Performing a stripped down version of his track “Brazil” at SXSW 2016, 17 year old British artist, Declan McKenna sings:
“I’ve got a mission and my mission is real”…
“I’m gonna burn your house down to spread peace and love”…
Brazil is the track that kicked off a whirlwind of a year for McKenna. Declan originally recorded Brazil when he was 15 and uploaded it to Bandcamp and Soundcloud when he was 16. It later helped him win the Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition.
With Brazil’s catchy indie pop melody (along the lines of Jamie T, The Kooks, Arctic Monkeys), you might confuse Declan as another kid that got lucky online with a really good hook. I’m pretty sure that’s not the case. Why do I say that? First off, Brazil’s lyrics are much more complex and thoughtful than they appear layered on top of the fun synths. You might not realize it at first but the song is a political critique on FIFA for awarding the 2014 World Cup to Brazil without doing anything to alleviate their deep poverty.
As a follow up to Brazil, Declan released a six-minute video which feels more like a short film, for “Paracetamol”, a song about transgender teenagers and the media. Declan explains, the song was inspired by a transgender girl who committed suicide. He says he wrote the song about “freedom and expression being restricted, but from the perspective of the oppressors of the world who force people to stick by social standards and pretend they are doing it out of love”.
At a really young age, Declan is tackling difficult topics many artists his senior rarely have the courage to address. Although he’s only 17, it’s obvious Declan is an old soul with deep empathy and connection to the world we live in. The depth and complexity of these first few tracks suggest Declan McKenna is someone we’ll be seeing a lot more of in the future. Columbia Records agree as they signed Declan to the Foals’ management team.
Declan McKenna – Brazil (South X Lullaby, Live @ SXSW NPR)
Declan McKenna – Paracetamol (Live, Vevo DSCVR)