Gang of Youths – “Say Yes to Life”
Few modern bands are able to express the simplest of ideas with as much sincerity and passion as the Australian quintet Gang of Youths. When frontman David Le’aupepe sings one of my all-time favorite lyrics, “And it’s strange, all the things that I’ve run from / Are the things that completeness could come from” on the slow-burning ‘Do Not Let Your Spirit Wane’, I see the twenty-year-old-me rejecting happiness at every turn, favoring a self-destructive lifestyle over accepting maturity and adulthood. When he sings that he “feels everything” on ‘Fear and Trembling’, only to follow that up by admitting that he’s “terrified of loving” because he’s “terrified of pain”, I feel the heartbreak in his voice and it makes me look inwards at my own insecurities. Isn’t that the way all the best bands are? They somehow put into words everything you’d write if you could, and then sing it plainly and beautifully.
Now, take that idea and multiply it on ‘Say Yes to Life’, possibly the most optimistic and affirming rock anthem to come out since Springsteen was still rollicking in his heyday. Le’aupepe immediately reaches out to his listeners and engages them, putting himself in our shoes: “If I could reach out through the screen and give you something to believe in I would / But I’m with you in amongst the confusion.” To quickly intensifying drumming, he spews messages of hope through his own obviously less-than-desirable experiences, eventually offering a hand to those who find themselves in a pit of depression with emotional assists like “Do not let this one end before you emerge as the winner”, “It’s ok not to be so alright, but don’t be alone”, and the dramatically shouted apex “Say yes to love, say yes to life!” These times are too goddamn depressing to be anything other than forward-looking, and here Gang of Youths manage to present us with an honest and relatable guiding light that doesn’t sound the slightest bit feigned. There’s no one else who could play this song like they do and achieve the same results. It makes you want to raise your fist and be part of a cause, to refuse defeat and to battle through life’s bleakest moments with a sense of integrity and purpose. What a gift.