Pop star Harry Styles has finally released his debut solo single, Sign Of The Times, and it sounds nothing like One Direction. Fans have heaped praise on the epic ballad, which received its big premiere on 7 April, with one describing the number simply as a "beautiful masterpiece".

Distancing himself from the pop created by his former boy band, Styles, 23, channels rock gods of yesteryear on the piano-led ballad evoking memories of early David Bowie. Beginning with a set of keys before slowly introducing a stunning orchestra, Sign Of The Times gradually builds to a huge crescendo with Styles unleashing piercingly vulnerable falsettos.

Sign Of The Times, co-written by Styles and the acclaimed Jeff Bhasker, is untypically lengthy for a commercial radio single, spanning five minutes and 40 seconds. Lyrics include: "Just stop your crying, it's a sign of the times/ Welcome to a final show, hope you're wearing your best clothes," and, "If we never learn, we've been here before/ Why are we always stuck and running away from the bullet?"

Fans have flooded social media with positive reviews of the track, including one who tweeted: "Oh my god. That's exactly what people meant by 70s rock inspired! That was so perfect!" while another exclaimed: "SOMEONE GIVE @Harry_Styles THE GRAMMY ALREADY." One other impressed fan commented: "HARRY'S VOICE IM CRYING HIS FALSETTO OH MY GOD I CANT BREATHE," and another declared: "OK HARRY STYLES' NEW SONG IS A BEAUTIFUL MASTERPIECE."

Addressing his reemergence as a solo artist post-One Direction, Styles told BBC Radio 1's Breakfast Show host Nick Grimshaw: "I feel as if I've been hibernating in the studio for so long and you hear it in the safety of the studio and everything. It's like it's time to give birth! It's the song I'm most proud of writing, I think."

Listen to Harry Styles' Sign Of The Times:

Styles was pictured on a shoot for the Sign Of The Times music video at a secret location in Scotland earlier in April. Teasing daring scenes, the What Makes You Beautiful hitmaker was seen dangling from a helicopter over remote farmland and water.

Sign Of The Times is expected to appear on Styles' first solo album, expected for release later in 2017. The pop star will perform the song for the first time on UK TV on The Graham Norton Show on 21 April while he is also set to appear on Saturday Night Live in the US on 15 April. In addition to his solo music career, Styles is gearing up for his first film role in WWII movie Dunkirk, scheduled to hit cinemas on 21 July.

One Direction
Harry Styles has left the pop of One Direction firmly behind him Kevin Winter / Getty