Review: “Zeros” by Declan McKenna

Following his debut studio album “What Do You Think About The Car?,” British singer-songwriter Declan McKenna released his second studio album titled “Zeros.” The title of the album was initially announced on January 29, 2020, and was officially released on September 4, 2020. With his previous songs, he was able to mix more complex issues and topics with an easygoing pop beat behind it, and Zeros is not any different. The story of the album is essentially someone being pushed away, accompanied by an indie-pop instrumental for each piece to entice the listener. 

The beginning song, titled “You Better Believe!!!” is a rock song that begins with a drum introduction, eventually crescendos into a joyful mix of different instruments. It tells the beginning of the story that the album presents and it gives a sense of how the rest of the album is going to sound. It introduces the listener to the world that McKenna is building, something that McKenna is quite skilled in doing.  While it does sound quite familiar, it brings many different elements together to make a unique song with powerful vocals. 

“The Key to Life on Earth,” the third song on the album, brings a subdued music video and a mix of a guitar and synth beats. The mix of the two has the sound of an eerie space-themed song, but it tells the story of how people treat each other differently – even while everyone is still the same. The music video, released on April 15, 2020, tells that story in a beautifully captivating way, introducing a lookalike of McKenna played by British actor Alex Lawther. 

“Emily,” the sixth track of the album, seems to be a way of speaking to a character named Emily. It begins with a held note with an interesting and simplistic guitar instrumental. While sounding a bit similar to the other songs, it still brings a sense of diversity. With the song continuing, strings and a synth beat are added into the slew of instruments. Lyrics like, “Emily, yeah // You’re so spiteful and so mean // With your afternoon routine,” and, “Because oh, honey, don’t you know // That it’s hard for me? Yeah // Emily, don’t you know // That it’s hard for me? Yeah,” tell the concept of the song very well, Emily representing something, or someone, that is quite toxic. This song is yet another example of how McKenna is skillful in portraying emotion both in lyrics and in his singing. 

The ninth overall song on the album, “Sagittarius A*” is titled after a black hole of the same name. The song tells a story about the environment – and the slowly declining state of it. The song begins with an enticing and subdued beat, vocals being introduced soon after. The instrumental differs slightly from the previous songs, but it still holds the theme that is being presented throughout. In the second verse, McKenna sings, “Everybody gets so tired of hearing what you said // When you think your money’s gonna stop you getting wet?” This can be interpreted as those of higher positions not necessarily caring about those concerned with the environment. Just the same as the other songs, there are pleasing vocals being sung throughout, a joyful instrumental being added later on in the song. 

The closing – and 10th – song, “Eventually, Darling,” is one of the more emotional songs on the album and is the ending of the story. It has similar instruments as the past songs, but they are formed in such a moving way that compliment the lyrics and the vocals quite well. The lyric, “We’ll end up both alone, oh, we know,” is conveying the idea of loss. The repetition of, “Would you do it again?” at the end of the song could be to the one experiencing the loss, and could also be speaking to the listener – where the interpretation would be left up to them. 

With 10 tracks, “Zeros,” by Declan McKenna leaves the listener satisfied with the many different themes being presented throughout the album. Although they do all hold similar sounds, each and every song brings something completely new and unique to the table and are overall great pieces. It is an album that is certainly underrated and worth a listen – it deserves much more recognition. 


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