Friday, April 16th, 2021

Years & Years – Starstruck

He should look sheepish — this was meant to read “It’s a win!”


Claire Biddles: It almost physically pains me to state this on the public record, but the new single by Years & Years is… fine. As someone who has spoken at great length before about Olly Alexander’s genius for weaving convincing mythology about the push and pull of (queer) desire into superlative dance-pop, I know he can do better than this Radio One also-ran, which fails to inhabit its skeletal form with colour or shade. This would have been the ideal moment for a Big Statement too: all eyes are on Alexander after his starring role in It’s a Sin; and after a decade as a trio, Years & Years is now officially his solo project, allowing him to fully indulge in the drama and world-building that he perfected on 2018’s Palo Santo. Effervescence for its own sake is no bad thing in pop — including Alexander’s own back-catalogue — but in this context, it’s an anticlimax which is barely held up by the songwriting. Hopefully this is an easily-ignored standalone single, and I can be back with five lore-filled paragraphs on the first single from album three. Don’t tell Olly what I said OK?

Joshua Lu: Do you mean to tell me that the only thing preventing Olly Alexander from making Justin Timberlake outtakes was the two other guys in the group?

Vikram Joseph: The departure from Years & Years of Emre Turkmen and Mikey Goldsworthy concerned few, with the general consensus seeming to be that it’s always been Olly & The Alexanderlings regardless. But while there’s no sudden shift in direction on “Starstruck”, there’s a distinct lack of creativity to its fluorescent, thumping Heart Radio disco; a few Daft Punk inflections aside, this is deeply formulaic stuff. And worse, having prefaced their last album with the writhing, complex sensuality of “Sanctify”, this song is entirely sexless, despite (or perhaps exacerbated by) Alexander’s protestations that he’d “sip you like cosmic juice”. This feels like an artist that’s realised they’re now big enough to get away with not trying particularly hard.

Thomas Inskeep: *oontz oontz* Oh look, more generic dance-pop. *oontz oontz* You’re no Neil Tennant, Olly, I’ll tell you what. *oontz oontz* This just sits, inert, doing nothing more than *oontz oontz*

Katherine St Asaph: A 2015 Max Martin pastiche with a shooting-star glissando every time he sings “starstruck.” There are many worse things.

Scott Mildenhall: Playfully effusive, “Starstruck” puts across Olly Alexander’s personality with all the gusto of a relaunch, regardless of how many people notice that his bandmates have left to join an AlunaGeorge/La Roux departee supergroup (presumably). It all seems designed for ubiquity, and destined for a BBC Sport montage near you, but also relies on the repetition of something a little too slight. The chorus is catchy and uplifting, its digital twinkles driving right down DB Boulevard, but it lacks the heft of the earlier hits.

Alfred Soto: Released from the obligations of caring he had bandmates, Olly Alexander returns to musicmaking with, you guessed it, another song about fame. In the past he’s written as subject and object; now he’s generic, a starfucker starstruck. The beats could’ve come from anywhere, and the “gimme that good, good love” hook does little to mitigate the enervated chorus. Showbiz kids don’t give a fuck about anybody else.

Camille Nibungco: In the era of “pick me boys” and “pick me girls”, it was only a matter of time before a “pick yourself”-themed pop song would arrive as the proper reaction. I hadn’t got the memo that Olly Alexander had gone solo after being with the band for almost ten years, so it seemed proper to have a song symbolize his newfound direction for the Years & Years project. Production-wise there isn’t anything stand-out about the cookie-cutter melodies, but Alexander’s affective energy is so one-of-a-kind that it differentiates him from the adjacent Troye Sivan’s twink-pop.

Ian Mathers: You know when someone excitedly gets you a gift, and as you’re opening it the sheer joy and positive feeling being directed to you from the giver almost makes you nervous? And they’re so clearly excited both because they love you and because they think they’ve really found the perfect thing and so if it’s anything other than the exact thing you most want in the world it’s going to feel like you’re kicking a puppy? Well it feels like kicking a puppy to say that despite listening to “Starstruck” many times now and quite enjoying it, the whole “cosmic juice” line still totally flops for me every time. I’m sorry Years & Years! I really do like it, I promise!

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One Response to “Years & Years – Starstruck”

  1. Is that Fred Armisen on the preview?

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