If you don’t already know who Declan McKenna is, allow me to give him a brief introduction; Declan McKenna is a millennial with the musical potential to change the world. His music has the right blend of catchy melody and lyrical fire which can open closed minds. He has an acute awareness of the intricacies of society, including it’s myriad of flaws. However, Declan McKenna’s music doesn’t simply critique society’s failings, but also seeks to solve these issues with the hope of a better future. This isn’t 80’s punk, where anarchy for the sake of anarchy reigns supreme; this is contemporary indie-pop, with echoes of folk-punk lyrics which aim to progress society as a whole. Declan McKenna is a musical activist and his music videos are a perfect demonstration of his dedication to defying boundaries and challenging backwards societal ideas.
Paracetamol is, in many ways, a revolutionary music video. A simple queer romance with gentle, sunlit rooms and boyish, teenage imagery: it has all been done before, and yet, it has never been done before. A queer, trans boy is at the centre of this narrative; his crush, a cis gay boy, is also at the heart of the video. The use of vlog-style footage adds a genuine and intimate quality to the video. Meanwhile, parallel, mirrored shots highlight the similarities between both boys in a wonderful sequence which conflates trans and cis queer narratives. However, the unique experience of being trans is not removed or forgotten within the video as shots carefully show safe binding in a close-up which feels personal and relatable, rather than voyeuristic or fetishised. A brief narration in the opening of the video discusses a sense of familial tension, post coming-out, which so many trans people relate to. There are a few other minor queer characters who are all featured in one scene with a homely safe space. The queer safe space within the video is somewhat self-aware that the video as a whole feels like a safe space.
Declan McKenna’s lyrics are honest and pure. Just as in his other songs, Paracetamol makes subtle yet distinct references to relevant news and culture, ‘there’s a boy fifteen and he’s attempted to sue’, speaks to Gavin Grimm’s case. Inside the stunning, indie-electro melodies, there are multiple references to suicide which carefully highlight the failings of society to accept trans individuals and respond to trans needs. These references also considerately mourn trans individuals lost due to suicide such as Leelah Alcorn and Leo Etherington, along with, unfortunately, many others. Declan McKenna’s attention to detail sets him apart from other musicians of his generation; his citations and references all display a level of maturity and relevance which is unique of the millennial generation.
This is the kind of music video which left me feeling a little more brave, bold and proud than before I had watched it. Declan McKenna is a unique artist with a talent for carefully constructed narratives and heartfelt lyrics. Watch the video for Paracetamol below and let me know your thoughts in comments.- AB