As it was

Why is it Catchy? – “As It Was” by Harry Styles

Sometimes you’ll hear a song and know immediately it will be on repeat for the next 48 hours. Or maybe it’s the opposite. Maybe it’s so ear-bleedingly annoying that you can’t possibly understand why anyone would like it. So this begs the question: Why is it catchy?

Let’s dig into the 2022 synth-pop hit to top the chart at Number 1 for 13 weeks in a row: “As It Was” by Harry Styles. “As It Was” was released earlier this year on April 1st, and remained at No. 1 on the Billboard 100 just until last week. This is an incredible feat – less than 50 songs have ever topped the chart at No.1 for 10 weeks or longer on Billboard Top 100. 

So this begs the questions – what makes “As It Was” a monster of a song? Why is it catchy?

Harry Keeps it Spicy

Pop songs are getting shorter as people’s attention spans shrink by the minute. Remember when pop songs were over three minutes long instead of two? But even with the shorter timespan, we can’t just follow the typical song form and expect people to not get bored. 

Harry Styles still uses verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus, but notice what elements pop in and out between each section. In fact, take note of what elements pop in and out between every 8 bars. There is always something being added as ear candy in order to grab your attention for just a little bit longer. Combined with the short song length, this means that there is always something to catch your attention. 

The most prominent example of “keeping it spicy” is in the hook. There are two different variations of the hook that switch off with one another. But some ear candy moments are a lot more subtle. For example, did you notice how halfway through the first verse there is a guitar part in the background playing the hook that comes back for the second verse?

You’re Being Trapped by the Hook

If you’ve listened to this song before or heard it as a sound on TikTok, you will likely recognize its iconic hook instantly. Let’s bring a bit of music theory in here to really expose what makes this hook so captivating:

 The hook is simple, and based on the “home” chord of this song – A major. Specifically, the notes are (and bear with me for a second): A-B-C-B-B-B-B-A-B-A. It doesn’t change much from that and can be used over different chords throughout the song. 

There is also a moment of syncopation. Notice the slew of “B’s” in the middle of the hook? The note B isn’t in the A major chord and it also happens to be the note that is syncopated against the strong beat. What this does is create tension in both rhythm and harmony that pulls you along the hook until it resolves back to A at the end. That is when the hook finally releases you from its captivating grasp. 

Anyone Else Nostalgic from this Song? 

There’s been a recent trend of nostalgic sounds in music, specifically from funk and disco. While this song doesn’t immediately resemble funk, it ever so slightly borrows elements such as the reverby synths and the syncopation in the hook. Revisiting disco and funk has made its way into the mainstream, appearing in other charting tracks such as Dua Lipa’s “Levitating” and Lizzo’s “About Damn Time.” 

There is a sense of nostalgia that this brings whether or not the audience was there to experience the empire of disco in the 70’s. The most charming thing about this revived funky-disco era is that it carries a feel-good, danceable vibe. I don’t know about you, but I will always welcome some mood-lifting funk tunes. 


Harry Styles has been rocking his solo career ever since it started with hits left and right. “As It Was” is no exception to that. Maybe you already listen to it in your room when you need a good dance moment to shake off the weight of the world. But “As it Was” is undeniably catchy even if it’s not your cup of tea. 

Ultimately, we all know a song is catchy when we hear it. We feel it in our bones. Just keep dancing to your favorite song, and every once in a while pause and ask yourself: “Why is it catchy?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *