Since his debut album in 2019, Sam Fender has undoubtedly soared – growing from strength to strength and, most strikingly, growing from a boy to a man. His latest release, Seventeen Going Under, is one of potent honesty that reflects Fender’s evident relatability and increasing self-awareness.
The title track showcases the varying bleakness of adolescence with the opener embodying Fender’s frustration with the world – which was very much conveyed throughout Hypersonic Missiles. The portrayal of a relationship with his father is very much at the forefront both here and in ‘Spit Of You’; however, the latter being a ballad that very much embodies Fender’s heart sitting comfortably on his sleeve: “Cause one day that’ll be your forehead I’m kissing // And I’ll still look exactly like you”. The idea that his music can scream and kick at the world around him in one track whilst then dealing with his past in the next is a vital one.
There is also undoubtedly a handful of Fender’s disgruntled and melancholic politically-fuelled additions with the likes of ‘Aye’ and ‘The Leveller’: “Children’s eyes clasped in dread // They all knew where it led” stresses the finger-pointing approach often adopted by Fender.
However, these tracks themselves are levelled out when placed alongside the tranquility of ‘The Dying Light’ and its calmingly elegant piano melody. For a songwriter so young, the compelling poignancy of ‘Good Company’ and ‘Last To Make It Home’ could very easily lull you into believing that he is years ahead of his ability. “I’m alone here // Even though I’m physically not // And those dead boys are always there // There’s more every year”, he sings on ‘The Dying Light’; underlining his lyrical maturity with reference to male suicide rates as sang about in his early single ‘Dead Boys’.
Still in good old-fashioned Fender style however, his second release consists of the perfect recipe for a headline tour. In and amongst his other songwriting excellence, his usual upbeat, toe-tapping, scream-from-your-lungs type of tunes are as prevalent as ever.
The trademark twang of, ironically, Fender’s Fender is enough alone to kickstart a bouncing atmosphere, but the accents of Johnny ‘Bluehat’’s suave saxophone truly are the cherry on a wonderfully composed cake in both ‘Getting Started’ and ‘Angel In Lothian’. With never a doubt in mind on pleasing a crowd, the lad from the North East strikes again with his catchy chorus chants throughout to finalise his second masterpiece and make sure that this year is his.
And if your heart strings weren’t already pulled on enough, the closing ‘Poltergeists’ sees Fender’s haunting vocals, accompanied by a solo piano, rip your heart out of your chest completely: “Sometimes I don’t really wanna be here // Other times I feel like I could take over the world”. Fender’s approach to all aspects of life is one that is brutally honest and reflective of the need for an artist of his calibre.
For an artist with so much yet to come, Seventeen Going Under is one of little fault and one that is exceptionally inspired. Seemingly an embodiment of his growth during lockdown and the confrontation with his past, the release is not only an ode to himself but to every single listener who will certainly find an element of themselves within.
Words by Lauren Whitehead