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Declan McKenna

Declan McKenna creates vibrant indie pop with a D.I.Y. vibe and an ambitious, genre-hopping nature. The British singers/songwriter made an auspicious debut in 2015 when his catchy homemade single "Brazil" became a major viral hit. By the end of that year, the 16-year-old singer/songwriter had won a major prize at Glastonbury and signed with Columbia. His knack for strong melodies and willingness to take on social and political issues were both apparent on his 2017 debut, What Do You Think About the Car?, which charted in both the U.K. and the U.S. McKenna's follow-up LP, 2020's Zeros, toned down the topical fare and focused on glowing glam rock vibes, reaching number two in the U.K. After a relatively quiet period, he returned in 2024 with his buoyant, tightly arranged third album What Happened to the Beach? McKenna first rose into public consciousness in 2015 with the shimmering, politically charged single "Brazil," which directly addressed the corruption scandal then engulfing soccer's governing body, FIFA. At the time, the teenaged Hertfordshire native had only a handful of self-released tracks to his name. Citing David Bowie as an influence and with an attitude recalling the Libertines and Jamie T., McKenna blended bright indie pop with textural lo-fi and a confidence belying his young age. As "Brazil" gained traction throughout 2015, McKenna's star began to rise, and that summer he took home the Glastonbury Festival's coveted Emerging Talent prize. After signing a management contract with industry giant Q-Prime, a bidding war ensued which resulted in his signing to Columbia. He ended the year with a follow-up single, "Paracetamol," then spent 2016 building up a catalog of EPs (Stains and Liar) a string of socially conscious singles tackling such weighty topics as police brutality, religion, and terrorism. All six of his previously released singles eventually wound up on his bright, eclectic debut album, What Do You Think About the Car?, produced by Simian Mobile Disco's James Ford and released in summer 2017. Well received by critics, the album reached number 11 on the U.K. pop chart and even did well in the U.S, making the Top Ten of Billboard's Heatseekers chart. Still in his late teens, McKenna took more time to make his follow-up, leaving behind some of the more lo-fi tones and topical themes of his debut and dialing in on a sort of contemporary glam-indie rock hybrid. When it was released in August 2020, Zeros made it to number two on the U.K. charts and yielded a couple of U.S. charting singles in "Be an Astronaut" and "Beautiful Faces." McKenna laid relatively low over the next two years, issuing just one single in 2021's slow-grooved "My House." While he released no new music in 2022, "Brazil" enjoyed an unexpected revival on the social media platform TikTok, again going viral. By mid-2023, he had completed work on his third album and issued its first single, a bright and hooky indie pop song called "Sympathy." Its parent album, What Happened to the Beach?, arrived in February of the following year, bearing a breezily eclectic tone inspired by McKenna's time in California.
© Timothy Monger & John D. Buchanan /TiVo


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