Many would say 19-year-old English singer/songwriter Declan McKenna
is already the voice of a generation -- and I admit I am one of those people. The first single I heard off McKenna's debut album What Do You Think About the Car?
was "The Kids Don't Want To Go Home," an ode to millennials everywhere who are pissed that they have to inherit a world with some many problems. He wrote this song shortly after the 2015 Paris terror attack, where 130 civilians were killed. During times like that it's easy to feel like you don't have a voice -- especially if you're young -- but McKenna proves he does have a say. And this song was the perfect introduction to this rising star.
Declan McKenna actually came up with the name for his the album when he was just a kid, only he didn't know it at the time. On the first track of his album, "Humongous," there is a clip from a home video where you can hear a kid say "Dec, what do you think about the car?" and then Declan replies "I think it's really good and I'm gonna sing my new album now." That's a prophecy if I ever heard one.
McKenna's style can be described as alternative rock and/or indie and he writes, sings, plays the guitar and keyboard for all his songs. On this album he touches on a lot of complex issues like corruption in major organizations, transgender rights, police brutality, and societal norms as a whole. It's common to see people spew words about how the current generation is selfish, self centered, and lazy. What Do You Think About the Car?
is an alternative to that narrative.
The first single for the album "Brazil" was released in 2015 and caused a lot of controversy, as it was about the corruption that was being discovered within FIFA (the World Cup was being held in Brazil that same year). On the first verse of the song he sings "I heard you sold the Amazon / To show the country that you're from / Is where the world should want to be for / Find something all people need / I'm faithless now." In these lines he expresses his frustration with the Brazilian government who he believes sold out to host the lavish sporting event knowing that there were so many people living in poverty. He later goes on to criticize the FIFA president and the upper class in Brazil for ignoring the needs of the poor.
Another brilliant song is "Paracetamol." Declan started writing this song when he was just 15-years-old after reading about Leelah Alcorn, a transgender teenager who was committed suicide in 2014 after her parents did not accept her. He named the song after the painkiller paracetamol as a metaphor for how society treats therapy, in this case conversion therapy, as a way to cure a person of who they are. In the first verse he sings "There's a girl, fifteen, with her head in a noose / because she's damned to live, well she's damned to choose / and the animals walked in twos by twos / showing love like they do, like they do." Here he is drawing from the experiences of transgender teens who are forced to choose between their happiness and what society deems as acceptable.
On the sixth song of the album he challenges the so-called right wing media pundits like Fox News, whom he accused of justifying police brutality and xenophobia. As a twist on the famous Martin Luther King Jr. quote "If you can't fly then run, if you can't run then walk, if you can't walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward." Declan sings "If you can't walk then run" on the chorus of the song, suggesting that society is moving backwards, not forwards. "I'll make it clear / You'll make it then / But never here / Never again / So which one hangs / Police with gangs? / It's all the same." Declan said this short songwriting style was an attempt at rewriting "next to of course god america i" by E. E. Cummings.
After listening to What Do You Think About the Car?
it's easy to feel hopeful for both the future of McKenna's career and the future of the world. Through this album he showed the compassion, empathy and subversive nature of this generation and its willingness to correct the wrongdoings of the past.