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Yungblud on his new album and the importance of self-acceptance

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

The English musician Yungblud doesn't shy away from going to dark places in his songs.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE FUNERAL")

YUNGBLUD: (Singing) I've been dancing at my funeral, waiting for you to arrive.

RASCOE: Yungblud's genre-blending songs deal with self-loathing, sexual fluidity and learning how to love. And they've earned him international popularity. And just a warning - this conversation does touch on suicide. He has a new self-titled album out now, and he joins us from London to talk about it. Welcome.

YUNGBLUD: Hello. How's it going? Good to be here, man.

RASCOE: Let's get into it. The first song on the album is called "The Funeral," and in it, the lyric about you dancing at your funeral - why start with that image?

YUNGBLUD: In a world where I feel like I'm being buried alive, I just said, you know what? I'm going to write a song where I list off every single thing I'm insecure about in 3 minutes because I want people to be able to pop this song on. And if you feel powerless and if you feel alone and if you feel judged, if you're OK with everything you don't like about yourself and you say it first, nobody else can say anything. You take the power back. I'm here at my funeral, and I'm dancing at it even if nobody's here, even if nobody's watching. And it's that metaphor of self-love that's the beauty within it. I wanted to give people a soundtrack to feel accepted by the most important person in the world - themselves.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MEMORIES")

YUNGBLUD: (Singing) I wish I could just let go of all the memories I know, of all the memories I know, but they're still stuck in my brain.

RASCOE: Your song "Memories," you open up a bit about some of the pain that you've felt.

YUNGBLUD: I had quite a turbulent upbringing. You know, I mean, in my household there was quite a lot of abuse. And what I wanted to do was I wanted to write a song that any kind of trauma you feel - and I wanted to get 10,000 people in a room and allow them to scream it at the top of their lungs so they can share the burden with each other.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MEMORIES")

YUNGBLUD: (Singing) Running, running, running, running through the dark...

RASCOE: You know, listening to your album, like, the music is very upbeat. It's very energized.

YUNGBLUD: I wanted to internalize and, like, reflect my personality because I see myself as someone who is confidently insecure. I have a lot of anxiety inside myself. I'm quite bad at communicating, and I'm really insecure. But I'm really loud, and I'm really energetic, and I wanted to kind of reflect that in my music. That's why I self-titled it. I was like, this is Yungblud. This is what it's about.

(SOUNDBITE OF YUNGBLUD SONG, "MEMORIES")

YUNGBLUD: I needed this defiant yet euphoric sound. I think when you, like, find the sound of what your next album is going to be, it almost has to find you first. You know, I mean, it's like that bit in Harry Potter. It's like, the wand chooses the wizard, Mr. Potter. You know, I mean, it's almost got to fall in your lap.

RASCOE: In this album, you definitely go deep into some very painful things. You have lyrics that deal with thoughts of suicide.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CRUEL KIDS")

YUNGBLUD: (Singing) Don't leave me alone 'cause I won't survive it.

RASCOE: You've been open in the past about the fact that you've attempted suicide. What do you want people to take from those sorts of lyrics. And are you ever concerned that listeners might misinterpret what you're saying?

YUNGBLUD: People need truth. Music lacks truth at the minute, in my opinion. A lot of people have dark thoughts. And the world tells us to bury them and to not talk about them because, again, it might make you look a bit strange.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CRUEL KIDS")

YUNGBLUD: (Singing) 'Cause I know I don't want to do what the cruel kids do. I want a better life.

But that's the most dangerous thing in the world. I want to be a vehicle for people's expression, if you are feeling sad or you're feeling dark OR you're having extremely dark thoughts. I spoke about them. I put them in my music. And it suppressed them - allows me to let them go because I let them out.

RASCOE: Let's talk about "I Cry 2." I mean, it's supposed to be, maybe, a critique of mainstream culture as you see it.

YUNGBLUD: What was so beautiful about this song is it started about me looking at my mate. He was finding it really hard to express his emotions, and, like - so there's still a massive stigma in males, you know what I mean? And I sat opposite him. I'm like, listen. It's all right.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I CRY 2")

YUNGBLUD: (Singing) But I won't tell if you don't want me to. Let's keep it between us, if that's what you want to do. And I know you're hurting, but I know you're getting through. It's all right, mate. I cry, too. It's all right, mate. I cry, too.

And I'm sat there, and I'm like, listen, it's all right. I go through this. I understand where you're coming from. With me, everyone had an opinion on my sexuality and my gender because, again, I tell the truth. Like, I am not going to sit here and dance around or say just about enough that my publicist wants me to. And I found myself get a turning point through this song because I was telling my mate that it's all right to express himself. And I'm like, well, that's me.

RASCOE: When you talk about your truth, I know you've said that you're pansexual. Do you - like, is that part of where you felt like you got pushback?

YUNGBLUD: Yeah. If you go, this is where I'm at, and I'm proud of that, it's like, no, you're not. If someone says that - something and wants to express themselves in a certain way, I think that should be uplifted and celebrated. And that's why I put that lyric in - is that everybody online keeps saying I'm not really gay. Well, I'll start dating men when they go to therapy. You know what I mean? I wanted to take the piss out of it instead of letting it hurt me.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I CRY 2")

YUNGBLUD: (Singing) It's all right, mate. I cry, too.

(SOUNDBITE OF YUNGBLUD SONG, "TISSUES")

RASCOE: So much of this album is about struggle and pain. Where do you find the light?

YUNGBLUD: In the music. That's why it's got this energy. It's like, it's all right. It's painful. I'm struggling. It's strange. It's bizarre. It's - the world is so crazy sometimes. It can all - for everyone. It's not like, I'm sad. I believe this is going to kind of be the album that connects the most people because I want to talk about real life.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TISSUES")

YUNGBLUD: (Singing) 'Cause everybody wants to feel loved. Everybody wants to be adored. Everybody wants to feel loved.

It's not about the drama of, hello, I'm an emo kid from the north of England. This is about a 35-year-old person who works at Starbucks. This is about a butcher, a baker, a candlestick maker. You know, I mean, it's about every single one of us feeling this mad thing called life. You know, i mean, it's like, I wanted to write a record that transcended beyond what I already have. I wanted to write an album about light at the end of the tunnel.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TISSUES")

YUNGBLUD: (Singing) And tomorrow, I'll be sad. You're sarcastic...

RASCOE: Yungblud's new self-titled album is out now. Thank you so much for speaking with us.

YUNGBLUD: Thank you so much for having me. I love this.

RASCOE: And for anyone experiencing thoughts of self-harm, the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline number is 988.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TISSUES")

YUNGBLUD: (Singing) Come on. Give it to me. 'Cause everybody wants to feel loved... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ayesha Rascoe
Ayesha Rascoe is the host of Weekend Edition Sunday and the Saturday episodes of Up First. As host of the morning news magazine, she interviews news makers, entertainers, politicians and more about the stories that everyone is talking about or that everyone should be talking about.