Too often, it is mistakenly assumed Harry and Louis broke up for almost two years. We don’t know if they broke up or not but we know why people think that. The reason lies in two lines: “It’s been two years since I’ve seen your face,” in Louis’ Too Young, and “As one year turns into two, I’m still not over you” in Harry’s unreleased Hunger. To be fair, this is a trap many new Larries who arrived in 2020 with the release of Louis’ debut album or after have fallen into, even if just for a little bit. And while stunt lyrics work in favor of a fake narrative in the music industry and the case of this line in Two Young – which follows the narrative of the two years Louis spent separated from his ex beard even though we know the song is not about her – is a whole other conversation; why do we always assume songs written by Harry or Louis at a time where they were forced to be apart in the public eye are necessarily about a break up?
Never mind the many events suggesting this amount of time doesn’t make any sense, because when it comes to the music, this phenomenon acts as a blindfold stopping us from understanding the struggle Harry tells us all about in what I believe to be two of the most misinterpreted songs of his career, Two Ghosts and Hunger, and the reference to those feelings Louis had already made in his famous and blatantly queercoded One Direction tune Through The Dark. The three songs are, in fact, a tale of three parts about the before and after Modest management created in their relationship in the public eye from the very moment they were forbidden to interact and the enemies narrative was put into place, and not about a breakup.
What many people don’t know about the fourth track of Harry’s self-titled debut album is that it was written in 2014, for Made In The A.M, but he felt the song was way too personal for it to be included. While I don’t doubt, based on their art, Harry and Louis went through a rough time after hiatus from which they came stronger and Harry probably related to this song differently by the time he started working on his album, it is clear to me that, if we look at it from a 2014 perspective, a breakup does not quite fit. However, one thing about which I consider this way more popular interpretation to be on the right is the importance of a series of changes a relationship goes through over time in these lyrics.
Same lips red, same eyes blue
Same white shirt, couple more tattoos
But it’s not you and it’s not me
Tastes so sweet, looks so real
Sounds like something that I used to feel
But I can’t touch what I see
The opening of Two Ghosts already reflects some changes a relationship has gone through. Harry describes Louis’ physical appearance, his red lips, blue eyes, tattoos, the familiar long and loose white shirts he wore religiously on stage and so on, everything is the same on the outside, but they are not the persons they were inside. But it’s not you and it’s not me, Harry says, Sounds like something that I used to feel / But I can’t touch what I see. We know the difference at last, we know what has changed: Harry can no longer touch Louis, he sees him, he wants him, but they can’t touch each other.
We’re just two ghosts standing in the place of you and me, Harry continues in the chorus, Trying to remember how it feels to have a heartbeat. They have turned into ghosts and they are desperately trying to learn how to love each other in their new situation (for reference, ghosts are not tangible, they have no solid bodies and death has stolen from them the ability of physical touch. And you know what ghosts lack as well? A human voice).
The fridge light washes this room white
Moon dances over your good side
And this was all we used to need
These three lines are interesting, they are reminiscing simpler times, where life was less complicated, where Harry could admire his lover in peace as the moon danced over his good side and it was more than enough, whatever happened was yet to arrive. White is also the purity color, symbolizing there is nothing dark, nothing hidden, their relationship was in the open (or in the light, as it is impossible to hide something in the light, while in the dark whatever happens stays between the two of them). However, in some cultures white is also the color of mourning, the color of death, and when you attend a funeral, you dress in white. Is Harry saying goodbye to those last moments in the open, the freedom of communicating with their physical bodies at all times? Is it a way of saying the peace they were living in had a deadline?
Now, if you want to know what was guilty of the two lovers turning into ghosts, look at the second half of this third verse:
Tongue-tied like we’ve never known
Telling those stories we already told
‘Cause we don’t say what we really mean
Could this be the usual miscommunication problems between exes? Technically yes, it makes perfect sense. But how about an alternative explanation so obvious we often fail to see it? Tongue-tied like we’ve never known, taking into account the literal – and grotesque, I might add – concept of having your tongue tied, means Harry and Louis are violently silenced to an extent they had never been before, the only words coming out of their mouths are controlled and scripted: telling those stories we already told. The “stories” or narratives they tell are repetitive, as Louis says in Copy Of A Copy Of A Copy, nothing is original, they follow a narrative older than time itself, an old curse whose victims have always been dreamers who dive head first, (artists with big dreams and nothing to lose).
And of course, the cherry on top, cause we don’t say what we really mean: these stories they’ve already told, the story of the girlfriend, of the friend who is a friend no longer, are but a thread of lies. In 2014, we were being bombarded with the exact same plot, different faces protagonising it, over and over again, and so Harry and Louis became two ghosts who couldn’t touch or speak to each other.
