If the name Olly Alexander rang a bell to you before, then soon enough you won’t be able to escape it. The now-solo frontman of acclaimed London pop group Years & Years has been on an absolute hot streak in the last year, expanding his name as not only a prolific musician, but also as an actor and LGBTQ+ advocate. Coming off of an acclaimed starring role in HBO Max’s It’s a Sin, the first UK show to confront the AIDS crisis head-on, Alexander taps back into his high-energy self for the release of Years & Years’ latest single “Starstruck.”
Following up the ultra-successful sophomore album Palo Santo, which itself successfully followed Years & Years’ fastest-selling debut UK LP Communion, will be no easy feat. The former’s bouncy top ten single “If You’re Over Me” and the latter’s smash hits “King” and “Shine” set a quick precedent for the band as UK pop music’s newest megastar band. That Olly Alexander has since gone solo with the project (with the other two band members in supporting and/or live performance roles) and broken out on the small screen only raises the stakes.
Thankfully, “Starstruck,” the lead single from Years & Years’ upcoming third album, is every bit as fun and energetic as their previous work, moreso even. Described by Alexander as “an anthem about human connection and the cosmos (how topical!), the song is pleasantly reminiscent of a mid-to-late 2000’s summer jam, and could easily serve as the flagship song on any feel-good movie’s soundtrack, beach party playlist, or anything equally jovial. It’s a much needed three-and-a-half minute respite from the last 14 months of utter chaos, explains Alexander:
“Like most of us I’ve spent the past year at home, and I wanted to create something super positive and fun for people (and myself) to bop along too. Whatever we’re doing or wherever we are in life, I think we all deserve three minutes of interstellar ecstasy.”
On a surface level, the song depicts “the rush you get,” as Olly describes it, “when you’re with somebody you’re really into, it’s about holding onto a good feeling and not letting it go.” A simple enough premise in a vacuum, but takes on so much additional meaning in tandem with the Sherrie Silver-directed music video. It depicts Alexander interacting with a version of himself he sees in the mirror, an entity that grows a mind of its own and acts as the deliverer of the song not so much to his real self, but at him. Alexander flees in terror from his doppelgänger as it croons about how starstruck he is by himself, showing us the two dynamic sides of the singer without any heavy-handed lyrics.
What makes the video so enjoyable to watch, besides the absurdly catchy backdrop is just the pure joy Alexander takes in his two roles. He bounces, runs, makes goofy faces and dance moves, and overall acts like he doesn’t even realize he’s on camera. There’s nothing more joyful than watching this kind of fun-loving attitude on screen, and the wonderfully fashionable ensemble Alexander adorns is just a bonus. Olly himself acknowledges that his video persona was a result of pent up energy due to the pandemic: “‘Starstruck’ came together one night at a studio in the countryside outside of London. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d seen so many stars, you get used to them not being there when you live in the city. Since we’ve all had to stop, all I’ve wanted to do is go out and dance. So I’ve been putting all that pent up energy into the music.”
With a huge bubbling up presence that has only magnified in the past two years, Years & Years and its face Olly Alexander are only growing in stardom. His meaningful activism in the areas of LGBTQ+ rights and mental health make him not only relatable but impactful, and his music has proved he wasn’t just a one-trick pony with “King.”