Resilience, compassion, and poetic beauty: The voice of Generation Z.
Words By Alice Barradale
Arlo Parks’ debut album ‘Collapsed In Sunbeams’ is an oasis of resilience, compassion, and poetic beauty. The London-based neo-soul singer, writer, and poet has created a debut filled to the brim with emotional life experience. At the young age of 20, we are left speechless at the formidable talent and wisdom Park beholds, where each track paints an in-depth compassionate window into her world. The coming-of-age album consists of 12 tracks that follow her journey from adolescence to adulthood, tackling tough subjects such as mental health, identity, queerness, and body image. This album is only the beginning for Parks, where she has already justified the immense excitement that was produced within the countdown to this album’s release. The album’s title ‘Collapsed In Sunbeams’ is a reference from the 2006 Orange Prize for Fiction award-winning novel, ‘On Beauty’, by Zadie Smith 2005. Just like Smith’s novella, Park’s debut album follows the narrative of finding beauty in not just others, but within ourselves. It has therefore become poignant that intimate lyricism is of high importance within Parks’ work. As mentioned in previous interviews, Parks has stated that the contents of the album are based on journals written during her adolescence, where her sharp lyricism and ability to create universal experiences convey this sense of intimacy which is arguably a dying breed within contemporary music.
One of the album’s most poignant songs, ‘Hope’, produced by Gianluca Buccellati highlights her unique writing style, where throughout the tracks bridge the lyrics are beautifully written with deep poetic symbolism of the human form…
“I’ve often felt like I was born under a bad sign/ Wearing suffering like a silk garment or a spot of blue ink/ Looking for light and finding a hole where there shouldn’t be one”
whilst paired with a blunt unequivocal chorus that leaves a clear understanding of the meaning behind the track…
“You’re not alone like you think you are/ We all have scars, I know it’s hard.”
This postmodern form is accentuated by the gentle synths and reverb guitars that help nurture and highlight her lyricism. The influence of Radiohead’s ‘In Rainbows’ is also clear within this album, where stripping solely down to the drums, bass, and voice accentuates the warmth of emotion within the delivery.
Arguably, one of the most emotive songs on the album, ‘Black Dog’ refers to the experience of dealing with a depressed friend, an interesting look surrounding the area of depression within the arts. Usually, artists like to centralise their own experiences of such mental health disorders in their music, whereas Park highlights the difference between having depressions vs dealing with loved ones who are battling depression and the helplessness that follows.
“Alice, I know that you are trying/ But that’s what makes it terrifying”
The term ‘Black Dog’ was coined by the English poet Samuel Jackson, whilst later illustrated by Winston Churchill, becoming a renowned metaphor for melancholy and depression.
“Let’s go to the corner store and buy some fruit/ I would do anything to get you out of your room”
Parks’ lyricism once again highlights her blunt and straight-to-the-point lyricism within her work. The abrupt nature of her writing in contrast to her poetic lyricality emphasises that issues such as depression need a clear and comprehensible understanding to help highlight the importance and urgency of the matter.
Another important theme within this album is the issue of identity and sexuality. The track ‘Green Eyes’ follows the initial pain of rejection and the added affliction of rejection for a young queer person. It becomes clear that Park was left unsurprised that the relationship only lasted two months due to her partner feeling uncomfortable dealing with the judgment from her parents and the world itself…
“I wish that your parents had been kinder to you/They made you hate what you were out of habit/ Remember when they caught us making’ out after school/ Your dad said he’d felt like he lost you”
Arguably, there is a lack of music that accurately addresses individuals’ rejections of sexuality. This is highlighted through the use of the word “lost”, where the initial parental anger is replaced by loss, emphasising how societal pressures can destroy one’s sense of identity and self-worth. Her poetic ability is made clear once we notice Park is not explicitly writing about her pain, instead, it’s her pain that apprises the songs she has written. This speaks to the audience rather than the characters themselves, creating a powerful and intimate technique that will provide enlightenment for generations to come.