Image Courtesy of Consequence of Sound
By Katie Van Lew
English singer, Declan McKenna first gained recognition in 2015, when he won Glastonbury Festival’s Emerging Talent Award. The singer broke headlines with his debut single “Brazil,” also in 2015. The song went on to be an international success, as he was able to cultivate a message within the song that protested against FIFA’s decision to award Brazil with the 2014 FIFA World Cup. McKenna scrutinized this decision, as he believed that FIFA failed to address the ongoing corruption and poverty that affects Brazilians.
Since his break out song in 2015, McKenna has released his first studio album What Do You Think About The Car? (2017). Alongside “Brazil,” McKenna released the singles “Paracetamol” and “Humongous.” His debut album, propelled by protest songs and heart-wrenching lyrics, solidifies his talents as a lyricist and musician.
As McKenna has a rather large platform, he takes pride in knowing that he has the privilege to use music to address the demanding issues that affect the world. In an interview with DIYMAG, McKenna discusses the sound of his new album.
In an interview with DIYMAG, Mckenna says, “The new album’s a little bit vaguer and less direct,” McKenna said . I want people to take from it what they take from it as opposed to me telling the same direct story, saying exactly what it is I’m writing about.”
In January 2020, McKenna announced that he would be releasing his upcoming album, Zeros, making it his second studio album. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, McKenna has had to push back his release for the album multiple times. More recently, McKenna has announced that the release of his upcoming album is officially set for September 4, 2020. In the meantime, on August 4, McKenna has released what appears to be the first half of the album.
On this first half of his second album, Mckenna has compiled four of his singles off of Zeros: “To Be An Astronaut,” “Daniel, You’re Still a Child,” “The Key to Life on Earth,” and “Beautiful Faces.”
“To Be An Astronaut” is a standout single on the album. During the first verse, McKenna’s soft yet nostalgic lyrics are carried by the piano. As the lyrics intensify, his voice becomes more direct and piercing to the listener. By the chorus, McKenna belts, “Well you were born to be an astronaut // And you’ll do that or die trying.” The song swiftly transitions from a sad ballad, to an indie-rock anthem that discusses the importance of breaking free and becoming the person he was always meant to be. “To Be An Astronaut” is remarkably brilliant, as the song does not feel studio produced. In a way, it feels as if McKenna was singing straight from his heart and not through the demands of producers. Inspired by David Bowie and the Beatles, McKenna delivers a spine-tingling rock anthem that affirms the authenticity he has been seeking to portray for so long.
“Daniel You’re Still A Child” provides the perspective of the youth in the world today. McKenna’s lyricism critiques the youth from the perspective of older generations. The character that McKenna creates is Daniel, a young boy that has the potential to be anything but is constantly led astray from his goals due to real-life issues, including with mental health and drugs. From the standpoint of the older generation, Mckenna sings, “Daniel’s gone running, the trail’s gone cold // You’ve been acting quite strangely since ten years old.” McKenna uses the character Daniel to exhibit how he feels adults attribute peculiar behavior to being off the beaten path. This song idolizes the personal journey that everyone must take in their life, thus deviating from the beaten path.
Declan McKenna is on the way to becoming who he was always meant to be as an artist. Many critics have doubted McKenna, remarking that his first album was a mediocre debut; however, the songs released from his second upcoming album exhibit otherwise. His lyrics are oddly comforting, and help to make those who feel that they may not adhere to societal norms quite extraordinary. The power that his voice reverberates shatters political barriers, making music that strays from the catchy, throwaway lyrics that the music industry pumps out at an alarming rate. As evidenced from the singles that he has refined and released for his second studio album, it is clear that McKenna has grown in exceptional ways as an artist, showcasing his authenticity in both his creativity and lyricism. Zeros, Declan McKenna’s second studio album will be released to streaming services on September 4, 2020.