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Young Summer

It’d be pretty hard to find anyone who doesn’t have our current political landscape and / or the election in consuming a good portion of their thoughts these days. And that has been no different for many artists who are releasing singles now. Enter: the sing-you-to-sleep, sultry yet remarkable voice of Young Summer, who fantastically blends her dreamy sounds with powerfully punchy lyrics that’ll leave you feeling like you took a civics course via osmosis. Her deep and poetic musings take you to far corners of the mind, Young Summer makes music you want to sway to, but also really pay attention to.

About her latest single, “The Emperor”, which is her spin off of the Hans Christian Anderson fable The Emperor’s New Clothes, she says, “These are truths – they’re not up for debate. These are things that are happening. So what if I can get this information into a song, and somebody hears it, and I know I’m not changing minds, but what if because I approach it this way, and the sound is like a warm blanket, and it’s kind of comforting and beautiful. What if that is the way I can get one person to be like, man, you know, everything she’s saying is true. I wanted to sneak in and I knew I could do it.”

Let’s just say that Young Summer is a timely listen, with songs that will invoke feelings ranging from hope to poignancy for many years to come. Whether this time period becomes one of historic change or one of history repeating itself, at least we can fall to sleep at night with sweetly sung reminders that a lot of us did all the things we could to grow during difficult times.

How are you right now, really?

I would say… better than I had been! I think I tried navigating the current world, like, as humans we adapt. And I found some semblance of a routine. And then I started to feel a connection again and I was like, I’m gonna release two songs. It just realigned my focus. And so that has made me feel better and good. I feel like I have a purpose again.

Your style is dreamy, poignant, strong, political, juxtaposed. What most inspires your creativity?

What’s happening around me trying to capture it. It’s almost like diary entries in a way. “The Emperor” and “If the World Falls to Pieces” were both like trying to almost exercise something from myself, where I felt so unhappy at the state of everything that was happening. I once studied under [poet laureate] Nikki Giovanni at Virginia Tech (and was so lucky to do that). I was an English major, and was in a poetry class and I remember her talking about different political songs, and bringing up the John Mayer song “Waiting on the World to Change” and it seared into my brain: I’ll never write a song that has political leanings saying, I hope someone [else] fixes this. And I wasn’t even making music at that point in my life. It was around the time when Trump was saying “my red button is bigger than yours” to North Korea, and everything felt so dire. And I was like, I’m gonna write a song today. But it was that conversation echoing in my brain [when writing “Pieces”] that I knew I didn’t want to say I had given up, but it was really a feeling of I don’t know how we get out of this really, really, really bad place. What I wanted to convey is that we as the people who cared, never gave up. To be able to know that looking back, we did everything we could.

A TikTok fan covered “Pieces” and it went viral?

The song had been used in a show on Free Form called Famous in Love. And the song has always been so important to me, like, ever since I wrote it. So I guess the girl heard it on the show and she covered it and she has the most stunning, beautiful voice. And everybody was tagging me in it and it got millions of views and I was like, okay, maybe I should just release it. And then the pandemic happened and I thought this song is kind of sad, and maybe too on the nose. One day a fan wrote to me and I shared that thought with her [about the song] and she just said the most wonderful things: that the song meant so much to her and that it was uplifting and hopeful. And I, of course, didn’t feel that way because I wrote it. And we’re now internet friends, but I really credit her for being with the reason I was like, okay, I’ll release it!

 The Emperor is like a fairytale meets current life satire (or is it too true to be satire?). What was the inspiration/process behind it? And the video?

For the song… I couldn’t get the visual out of my head of Trump being that fucking idiot guy who everyone is afraid of telling. In The Emperor’s New Clothes, this person was so terrifying to everyone he’s around that they will not be honest with him anymore. And so here he is, like, prancing down the street. And obviously, it’s darker, because it’s Trump and he’s unhinged. I just wanted to talk about the worst elements that we are suffering from that he will not address, like this tacit permission from him for white supremacy… That was the inspiration for the dreamland, whimsical, sonic production that feels naive. Lyrically, I wanted to come out swinging. If people are paying attention, the first line of: “Get in line, Works everytime… Goosebumps turn to Goose Steps” (a reference to how the Nazis marched) is about how these people went from being excited by his rhetoric to, you know, bordering on the Nazi regime.

The next part [of the song] is discussing school shootings or just shootings in general. Nothing is being done to help that whatsoever. When there is a shooting, a mass shooting, gun sales go up because these people think that they’re going to pass legislation that’s going to “take their guns”, or limit their ability to purchase. And it is, it’s maddening. It’s absolutely maddening. And I wanted to write a song that addressed all of that, because it just felt like something I had to say.

As for the video, I always knew I wanted to do something animated for “Emperor”. I’m a huge fan of Radiohead, and it’s not obviously similar to Paranoid Android. But I’ve always been obsessed with the fact they had even made a video for that. And I love the Monty Python-esque collage style in it. When you say satirical, I understand why you say that.

Making and sharing your music is a form of activism. What are some other ways you are activating your platform in light of ED?

I found the people who are running against the likes of Lindsey Graham and Mitch McConnell and have felt that this year is like the year of donating. I know that’s how I can most help and make it tangible. Another great candidate to support is Pat Timmons Goodman. I also encourage people to sign up for alerts for when there are elections in your location! Every election is important! The midterms are so important as these people that are elected form policies and can make the change we need in our communities. Do your research before going to the polls so you can look everyone up and see who’s platforms you align with and what their record is. Write your choices on your arm and get to the polls! Your vote DOES count, that’s why voter suppression exists…

 I feel like I know the answer already, but… Quick and totally random edition of pick your fighter: witch, evil villain or zombie?





photos / courtesy of artist

story/ Eve Simonsen

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