Lastly, when the chorus comes back, a new line we hadn’t heard before is introduced: We’re just two ghosts swimming in a glass half empty. A glass half empty, truth be told, could refer to alcohol as a way of coping with their new situation, one where they can’t but love under a set of norms they did not choose.
But what if it is referring to the popular saying “to see the glass half full or half empty”? Did the two lovers now ghosts enter a pessimistic headspace where they can no longer see the light at the end of the tunnel? If this is the case, they are swimming in it, and the song does not have a happy ending, but a realistic one: we leave Harry trying to remember what it was like to love in the open, how it feels to have a heartbeat, in contraposition of their new situation where they have been shoved into the darkness and turned into ghosts whose behavior and words are scripted.
The difference between Hunger and Two Ghosts is that in this unreleased song – leaked in 2022 but written around 2014 – we do hear all about the rough times and fights in what is implied to be a long-term relationship. In Two Ghosts, Harry and Louis suffer because of something outside of their control; while here there is a big part of the struggles and fights and even short periods of time apart people in a long-term relationship which started when they were very young are bound to go through. Is this, however, a breakup song? Is it a “good-bye, I never wanna see you again”? Not at all and, in fact, a big part of these lyrics orbitates around the same curse which kept them tongue-tied and unable to touch each other, to those happy days before the curse hit and how their relationship has been hurt by it.
Of course, it should not surprise you to know that, given that they are based on the same relationship and written very close to each other, both songs (Two Ghosts and Hunger) have quite a lot of themes in common. For example, the two of them start with the comparison of what used to be and isn’t anymore.
Candles burnt down to the floor
Wearing less than you wore before
Shoes sitting by the door
Never put them on
We would stay in my house for days
Spilling breakfast on pillowcases
Your stuff don’t taste the same
Now that you’re gone
It sounds like there was a fight and Louis left, but then again, maybe Harry is talking about those simpler days we have been commenting on and how their new reality has changed things for them. And in the moment he is writing this Louis is momentarily gone, because couples fight, the stress of the situation would put a strain in any relationship and it is completely normal, or, my personal theory, there is something occupying Louis’ time. What if Louis was stunting and this is Harry, who had already expressed his bitter feelings over the whole thing in Just A Little Bit Of Your Heart and would do so again in the future in Woman, writing about the emptiness Louis leaves every time he is away telling those stories already told, those stories they don’t really mean and which hurt Harry immensely? What if Harry came up with the idea of this song while he was alone at their shared home or hotel room, admiring the emptiness Louis leaves the moment he is away to stunt and the fights this causes between them? Well, the next verse suggests this interpretation could be close to the truth:
I guess I’m prone to overthinking
One thing goes wrong and I can’t adjust
I’ve lost the taste for the good in us
And I’m sorry
At first listen, it seems I lost the taste for the good in us is talking once again about being in a long term relationship and how after a while you can become too confident in your everyday routine and stop making the effort and working for that relationship. But is he really?
Another theory is the one stated above, the possibility that this one thing gone wrong Harry can’t adjust to and which gets him to overthink is indeed the curse, this force keeping him and Louis apart and that is the cause of their fights quite often, maybe even of this one . Of course, this situation would be what makes him lose perspective in the third line: he has been conditioned to believe what they have is enough, the norms they have to play under to love each other are as much they are ever going to get and there is no getting better, that they do not deserve better than that. So in this sense, yes, he lost the taste in the good in them.
After this verse, we get the chorus at last, and this is where things lean more to the closeting side harming their relationship than to the I’m-so-sorry-we-fought side, even if the song as a whole is a mix of both.
We had a hunger then
Only each other then
Couldn’t get enough when we started
Always a hunger then
Now it’s just emptiness
We were in love, we were starving
We had a hunger then
They had a hunger, they were starving, they couldn’t get enough of each other, the need of physical touch was constant, they were young and in love and they didn’t hold themselves back nor should they have ever had to. As you can probably guess by now, this chorus is about the period of time where they loved through the light. Don’t think it was ideal, though, this is not a fairytale, this is real life and they fought a lot, they could ruin a perfect night, on Harry’s birthday he made Louis cry and Louis told him he learnt how to drive but he lied. But don’t you realize even this part is sweet and innocent? He is still telling us about the times before the darkness, these are typical problems for two very young boys in a relationship to have, it is nothing out of the ordinary. Said darkness comes in the second half of this same verse:
I could never get sick of you
I just bit off more than I could chew
And as one year turns into two
I’m still not over you, still not over you
Harry could never get sick of Louis, he says it himself in the first line, and “never” is a word which does not admit exceptions, so when he says I just bit off more than I could chew, he does not mean it was too much, too intense and too fast so he could not take it – because remember, he could never get sick of his partner -, but that he wanted more than he was allowed to have, he wanted everything and their relationship is being hurt by this desire which should be a given.
