Twenty-something

Writers - Tennant/Lowe
First released - 2016
Original album - Super
Producer - Stuart Price
Subsequent albums - (none)
Other releases - single (didn't appear on the overall UK singles chart but hit #1 for UK physical sales)

In the promotional interview released at the time Super was first announced to the world, Neil described this song as an "observation" of "how different people are from the way they were 20 or 30 years ago." Noting that it's "a sympathetic song," he says that it concerns how difficult it is nowadays for young adults—the "twenty-somethings" of the title—to find a good job, to get paid well, and to find a place to live in London. As Neil put it in another interview, "It’s about London and Soho specifically, maybe. A decadent city in a time of greed: the bankers and their bonuses." To be sure, this situation is hardly unique to the British capital; for instance, many young people in various U.S. cities find themselves in similarly challenging circumstances, while the wealthy just keep getting wealthier.

Thematically, this song could have sat comfortably alongside "Opportunites (Let's Make Lots of Money)" from the dawn of their career, or had a place on their subsequent classic Thatcherism-critiquing album Actually. It describes callow young adults, full of themselves after having left the homes of their upbringing (which pretty much describes most young people throughout recorded history), being hardened and corrupted by the pricey, fast-paced, unfeeling, materialistic urban environment they now inhabit. “Sometimes it’s hard,” sings Neil, “day to day, to pay your way,” emphasizing the pecuniary nature of their existence. They’re lonely (“Think you’ll ever meet your match?”—a line that rings with double-entendre, “match” suggesting both one’s mate and one’s equal) and vacantly self-deluding (“Make believe that it’s all you need”) as they try to succeed “in a time of greed.” It inspires decidedly mixed emotions: one feels sorry for those who struggle to survive in such circumstances, while at the same time sensing that those who actually do survive may fully deserve the tough, uncaring world that they’ve apparently embraced.

Chris has described the music, with its infectious loping rhythm, as strongly influenced by "reggaeton," a genre of Latin/Caribbean music that blends and incorporates styles native to Jamaica, Trinidad, and Puerto Rico, with additional borrowings from hip-hop and electronica. (But please see an annotation about this matter below.) When the Boys were interviewed by Graham Norton about the album, Norton described a prominent instrumental sound in the song as akin to that of an old hurdy-gurdy, which Chris quickly noted was not a sample but an actual keyboard line played by him. Most interestingly, the song's chord structure is adapted from that of "The Cold Song" from the opera King Arthur by English composer Henry Purcell—the same opera that served as the original source for the recurring "fanfare theme" of the immediately preceding album's "Love Is a Bourgeois Construct."

After having been rumored for several weeks as the second single from Super, its status as such was formally confirmed on May 10, 2016, with the release date scheduled for June 24. The announcement was accompanied by the debut of the song's music video, which surprisingly focused not on the yuppie-like characters who seem to inhabit the lyrics but instead on a down-and-out Latino family struggling to survive in urban Southern California—a choice probably inspired at least in part by the Latin stylistic origins of the track.

Annotations

Mixes

Officially released