happiness is a disservice. Styles understands neglecting his individuality is counterproductive. It helps no one. Not even himself. It feels liberating to be at peace with the exposure. To be vulnerable. That’s the beauty of the human experience. Stepping into the light shines a brighter light on the world.

The second verse is bittersweet with the proceeding lines “Never going back now/It’d be so sweet if things just stayed the same”. Styles doesn’t want to go back to the past, yet something is pulling him back. Nostalgia of reliving certain moments again for the first time can be detrimental to character growth. It rings true to how humans can be tempted to be stuck on the past. To replay the memory dozens of times. It would be sweet to be in that moment of time. Reality forces humans to adapt and let go. Styles is letting go and never reverting back to who he used to be.