‘Night Call,’ the incredible third album from Platinum-selling British pop outfit Years & Years is out today on Interscope Records. Fronted by Olly Alexander, now standing solo, the album features pulsating queer anthems “Crave”, “Starstruck,” latest single, “Sweet Talker” (with Galantis) and more future-favorites from Olly Alexander.
‘Night Call’ has the immediate feel of the most essential Years & Years album to date. An 11-track dance record that bears the bruises of Olly Alexander’s past few years, songs about heartbreak are few; traditional ballads are almost non-existent. Instead, there’s an almost psychosexual energy coursing through it. This is a fairground ride of a record about embracing submission and twisting power play to reclaim your strength. The clues, for Olly, are all there in the album’s iconic artwork, featuring a mermaid of a muse. “I wanted to identify with this beautiful creature luring men to their death; searching for a love, or a lover, that’s out of reach,” Olly says. “A lot of the songs are patchworks inspired by random memories and hook-ups, or men that I’ve met.”
Written over the course of six months, ‘Night Call’ sees Olly Alexander use his platform to push the boundaries of mainstream superstardom. With a sound as inspired by pioneering figures like Sylvester as it is the club-ready world of French House and embodying the new perspective of a character – like Ritchie in ‘It’s A Sin’ – also deeply influenced Olly’s songwriting in its wider exploration of queer life. ‘Night Call’ blurs the boundaries between hedonistic fantasy and locked down reality precisely because, says Olly, “I was stuck in the same four walls. I wanted to have as much pleasure as possible in the music.”
Co-written by and produced in a manner familiar to Olly, with producer Mark Ralph at the helm and pulling in young and experimental song makers to work on the tracks with Olly, including the likes of Georgia, DetoNate and George Reid.
The era’s lead single “Starstruck,” is a grooved-up “sugary” piece of dance-poptimism on which you can hear Olly shrugging off the idea of being besotted by someone (“I can’t help it / I get starstruck around you / what can I do, baby?”). It’s a clear-cut starting point for a record that oozes this freeing energy, albeit with a collection of different facets.
If “Starstruck” felt like the bubblegum banger that opened the era, then “Crave”, the second track from Night Call, is its more sordid sister. Written in the same week of Night Call’s conception, “Crave” is an undoing of the traditional idea of sexual submission in song form, and how it changes when we subvert it – commanding that domination instead: “Got all I wanted but if I’m honest / I must confess / The only thing I crave is the pain from you”. Olly’s voice swells and stretches over a brooding dance beat designed for the darkest corner of the club. “It was a playful way of inhabiting the deranged sexual energy I’ve always wanted,” he says of the song. “In the past I felt like I’ve been dominated by toxic relationships, and I felt like it would be fun to turn it on its head.” Consider it a daring slice of kinked-up radio pop. With its release, “Crave” received praise from the likes of E! Online who hailed the track for taking listeners “into a fantasy world with a dance floor,” with Vulture lauding the track as a “sensual yearning-on-the-dance-floor slow-burner.”
That, in turn, feels like a companion piece to the album’s energetic and camp titular track “Night Call,” where seduction has a deeper, more layered meaning about seducing not only potential suitors, but himself, and the industry as a whole. The finished result is a domineering, glitter-doused synth floorfiller.
Released last Fall, “Sweet Talker” was hailed by Billboard as “a romantic, glorious dancefloor anthem,” with Dancing Astronaut labeling it “a tour de force,” and sees Olly teaming up with dance music giants Galantis in an ode to all the verbal virtuoso’s out there texting sweet nothings and promising the world but seeing none of it through. Ghosting is part of modern romance, but Olly won’t settle for it so decided to reclaim the narrative of his own encounters and relationships gone sour. Setting a new standard for songwriting in dance music since 2009, Galantis is a collaborative project led by Christian Karlsson aka Bloodshy (Little Mix, Madonna, Kylie Minogue, Katy Perry, and Britney Spears).
A ‘fuck-you’ rage felt towards men who’ve messed him around shapes two tracks in particular: the funk-laced opener “Consequences” and the anthemic “Sooner or Later”. They are about, Olly says, “every man that has annoyed me in my life”. While a song like “Sooner or Later” harbors the reliable Y&Y hallmarks of lamenting past lovers, there’s a sour bite to the way control spins back to Olly in the lyrics, from “You’ll be the death of me” to “I’m gonna break you”.
“Strange and Unusual”, inspired by the chilled-out house music — the likes of Morcheeba — his mother raised him on, is a love song that honors the distinct queer experience. “Queer people are othered in that respect, so I wanted to write something that felt fun and transcendent for three minutes,” he says.
Two tracks were salvaged from the 20-or-so cut demos that meant the most to Olly: “20 Minutes” and “Make It Out Alive”. The former is a winking track about the blush of affection felt, albeit briefly, during a hook-up; “Make It Out Alive” is the closest thing the record has to a lovelorn ballad. But it’s so fatalistic in its framing of love that it almost counts as high camp in its final form; as if it could be sung live from atop a trapeze wire, gazing at the moon. “I found a good groove on the people I was working with musically,” Olly says of these songs, “then we got on a roll.”
The album is a work of fantasy, and on its tracks, Olly layers his characters with glimmers of real life meaning. “The characters are me,” he insists. But there’s a dream-like detachment to them, as if he’s wearing suits of armor, or slipping off skin to show the braver layers beneath.
A thrilling new chapter for Years & Years, ‘Night Call’ also casts Olly Alexander’s trailblazing influence on modern pop in a bold new light. Across two hugely successful albums to date, the singer, actor, fashion icon, and cultural vanguard has earned 5 Brit Award nominations, surpassed 4.4 billion global streams, and sold out numerous global tours. Olly has also become a fearless, once-in-a-generation voice on important discussions around mental health, and issues affecting the LGBTQ+ community.
2021 saw Olly Alexander’s superstar-status grace new heights, starting out with a leading role in the critically acclaimed HBO Max drama ‘It’s A Sin’, which brought the fight against HIV/Aids back into the public conversation like never before and earned Olly a nomination for a prestigious Critics Choice Award for ‘Best Actor in A Limited Series or Movie Made for Television’ for his role as Ritchie Tozer in the series.
Other 2021 highlights included a show-stopping performance of “It’s a sin” alongside the legendary, Elton John at the BRIT Awards (WATCH) and the release of his single “Starstruck,” which became an instant Years & Years classic and Olly’s first new music since 2018’s much-loved second album, ‘Palo Santo,’ Olly was later joined by Kylie Minogue on a special remix of “Starstruck.” Listen HERE. Olly would again team up with Kylie on the joyous “Second To Midnight,” the lead single from Minogue’s ‘Disco: Guest List Edition’ (also featured on the deluxe version of ‘Night Call’). Watch the official music video HERE.
Subversive, euphoric and ultimately feel-good, immerse yourself in the world of ‘Night Call’ now.
A special Deluxe Version is available featuring 3 new tracks plus the previously released Kylie Minogue-assisted remix of “Starstruck” and Olly’s Kylie collaboration “A Second To Midnight.”
Sweet Talker (with Galantis)
Sooner or Later
Strange and Unusual
Make It Out Alive
See You Again
DELUXE CD BONUS TRACKS
A Second To Midnight (with Kylie Minogue)
Starstruck (Kylie Minogue Remix)