As I’ve got older, I have tried my best to resist the temptation to view teenagers and young people with those trusty old rose-tinted spectacles in place; to somehow consider them in inferior terms compared with what I was like during my teenage years. This is sometimes made easier (and sometimes made more difficult) as my career has involved working with teenagers for the past 23 years.
I’ll be honest that I’m not as in touch with the latest trends and developments in music as I once was. I was once an obsessive reader of the NME (being one of those fey indie types) who would take it apart and analyse it article by article, and then follow up by listening intently to their critics’ recommendations. Then NME went online and became a lifestyle ‘zine where it dedicated as much time and attention to clothes and games and celeb gossip and shit that didn’t belong in the NME – at least not according to readers from my generation. Yes, I know that all things must change. However, the result is that I feel more isolated from what is going on musically than at any point since a became a teenage music obsessive. I don’t really know what is in the charts (or if indeed the charts bloody well exist anymore) and I couldn’t tell you what has been number one for a very long time. I’ll be honest too in that I don’t really give a shit either!
So when I discover an artist like Lots Holloway (or Christine and The Queens, or Rag ‘n’ Bone Man), it is normally either by accident or on some personal recommendation. Listening to a song like “World’s On Fire” is good for my soul for many reasons. Have a listen:
Okay, I’ll be honest here… I know Lots Holloway and she is a sparkling example of a young person who is dedicated to creating music that has depth and meaning. She plays a variety of instruments, she writes her own songs, and she is interested in doing something special even if that means it is not always going to be immediately commercial. She is developing as an artist and, on the basis of her first release, has the potential to be an extremely interesting musician. One day, if I ever write my autobiography, I might even be able to claim a little bit that I helped her along in her journey to where she is now, and that makes me smile a bit. Even if I didn’t know her, or wasn’t aware of the ups and downs of the story that has taken her to the point of releasing this debut single, I think I would still be interested by this song because it is doing what young people are so often accused of not doing these days: she is making a statement about what she believes in.
Ambush the TV, and hijack the wires
Give the show of hands their handguns
And elect the liars
But tell me, why do we buy it?
Monkey see, monkey do
Monkey me, monkey you
Once upon a time, we expected our teens and young people to make a racket and behave in ways that we considered to be politically and socially (and possibly even morally) objectionable (in terms of the beliefs and attitudes of the older generation at least). Once upon a time, our young people were hippies who preached a lifestyle of peace and love (and even had sex whilst preaching about peace and love) whilst taking drugs and listening to Hendrix and other wild and “out there” music. Sometime, they all got old. Then another generation of young people became punks who preached hatred of the old hippy ideals and preached disgust at the establishment and the system whilst taking different drugs and listening to the Pistols, Clash and the Damned. They eventually got old too. Yes, and another generation despaired at the hatred of the previous generation’s nihilism and decided to hug each other lots whilst dancing for hours and hours, powered by another set of different drugs and gurning their tits off to The Prodigy or stuff where people shouted “Aciiiiiiid” over repetitive beats and squiggly sounds.
It seemed as if this cycle of reaction against the idealism and lifestyle choices of the previous generation would continually cycle for ever and ever. Ah yes, that’ll be grunge over there reclaiming the crown of self-hatred away from the acid house generation. Oh and with added heroin addiction too? Then it stopped and the next generation suddenly started caring more about computer games than music or politics, and the next big “yoof movement” didn’t happen – or maybe it went so far underground that even the underground trains couldn’t get you there (yes, that was a pretty crap attempt at humour but I’m old so fuck you – but in a nice way, obviously!).
Lots has expressed how she wrote the song at a time when so many things were happening in the world during last summer, things like the Brexit vote, the refugee crisis that produced a series of disturbing headlines and the election campaign of President Trump, that she felt it necessary to express her feelings of disquiet at the changes in the world that she was seeing. So when we listen to “World’s On Fire”, what we have is the return of the protest song: a music format that we had long considered gone the way of the dinosaur, but here it is suddenly reanimated into a spectacularly living and breathing form.
Will I lose my voice if I speak my mind?
Youth be a noise and fight for your right
’cause we saw the news and we heard the words
Ooh yeah, we felt the shake that lit the earth
The world’s on fire, I think we’re in trouble
Oh the world’s on fire, I think we’re in trouble
Will anybody listening to the extraordinarily soulful voice that Lots uses to express her concerns at the direction that our world seems to be taking? I don’t know because the music industry seems to be more fragmented than ever before, and I don’t understand how the commercial success of any single release is measured these days. Is it sales? Is it streams? Is it video views? No, I don’t get it. I’m too old. I can’t even remember what I have to do with the tv remote control these days. However, if we concentrate upon the artistic success of the song then “World’s On Fire” is simply astonishing as a debut single from a solo artist. I can see it being part of a proud lineage of songs that confront head on the political and social aspects of the time in which it has been created. In these regards, I almost feel like I’m back in the 1980s when so many songs seemed to be confronting our attitudes towards sexuality or social equality or so many other issues.
It also reminds me that I must resist the opportunity to think that new music doesn’t matter. New, young artists like Lots Holloway desperately need our support otherwise “World’s On Fire” might be her one and only musical statement to the world, and that would be a tragedy. I want to hear what other songs Lots can produce. I want to see her musical development over the course of a series of albums. I want to see her explore brave new musical directions and even take the odd misstep. After all, if it was good enough for my heroes, like Bowie, then it will be good enough for her too. I’d like to see what a journey of success and failure could do for Lots too.
Maybe then she will become my latest musical hero! She has already made an excellent start.