Jack River (real name Holly Rankin) has shared a provocative new single titled ‘We Are The Youth’, posited by the singer-songwriter’s label I OH YOU as a “protest anthem that forefronts a new generation of advocates and activists fighting for change”.
Though musically, the track retains the heady and lighthearted indie-pop style that River is best known for, its themes cut deep through unapologetically bold lyrics. River declares, “I’m tired, I’m tired of silence / I’m sick, I’m sick of violence,” before offering a call-to-arms in the chorus: “We’re gonna run through the streets tonight / We’re gonna run to the riot / We are the youth.”
The track was shared today (September 9) with a music video comprising footage of protests led by young activists around the world, alongside stock footage of natural disasters taking place. It begins with a card dedicating the track to “the billions of young people driving urgent political and social change”, with River noting that “the actions of this generation want to find the destiny of humanity and the planet for the rest of time”.
“This song is for the kids staying up late to organise a protest,” the introduction continues. “For the communities fighting for their culture and their people against an outdated system. For the politicians who are taking enough action. For the scientists labouring over data. For the ones maintaining their rage against all odds.”
Take a look at the video for ‘We Are The Youth’, co-directed by River and Marlikka Perdrisat, below:
The video ends with an incendiary clip of Scott Morrison arguing in Parliament that “what we want is more learning in schools and less activism in schools”, followed by a card encouraging viewers that are “feeling fired up but don’t know where to begin” to take small steps in their endeavours to fight for change.
In a press release, River noted that she was inspired to write ‘We Are The Youth’ after performing at the 2019 School Strike 4 Climate rally on Gadigal land (Sydney).
“I played to 80,000 young people, and I realised that I didn’t have an anthem for them, and myself – to express how we felt about the times,” she said.
River finalised the track after paying close attention to the sociopolitical climate of 2020 and 2021, as well as undertaking a law degree in 2019. On her decision to release the track now, River said, “At the same time as there is widespread climate injustice, there is ongoing abuse of power on many fronts in our society: against First Nations people, in the halls of parliament, and in workplaces everywhere.
“People are tired of it. We want change and action, and we are ready to work to build our way out of a broken system.”
River pointed out that ‘We Are The Youth’ – which she co-produced with Matt Corby and Peking Duk’s Adam Hyde – also serves as a tribute to what she’s labelled the forebears of “political pop”, citing the likes of Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan and Neil Young.
The track is framed through the lens of a character named Annie, who River said is a representation of young Australians “pouring their youth into fixing the issues they didn’t create”.
She continued: “It’s incredible, but they shouldn’t have to carry the burden. We should be seeing our leaders doing that, working around the clock on these issues – and we’re not.”
‘We Are The Youth’ comes as River’s first track for 2021, following the release of her second full-length album, ‘Stranger Heart’, last February.
She’s kept busy throughout the year, however. In July, she launched a podcast series titled To Rebel In The Times, wherein she meets numerous artists who are also scientists, mothers, activists and business people, engaging in conversations about what it means to stand up for good in the current sociopolitical climate.
Later that month, she published an open letter to Channel 7, urging the broadcaster to showcase music by Australian artists during its coverage of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The letter proved successful, with 7 committing to platform more local music in its afternoon broadcasts.