The search for buried treasure can be a hassle, especially when you’ve left behind your metal detector. If you did not come equipped, do not fear, because after four years of searching, UK singer-songwriter Declan Mckenna has sifted the sands of your local beach and discovered more than one extraordinary gem. 

Rising to fame in 2015, the then 16-year-old astonished the world of music with his platinum record, “Brazil”, an indie-pop track that meditated on the corruption seen within the soccer industry. Continuing on this path, the young artist utilized his platform to explore the harsh themes and big questions faced by many teenagers today. Commentaries on police brutality, media corruption, and youthful alienation can be seen throughout each of his albums. These motifs are explored through whacky rock beats that are sure to create everlasting earworms. 

After nearly a four-year hiatus, Declan Mckenna washed ashore on Feb. 9, disgruntled, out of sorts and ready to share his newest masterpiece. 

Stepping out of his indie-pop box, “What Happened to the Beach?” contains the instinctive spirit of Declan, masterfully transitioning between psychedelic pop, funk and lo-fi. Leaving lyrics more abstract, these tracks allow the listener to come to their own conclusions on topics such as online manipulation, the contrast between authenticity and presentation and the harsh realities of environmental issues. 


Acting as the opening track, “Wobble”, possesses whacky and jagged digital beats that invoke psychedelic feelings within the listeners. Speaking to the emotions of isolation felt by many during the 2020 lockdown, Declan’s lyrics discuss the changes observed in the environment, questioning “What happened to the beach?/Looks like it’s changing”, addressing how we used to breathe fresh air, and “Now it’s ‘Thanks, pass the gas tanks’”. 

“Elevator Hum”

Capturing the nostalgic innocence of a waning friendship, “Elevator Hum” expresses the freedom and playfulness of being beside those that you love, but emphasizes the reality of having to go your own way in life. Calling the listener to open up and have the willingness to go on this journey, Declan communicates, “I want you to believe/You’re just like me/I want you to be free/To be happy”, asserting that while he doesn’t want to let go, he does not want to hinder the happiness of his loved ones by holding them back. 

“I Write the News” 

The third track on the album, “I Write the News”, steps away from its counterparts, as it is backed by a unique guitar and a lo-fi drum beat. Providing a profound commentary on the corruption of news media outlets seen presently, Mckenna takes on the persona of a journalist, repeating the lines, “I write the news”, expressing how they can write whatever they feel without repercussions. 


As the lead single, “Sympathy”, provides a contrasting upbeat and joyous tone to the album. Acting as a call to action, the singer-songwriter urges his listeners to “Make peace and discover” the harmony within our polarized world. Combining an energetic keyboard with fast pace drums and funky horn beats, it’s sure to play on repeat in your head. 

Mulholland’s Dinner and Wine” 

One of my personal favorites, track number five adds some indie-pop into the mix. Addressing the personas people present online, lyrics such as, “I’m not satisfied with what I want” and “I get what I want” mirror the harsh reality of consumerism in modern society. Emphasizing a dreamlike state, soft whistles and funky harmonies can be heard. 

“Breath of Light”

 A combination of odd chanting, whacky beats, and space-like sounds, “Breath of Light” speaks to the diminishing authenticity of people, as they “[pick] at the plastic pimples” on their skin. 

“Nothing Works”

A euphoric tune, “Nothing Works” mocks the idea of having to please others for the sake of your own morals. Explaining that “I try to fix myself but nothing works”, Mckenna urges listeners to stay true to themselves. A fast paced backing track leaves the listener feeling as if they have to get up and take action for themselves. 

“The Phantom Buzz (Kick In)”

Spunky and fast-paced, this track speaks to the harsh realities of the necessity of phones, and the “phantom buzz” of addiction. 

“Honest Test”

Revealing “[His] honest testimony”, Declan comments on the lack of authenticity seen in today’s world through an ethereal backing track. Whacky fluctuating beats leave the listener feeling as if they are floating in a cloud. 


One of my other favorite songs, “Mezzanine” is a youthful dance track that adds to the dreamlike atmosphere of the record. Recalling a time “When you were someone no one else could be”, the track highlights the negative impact of social media on young minds. 

“It’s an Act”

Another one of my favorites (I know – this is getting repetitive but, trust me, all these songs are worthy of the title), the singer-songwriter highlights the ups and downs of fame through dreamlike beats, expressing that “You call it a show, [but] it’s an act”. 

“Four More Years”

Ending the album off with, “It could be a cool end to-”, “Four More Years” leaves listeners questioning whether or not the euphoric forty-eight-second song is a commentary on the elusiveness of time, or simply Mckenna’s melancholic reaction to England’s loss of the World Cup.  

While many of you may only know Declan from his tik-tok phenomenon, “Brazil”, his music is so much more than a wacky one-hit-wonder. The perfect album to listen to while relaxing over Spring Break, I encourage each and every one of you to answer the question, “What Happened to the Beach?”, while listening.

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-- First-year | Vine Editor | Digital Journalism and Marketing/Irish Studies --

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