Harry Styles has finally ended Ed Sheeran’s 13-week stranglehold on the pop charts with his debut solo single.
The One Direction member claimed this week’s No 1 spot with Sign of the Times, a bombastic piano ballad that signals a new direction for the boyband star.
Styles’s effort outsold Sheeran’s Shape of You by just 3,000 copies, according to data from the Official Charts Company.
Although he has ended the Shape of You singer’s run at the top, Sheeran probably won’t be too disheartened. His album Divide remains top of the album charts, while his tracks Shape Of You and Galway Girl make up the rest of this week’s top three singles. Clean Bandit and Drake complete the top five, with Symphony and Passionfruit respectively.
Shape of You has also been No 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 10 weeks.
Styles is not the first One Direction member to embark on a solo career. Last year, Niall Horan scored a No 9 hit with his song This Town, while Louis Tomlinson teamed up with the American DJ Steve Aoki to take Just Hold On to No 2.
More notably, former member Zayn Malik topped the UK charts with Pillowtalk and the subsequent album Mind of Mine. The single also debuted at the summit of the Billboard Hot 100 , beating One Direction’s highest US chart position: Best Song Ever reached No 2 in 2013.
To put that achievement in context, Pillowtalk was at the time only the 25th song to debut at No 1 in the Hot 100, joining the likes of Hello by Adele and Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off.
Unlike his former band members, Malik quit One Direction to go solo and has expressed disdain in interviews for the music he made with the group.
While Malik focused on a slick R&B sound akin to the likes of Usher and Drake, industry figures have been heard comparing Styles’s latest material to David Bowie and Queen .
Sign of the Times certainly shares a similar aesthetic to work by those artists, even if in reality it is more akin to a ballad by a mainstream indie band like Kings Of Leon.
A review in the Guardian said: “There’s no identity-blurring or turbo-meta deconstruction of pop music itself here. But as a credible piece of indie-pop balladry that moves Styles into a new arena, he just about pulls it off.”
The song scored 39,000 downloads combined with 3.5m streams to send it into the charts. Shape of You was still the most streamed song with a whopping 6.8m plays.
Styles is set to release his self-titled debut album on May 12.