Despite his young age, Declan McKenna has an electrifying energy when performing, mesmerizing listeners with his raw, vulnerable vocals and clean production. However, his lyrics is what most captures me. At only 19, he crafts incredibly complex, insightful, and catchy lyrics, leaving the listener singing along to powerful messages before listening to the song a full time through. Nowhere is this more apparent than in his 2014 hit single “Brazil” featured in his 2017 album “What Do You Think About the Car?” In this song, the speaker, a fan of soccer, details their frustrations with the World Cup’s corruption and the problems facing Brazil since the announcement that the cup would be held there. The speaker then shifts at certain parts of the song to the perspective of the corrupt government and to the Brazilian people. The shifting perspectives battle against each other, trying to convince the others that their ideas are incorrect. Through exaggerated language and the subversion of expectations, McKenna allows the listener to feel the gravity of the events happening in Brazil and the amount of damage and chaos that can be done even when actions are taken with good intentions.
The most cryptic lines of the song are in the chorus in which McKenna describes a man who “lives down a river somewhere/With six cars and a grizzly bear/He's got eyes, but he can't see/Well, he talks like an angel but he looks like me.” This language is describing the Brazilian government. The government is described as an “angel” which reflects the power that they hold. However, the government “looks like me” reflecting how these individuals are merely ordinary people and shouldn’t wield so much power. This idea is further explored later in the song when McKenna switches perspectives to the government and says “I’m the face of God, I’m my father’s son” again presenting the complete control that the government has over the situation while being nothing more than another person. The religious language is also utilized by McKenna when speaking from the point of view of the Brazilian people, saying that he’s “faithless now though we win” showing a paradox again that even though there are these angelic and Godly figures presented throughout the song, it is causing a lack of faith of the people. The mysterious description given in the chorus creates a fantastical tone which demonstrates this God-like power held by the government and the confusion felt by the Brazilian people. The listener is presented with two opposing views of the situation: a fantastical one presented by the chorus but also a striking reality. This idea is furthered by paradoxical lines like, “I’m gonna burn your house down to spread peace and love.” The government continuously tries to give the world, “Something all the people need” but paradoxically forgets about the people it is hurting. In fact, that line “Something all the people need” is taken directly from “The Lorax” another story about how trying to do something that is best for yourself and some others can greatly backfire and destroy the lives of many more. This dualistic idea, is presented in the double meaning of some lines like “People are dying to get on T.V.” At first glance, this line is talking about the government desperately trying to get the world cup in their country because of how badly they want to be on television. However, this line is also drawing attention to the lack of resources supplied to the Brazilian people because of the effort and the ensuing deaths.
By presenting this subject matter in such cryptic tones, the listener can begin to feel the confusion by the Brazilian people and the fantastical world that the government seems to be living in, ignoring all concerns and plowing ahead on what they believe is best for the world and not their own people. So if you want a banger that is also about the corruption in FIFA and deaths that occur from it, do yourself a favor and go listen to “Brazil” by Declan McKenna.