Declan McKenna was only 16 when he emphatically arrived as the victor of the Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition in 2015 and immediately had every major label fighting over his signature. From that moment, it was clear that there was a very bright future on ahead. His sophomore record Zeros confirms that McKenna is only going from strength to strength.
Not many people have played a coveted slot on the William’s Green Stage at Glastonbury before they collect their GCSE results and it is the high point of a lot of previous winners career. But for McKenna that was just the first page in the book of his career.
His 2017 debut What Do You Think About The Car? was an example of his raw talent but by no means was McKenna the finished product but it was a joyful listen of beautiful upbeat indie boppers that is hard not to enjoy. He also delved into socio-political issues in a mature manner that is often lacked when artists turn their hands to international politics, especially considering his comparatively young age.
On Zeros, however, McKenna opts for the more personal affectations which gives the listener more of an insight into who he is rather than what he stands for—all while still offering the occasional jaded look on the Instagram generation such as on the song ‘Beautiful Faces’. The album is a gorgeous candid look at modern life that provides a perfect source of escapism which feels especially relevant after this bizarre year as McKenna invites the listener into his own world for a 40-minute emotional rollercoaster.
Zeros comes smashing through the gates and immediately hooks the listener with ‘You Better Believe!!!’. The opener delivers a shot of much-needed optimism in the face of difficulties as he light-heartedly swoons at the end and in the face of an impending asteroid that “I’m off out to buy a bag of Quavers and Nike trainers”.
The glistening ‘The Key To Life On Earth’ is the highlight of McKenna’s sophomore album which is all about the art of not giving a fuck and the notion that happiness can only ever be achieved by just being true to yourself, without stressing about fitting in with “headstrong boys in chinos” and their expectations.
‘Be An Astronaut’ then sees the 21-year-old deal with the topic of masculinity in his own poignant way through the chasm of the character Daniel fighting his way through this somewhat apocalyptic world in which the album is loosely set.
“Those boys tell you what to do, all the time, on, and then later on, you said I could be just what I wanted, they said you’re lying,” McKenna sings on the aforementioned track, and you wonder why boys will cry, Boys will be boys, they should listen”, he adds later.
McKenna is not reinventing the wheel and the glam-rock sound that he has perfected has been done by others on countless occasions but his touching, wholesome and genuine lyrics about life in the Tik-Tok era means the album isn’t reliant on its nostalgia-filled sound and instead suggests that path for Declan McKenna is bright, dazzling and stretches as far as the eye can see.