Declan McKenna

Although youth is not the antonym of maturity, the claim could be made that in youth, maturity is not as easily found. In the world of music, this can be especially true for the lovesick-teenage-songwriter, however the seventeen year-old Declan McKenna has somehow managed to capture an element of maturity that many in the entertainment industry lack.
Released May 20th of 2016, McKenna’s four-track EP Liar holds four uniquely refreshing yet catchy songs that pull from a vintage, almost Beatles-like sound. In addition to being catchy, McKenna’s four tracks are an exposé of meaningful narrative lyrics. In his first track of the EP, McKenna’s song Brazil is the kind of song that can be listened to on a surface level time after time without the listener even realizing what it is about. Brazil is socially aware, highlighting the injustice done by FIFA to the people of Brazil. From the chorus, the song seems outrageously catchy, and its message blurred, but to a more attuned ear the lyrics become clear and a story unfolds. The story depicts the Brazilian hosting of the “beautiful game” or, rather FIFA World Cup, at the cost of great injustice done to the people of Brazil.Declan-McKenna

The next song presented on the EP is Bethlehem, and while Bethlehem has a tough act to follow, because Brazil is the most popular and well known song from the set of four, the follow up is equally mature if not more lyrically heavy. The name Bethlehem alone holds an Abrahamic undertone, and religious symbolism especially for Christians. The song is heavy with allegories and allusions to the bible as well as criticism toward organized religion, especially the ignorance and brutality toward nonbelievers that some organized religions think it best to have “left it all behind”. McKennan uses the term “love” multiple times throughout this song, but allows the word a certain weight, wielding it as a double edged sword that can mean both love of God or wrath of God.

Paracetamol follows Bethlehem beautifully, although leaving behind the religious undertones. With a more upbeat sound and thoughtful lyrics. Paracetamol is a common painkiller, and a clever name for a song that depicts ample hardship. This song holds the atmosphere of a narrative as it describes what could be construed as the difficulties of prejudice and the transition of a transgender girl. This narrative tragically ends with the girl’s descent to suicide because “she’s damned to live, well… damned to choose.”

Howl concludes the four-track EP with minimal lyrics and an even foggier meaning. Although possibly a commentary on his own life of fame and the growing eyes upon him, McKenna ends his EP on a more qualified and accepting note with the understanding that everyone collectively feels, sees, and hurts as a plea for equality. The song and EP ends with the hopeful note that “[your] life ain’t over yet,” allowing for the redemption of not only an individual, but perhaps society as a whole.

Overall, McKenna shows surprising maturity and musical style in his four-track EP Liar. From start to finish, the EP is an easy listen and a thought provoking set. This seventeen year-old songwriter is sure to go very far, especially with radio hits like Brazil that combine the perfect portions of catchiness and depth.

Favorite song: Brazil

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