Many North East legends have travelled far and wide to make an impact. Many of them leave and do great things. But the one who stayed and has done the greatest is, of course, Sam Fender, who returned this evening with a new single Seventeen Going Under.
This is the lead, eponymous new track from Fender’s upcoming album and, as he says, tells his story of “growing up in Shields”. Nobody can deny that: cold Septembers, fistfights on the beach, the Department for Work and Pensions crippling individuals who are ill and just need a break.
Recommended Reading: Sam Fender launches petition to help homeless
Recommended Reading: Sam Fender gig review
But this song has more than the politics and upbringing: it has all the charms and patchwork-quilt-esque understanding of what it means to be seventeen. As the track points to, there are “embryonic loves” that you embarrass yourself for; there are the school stereotypes that suffocate you (in Fender’s case it’s being the class clown); and the sadness of growing up too.
“God the kid looks so sad” isn’t the lead lyric of Seventeen Going Under appearing on merchandise and advertising, but it really could have been. For me, the lyric cuts through it all.
Anecdotally, many teenagers do experience a deep, melancholic sadness as they ‘come of age’. It’s a confusing, difficult time to be alive, especially in the almost unfathomable society we find ourselves in today. Understanding the intensity of emotion and your place in the world is all part of being a teen and it is now 27-year-old Sam Fender’s turn to rationalise it all in the form of song.
It’s no surprise that the kid who considers “selling gear” looks so sad as he finds himself at what seems to be a dead-end, going nowhere. Seventeen Going Under may be semi-autobiographical, as Fender said on BBC Radio One this evening, but it speaks now for a whole generation of adolescents in situations that they feel they can’t dig themselves out of.
Seventeen Going Under might sound so sad too, but there are massively uplifting moments. Incredible use of the sax adds a much-needed joyfulness to the song, carrying its five-minute length. At all the right times, the sax, combined with the trademark, epic Dru Michael on drums, provides a hopefulness to the track, suggesting that seventeen might not, after all, be the end of you.
A stellar start from Sam Fender’s new era, though we never doubted him for a second.