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Depeche Mode’s new single, ‘Where’s the Revolution?’, is a case study in how not to do political music. There’s nothing wrong with making political music in general, in fact some of my favourite music is overtly political. But political music can easily go wrong. In this case, it does so because it’s difficult to condense something as complex as the current political situation into a relatively accessible pop song without coming across as juvenile and tacky. With the poorly written lyrics and over-dramatic vocals, this is exactly the trap that Depeche Mode fall into.
There’s a chance that a song like this sounds better in the context of the full album. Most of what I’ve said about ‘Where’s the Revolution?’ I would also have said about Kendrick Lamar’s ‘I’ when it was released as the lead single of ‘To Pimp a Butterfly’. This song, as a single, also came across as overly-simplistic, but as just a small part of the sprawling full-length album it worked a lot better. However, until we actually hear the new Depeche Mode album this is just wishful thinking, and even if it does make more sense in the context of the album it was still a poor choice of a lead single.
On the plus side, my problems are mostly only concerned with the lyrical content and vocal performance. Musically, we get the usual synthy goodness that we’ve come to expect from Depeche Mode, and perhaps with different vocals this would have been a much better song. Sadly, we’re stuck with what we’ve got, and it doesn’t bode well for an album that until now I was looking forward to.