I’m not usually one for deep lyric interpretation. I like to simply experience the music, before I try to make any sense of it. That said, Only Angel has found me a bit perplexed (though I dearly love the sound of it) but I believe I had an epiphany last night.
Harry expertly (and I think instinctively) molds his voice to fit the mood and feel of a particular song. Some have said his voice seems too warm for a song that’s about pure lust and surrender to it. It doesn’t have that hard edge, “I don’t care” feel like Kiwi. I have a few ideas about the vocal warmth and what the song might mean to Harry.
I believe the song is about the real Harry as opposed to what others expect, or wish him to be.
The angel is his personification of qualities within himself which he is not allowed to express, or show freely. (Including, but not necessarily limited to, being a gay man in love with his band-mate.)
The song begins and ends with a “heavenly chorus.” “She’s an angel, my only angel.” is an argument against everyone shaming and telling him no. Every time something negative is said about “her,” Harry reinforces that “she” is, in fact, an angel - there’s nothing wrong with her as she is. He is fully committed to it, powerless (as if consumed by lust) to be other than who and what he is. He fights and claws to be himself - even if only in darkened hallways and secluded rooms. He always crawls back to himself - away from the image of who he’s supposed to be.
“Open up your eyes, shut your mouth and see That I’m still the only one who’s been in love with me.”
He’s no longer questioning who he is, but embracing it. He wants the listener to open their eyes and see him. They’ve been in love with a facade, a false image, but not really with him.
“Couldn’t take you home to mother….” I don’t for one second believe he’s singing about Anne here. “Mother” refers to every authority telling him he’s not good enough - he must project a false front. He’s done with being shamed. It doesn’t matter what “she” told her brother, the facade is not an accurate image. He can’t help being who and what he is - you may call it evil or ugly, but again Harry insists “she” is an angel. “She” is good and worthy as her true self. Not only is she an angel, but, “My only angel.” The song is raucous and proud, unapologetic. And isn’t that what Harry has become? Raucously, proudly, unapologetically himself. (All the while, still having to hide a very important piece of it.)
So, there you have it. I believe the song is about fame, false images and self acceptance. The burning lust to be one’s self even under fame’s hot light. Being true to himself and truly himself, of course, does not mean he wants to expose all his secrets in public. Whether this is Harry’s interpretation, we’ll never know, but he would never say this is wrong. (He’ll only do that if you say he wrote a song about Swifty!)