Olly Alexander of Years & Years
After a successful debut it is not uncommon for an artist or band to take some time off before the next album or project. With a successful debut comes expectations to meet or exceed the first album. For some this can overwhelming or feel as if they have to adhere to a certain sound. This sophomore slump can be a pressing issue for an artist, which is why taking a hiatus between albums can ultimately be beneficial in feeling confident in making music the artists wants to or feels confident in. And this is what Years & Years are doing as they ready the release of their second album Palo Santo, three years after their debut album release.
I have a tendency to over play a song I really like for a good month, and annoy anyone in a close proximity by looping the song. This is exactly what I happened when I discovered the band Years & Years. I saw the video for their single “King” and was instantly hooked. You may not be familiar with the band, but you’ve likely heard this song in passing. It was everywhere in the summer of 2015.
With that being said I’ve once again managed to profile an artist or band that has already reached the mainstream. The band’s music has proven to be a great success in the U.K. Their debut album Communion went number one on the charts and had a number one single with “King” and follow-up “Shine” peaking at number 2.
I found some more of their music and I heard their song “Real” and fell in love. The song is by far their best to date and lead singer Olly Alexander’s voice is perfect on the track. The lyrics tell the story of the end of a relationship and the plea for a partner to stay, even though they know the relationship has run its course.
From what has been released from the new album already it appears that Years & Years will continue to build on the giant pop sounds that they’re familiar with, while also telling these intimate stories through the lyrics. What appears to be a new direction for the group is the narrative story they appear to be telling through the album’s visuals. Palo Santo has an album trailer as well as interconnected videos. Alexander has said they’re telling a story and building a world with the album.
As a whole this trio of a band isn’t inherently queer, as Olly Alexander is the only queer member. But as he is writing credit on all the band’s songs he is able to tell stories his queer audience can relate too as well as use male pronouns in songs about love, sexuality, and relationships. In pop music this is a rarity.
Alexander’s work doesn’t stop with the music. He’s been outspoken about mental health issues and its relation to queer identity and LGBTQ+ community. He’s done several interviews as well as documentary on BBC to touch on the subject that often isn’t discussed or addressed publicly.
What is refreshing about Alexander’s approach is that he knows of his place. As a cis-white man he uses his music and videos to be inclusive of all different sexual, gender, and racial expressions. This is important when photos emerge of Troye Sivan and Adam Lambert at a group dinner/discussion about prejudice and discrimination within the industry, but no queer POCs are present.
Years & Years new album, Palo Santo, comes out July 6th. As a taste of what the album has to offer watch the video for their new single “If You’re Over Me”.