Dominic Harrison, more popularly known as YUNGBLUD, has never been one for blending in with the crowd. From his delightfully charismatic Northern English accent to his signature pink socks, Harrison is guaranteed to make an impression and he certainly intends to.
An ADHD kid with a flair for punk rock, hip-hop, and social justice, Harrison grew up amongst a musical family in Doncaster, England. Throughout childhood, Harrison was encouraged by his parents to freely express himself, yet when it came to outsiders, he consistently received judgment for his innate eccentricity. After dropping out of art school at 16 and moving to London, he found a profound sense of liberty in expressing himself through music. This liberation lit a fire within Harrison; he was determined to create mind-blowing music with equally powerful messages.
Harrison does just this in his debut album, 21st Century Liability. Reminiscent of artists such as Eminem and The Clash, Harrison seamlessly blends the rebellious energies of hip-hop and punk rock, creating a unified spirit of defiance against the status quo. We were so inspired by Harrison’s dedication to creating music that champions real-world issues that we decided to dig a bit deeper into seven of politically-charged themes present in Harrison’s debut album.
Undying Commitment to Fighting Back
Harrison begins his album with a satirically haunting intro track, which foreshadows his central theme of rebellion at all costs. Titled “Eulogy,” a narrator presides over YUNGBLUD’s apparent death. Accompanied by an eerie organ, the narrator explains that YUNGBLUD, “Just didn’t give a fuck really, so the politicians killed him.” With a distorted “Amen,” we are instantly transported into Harrison’s energetically subversive world in “Die For The Hype.” Expanding on the previously established death allusion, he breaks into the chorus, professing, “I just wanna die for the hype … like Jesus Christ.” Having “died” at the hands of the politicians, seemingly “for the hype,” Harrison establishes his commitment, even in death, to fight back.
Mental Health and the Numbing of Generations
With references to mental illness and various types of psychiatric medications in over half of the tracks on his album, Harrison’s experience with and strong opinions on how society mishandles mental health is strikingly apparent. This sentiment is especially clear in the subsequent tracks, “Doctor Doctor” and “Medication.” The prior begins with a tropical-sounding guitar riff, bringing forth a feeling of contrived bliss as Harrison breaks into opening line, “Doctor, doctor, give me a lobotomy so I don’t see what is in front of me.” Throughout the song, Harrison continues to express the relatable sentiment of feeling too much and simply wanting it to stop. He ends the track with a conclusive “‘cause in my mind I can’t stop, won’t stop … I just want to be stupid.” This brings us into “Medication,” which elaborates on the present epidemic of numbing those who do not fit in with the norm, as Harrison chronicles tales of doctors repeatedly diagnosing him and creating a perceived dependence on medication.
Commentary on Gun Violence
“Machine Gun (F**k the NRA)” addresses the crisis of mass civilian shootings that have plagued the United States in recent years. A highly controversial topic, Harrison criticizes society’s approach to the perpetrators of these crimes. He opens the song with a blunt, yet truthful lyric, “I made the news today because I hurt my friends,” which he later follows with “You’re making us famous.” Though Harrison may be criticizing the way the media covers these tragic events, he is simultaneously commenting on how society perpetuates these acts by making those who are at risk for violent behavior a taboo topic. With lyrics such as “I drank some bleach today because they forced me to,” “I ate a razor blade just for attention’s sake,” and the repeated line “I don’t give a fuck about myself, all they do is analyze my mental health,” we descend into the mind of a potential gunman and can see how these members of society are often fatally ignored.
Underestimating the Youth
Harrison has always publicly supported the thoughts and ideas of the younger generation, often praising the youths’ progressive mindset and criticizing what he feels are backward ideologies of his conservative elders. In his own life, he often felt suppressed by authoritative figures, therefore the message relayed in “Psychotic Kids” and “Anarchist” comes as no surprise to his fans. “Psychotic Kids” is paired with an aesthetically jarring music video during which Harrison presents the perspectives of both generations–the dreams of the youth and the tunnel-vision mindset of the mature.
Criticism of the Corporate Agenda
Though previously released on YUNGBLUD’s self-titled debut EP, “I Love You, Will You Marry Me” fits perfectly into his album’s thematic, cynical criticism of society. The song was written about a message between lovers that became a landmark in Sheffield, a city in South Yorkshire, England. Originally, “I Love You Will U Marry Me” was a marriage proposal written across a thirteen-story high overpass, which became an iconic symbol of Sheffield Park, illuminated by the neon lights of a corporation. The story of the couple ended in heartbreak and tragedy, with the original artist receiving no profit for his work. Harrison’s lyric, “And lighting it up like a piece of art, they kicked him to the side and left him to starve on the memory that’s re-breaking his heart,” reminds us of the way corporations often feed off of real human emotion with the self-serving agenda of turning a profit.
Calling Out Rape Culture
Also previously released on his debut EP, “Polygraph Eyes” tells a story that hits close to home for far too many. Also referred to as “lad culture,” Harrison calls out two kinds of men. Men who take advantage of vulnerable women and those who stand by and do nothing. Paired with a sobering music video that depicts rape culture in action through the eyes of the victim, Harrison refuses to ignore an injustice that is so frequently condoned and forgiven by society.
Revolution of the Weird
Harrison culminates 21st Century Liability with an explosive two-song finale, which celebrates the revolution of the weird. “California” hosts a sweetly-mocking melody and a myriad of quirky percussive sounds, which mirrors Harrison’s whimsical yet insubordinate attitude. While revisiting the idea of being oppressed by the older generation, he laments, “They tried to put me on Ritalin, visions of calming me down.” This conclusive message of anarchy is carried over into the final, title-track of the album, “21st Century Liability.” In the perfect collision of hip-hop and punk rock, Harrison’s signature sound and message of defiance rings strong, as he coins this momentous revolution for exactly what it is, a serious liability to the status quo.
For more YUNGBLUD, revisit our interview with the punk revivalist.