And as one year turns into two / I’m still not over you, still not over you, the lines of the controversy, are actually a very precious and romantic declaration of love.
This is where we get the exact timeline of events, which is key for figuring out the true meaning of the song. In 2014, Louis and Harry were in a significantly tight and deep closet, and you know for how many years? Two. Two years since they were forced apart. Something quite well-known in our fandom is that from 2010 to 2012 Harry and Louis were a lot freer, their images were still working in favor of the straight narratives, but the closet was glass: Harry even confirmed they were dating, that they were crushing on each other, talked about it and it was mutual. They were also extremely touchy, it was evident their love language was touch, they were always holding the other by the waist, holding hands in public in multiple occasions, “whispering” very close to each other, they did Twitcams with fans where they did not hide they were together, flirted via Twitter and so on.
Does this sound familiar with what we’ve been talking about? They had a hunger then, only each other then, couldn’t get enough when they started… But curiously, in 2012 everything changed: Louis had started dating his beard months back, One Direction became popular in America and Larries began to be mauled by the press, the forced denials started, and yes, Harry and Taylor Swift got into a PR stunt acting at the same time as each other’s beards.
Soon enough, Larry interactions in interviews or even on stage became a treasure, Louis and Harry moved out of Princess Park and, suddenly, we were told they hated each other, even though they let slip they were still living together somewhere else on numerous occasions.
This! This is the “emptiness” Harry mentions, they became two ghosts, and after two years, every happy moment we have of them in the public eye was not but a momentaneous memory of old in times of loneliness, in a life of swimming in a glass half empty.
Now, about the fight, Harry gives us a new line in the bridge (very similar to the pre-chorus): I never call when I knew I should. I’m going to be honest here, this sentence is not grammatically correct. The reason is probably related to the rhyme and other musical factors, but it is very curious to me how, in this case, we have correct two possibilities with very different outcomes, which one did he really mean?
Well, I never called when I knew I should have makes reference to an event in the past already over and with a not very happy ending: Harry never called, so they never reconciled. However, I never call when I know I should is talking about the present (2014) and how Louis is gone – he is stunting or they have fought – and Harry hasn’t called yet or just in general, about how Harry shuts down every time they fight, which is actually a very real thing according to Louis’ Written All Over Your Face and the short snippet we have of Harry’s own unreleased Talk.
Either way, the correct option would be the second one, since, if you go back to the opening verse, Harry uses the present tense to refer to the moment he is in while writing these lyrics, alone in their house while Louis is away.
He knows, at this moment, he should call even though he never does. And the song closes with Harry longing again for the hunger they felt and acted upon before 2012. Does it have a happy message? Absolutely not. Closeting is heartbreaking and this focus on its effects on their long-term relationship and the profund long for what they took as granted before things went truly bad, but Harry does make a promise: in 2014, as one year turned into two, he tells his partner he could never get sick of him, and that he is still not over him.
Why “still,” though? Why does it sound like a breakup line? The reason is quite simple actually and makes the whole statement even of more value: while their whole team, their bosses, every person who had control over them and had cut all interactions off waited for them to break up, for what they considered the inevitable ending – which we know thanks to the lines I can’t believe I gave in to the pressure / When they said a love like this would never last in Too Young -; Harry looks around, at the bleeding wounds normal in any long-term relationship and the ones their managers had caused, and promises that, despite everything, he is still not over Louis like everyone expects him to.
Louis, for his part, had already made his corresponding promise regarding the situation. But before moving to Through The Dark, it is impossible to ignore the possibility of this being a stunt song like two others leaked unreleased songs – Him and Trouble – to validate Harry and Taylor’s stunt in 2012 – and thus, the two years line. Were we supposed to believe this was a real breakup song about a fictional relationship? It does not matter that much, since most stunt songs (if they are truly written by the artist of course) are not just a bunch of nonsense like people wrongly assume, many can have a real meaning and it is just on the wording and certain references to fake stunt narratives to mislead the listeners. I do not think this is the case, these lyrics sound raw and autobiographical like most of Harry’s music but, if it were, the song still tells a hidden personal story even if it would be impossible for us to know which specific lines have been added to reinforce the stunt narrative and which ones are personal, and, for me, this is it.
