Sam Fender, a BBC Sounds nominee (2018) and Brits Critic’s Choice Award Winner (2019) is the lovely lad whose husky vocals have graced our soundwaves this year. After the success of his singles ‘Talk in the Morning’ and ‘Hypersonic Missiles’, Katie O’Kelly assures us that his debut album is most definitely worth the sonic hype.
The album is, above all, refreshing. At first glance, it would be easy to lose him in the crowd of young, attractive white guys with guitars that populate the charts at the moment. However, Fender isn’t writing the same soppy, romantic pop songs about young love. This album is full of social commentary and focussed around themes that will really resonate with young people. In a sea of love ballads, this album stands out as a rare example of politically conscious song writing in the world of modern popular music.
While his lyrics will certainly appeal to younger generations, his musical style means that their parents will probably like him too. His 70s rock inspired guitar sound dips into the 80s with a clear Bruce Springsteen influence, both in terms of guitar style and in the way that Fender sings about issues facing young men where he comes from.
In a sea of love ballads, this album stands out as a rare example of politically conscious song writing in the world of modern popular music.
The most emotionally raw song on the album, ‘Dead Boys’, achieves a powerful impact through relative simplicity. It forces the listener to think about the lyrics of the chorus as he relentlessly repeats “nobody ever could explain all the dead boys in our hometown”. It is a really compelling way of expressing frustration and heartbreak over the number of young men who take their own lives – an issue that is particularly prevalent in the North East of England, where Fender grew up. His hometown of North Shields becomes something of a protagonist in many of his songs.
The song ‘White Privilege’ has some of the most politicised lyrics on the album (directly referencing Brexit). In it, Fender talks about the issues facing our generation, from social media and celebrities to youth exclusion from politics. It seems to come from a place of confusion and frustration, which most young people can relate to. The lyrics, “my generation was duped // The youth were left out the loop”, sum up how a lot of us feel about a system that doesn’t seem to represent the younger generations. But as he rails against the world’s injustices, Fender recognises the advantages that he has purely through being a white man. For want of a better word, it’s “woke” without being patronising.
Other stand out tracks include ‘Play God’, which reiterates this sense of “fuck the system” anger. The track chastises a political class that has lost touch with the people it’s supposed to represent. ‘Leave Fast’ is also a beautiful example Fender’s, as it paints a poignant picture of his hometown and his complex feelings towards it, simultaneously showcasing the clarity and strength of Fender’s voice.
I haven’t been able to stop listening to Hypersonic Missiles and I’m kicking myself that I didn’t manage to get tickets to his tour before they sold out! Sam Fender is more than just a pretty face, he’s an incredibly talented musician. His uncomplicated, unpretentious, classic rock style is fun and easy to listen to. His lyrics are refreshingly honest and relatable and I can’t wait to see what he does next and hear how his sound will develop.