Through The Dark:
When Through The Dark was released as part of Midnight Memories the 25th November 2013, neither of the two songs we’ve talked about had been written, and yet, the dark had already fallen over them. As a result, this song is evidently not a direct response, but it reads as such because it is indeed an answer, not to the two songs above, but to the feelings Harry expresses in them: this is the reason we are closing with the first song to be written, because there are so many references to the feelings Harry would experience from 2012 on and that he would later put into words, it would be limiting for us to go into Through The Dark without discovering what those feelings were first.
This is Louis’ version of the same story, this comes from someone who has been turned into a ghost on his own and has lived the effects this has had on his relationship and on his partner and the confirmation that the songs Harry later wrote are referencing closeting. The three songs are about the same moment in time, the same difficulties, the same relationship and the exact same conflict, one which was weakening the relationship but which neither of them was responsible for.
You tell me that you’re sad and lost your way
You tell me that your tears are here to stay
But I know you were only hidin’
And I just wanna see ya
You tell me that you’re hurt and you’re in pain
And I can see your head is held in shame
But I just wanna see you smile again
See you smile again
As you can see, just the opening is already talking about the same feelings Harry later admits having in Hunger: Harry is not okay, he is prone to overthinking, one thing goes wrong and he can’t adjust, remember? So it seems Louis knows the tears are there to stay, he is hurt and he is in pain because he can’t touch what he sees, and his head is held in shame, a shame provoked by their own managers, who had made them believe their love was wrong (remember the lines I could never get sick of you / I just bit off more than I could chew and I lost the taste in the good in us in Hunger. Surely now they are starting to make sense). By the end of the verse, Louis adopts a protective attitude towards his partner, he wants to keep Harry away from pain, and he is going to take the pain on himself to do so.
But don’t burn out
Even if you scream and shout
It’ll come back to you (Ah-ah-ah)
And I’ll be here for you
Harry is screaming and shouting, and not in the literal sense, he is “screaming” and “shouting” because of what was being done to them in 2013, a year after things got ugly if we bring up the timeline in Hunger, Harry is trying to make himself heard with his ghostly voice because they have their tongues tied and are not able to speak the conventional way, so he communicates differently, but Louis warns him It’ll come back to you [there are consequences when they use their voices] but I’ll be here for you: this is a reference to the technique of damage control, which consists on fixing the inconsistencies on their own public image artists make by reinforcing the narrative in place. Louis is saying they are punished for shouting and screaming, but he will be there all along the way and they will go through it together.
But how far would Louis be willing to go to make Harry smile again and be there for him? How much would he be willing to deal with to love his partner? Well, in the first half of the chorus, he says:
Oh, I will carry you over
Fire and water for your love
And I will hold you closer
Hope your heart is strong enough
And of course, here comes his promise:
When the night is coming down on ya
We will find a way
Through the dark
When the night is coming down means when the curse hits once again, when things get hard basically (reminder in the night lives the dark and the dark symbolizes everything forced to remain hidden and the force keeping them apart both in this song and in Louis’ new album) and they have to suffer the consequences to their act of rebellion for a love which is unfairly held like a crime, Louis assures his partner that they’ll find a way, they’ll find a way through the dark.
I wish that I could take you to the start
I’d never let you fall and break your heart
And if you wanna cry or fall apart
I’ll be there to hold ya
You tell me that you’re hurt, it’s all in vain
But I can see your heart can love again
And I remember you laughin’
So let’s just laugh again
The second verse is even more illuminating: Louis wishes he could take Harry to the start so that he could prevent all of this from happening even though there is no preventing something outside of their control. And when is the start? The time when they had a hunger, always with each other, they were in love and they were starving… Does it ring a bell? Unfortunately, there is nothing Louis can do, so if Harry wants to cry or fall apart, he can only be there to hold him – this actually confirms the conflict is coming from the outside, since if these were relationship problems caused in part by Louis, then he wouldn’t suggest he is helpless, he wouldn’t say he would be there and wishes it had never happened, but that he would make sure it never happened again. And the last two lines are so in brand for Louis, let’s laugh again, let’s go back to this time where we were happy at least when we are alone, let’s stay positive and not swim in a glass half empty because that hasn’t happened in a long time (I remember you laughing).
And you don’t need, you don’t need to worry
And you will see, it’s easy to be loved
I know you wanna be loved
Lastly, the bridge is a reinforcement of the idea of not dwelling on the negative side of things. You will see, it’s easy to be loved / I know you wanna be loved. For me, here Louis is saying everything on the outside may be complicated, that stepping out of their home may get them swallowed by darkness, but their love comes just as easily as it did all of those years ago. And the song finishes with the chorus, with not only a promise but also a prediction of their future: together they are invincible, they are the greatest, and together the two starving ghosts they were back in 2013-2014 would dance and love in the dark until they someday find a way through it and into the light.