Olly Alexander On Years & Years’ New Song And Hooking Up With A Straight Man

“There are many things that happen when you’re on your knees”

Photo by Ed Cooke

Olly Alexander feels more confident in his songwriting. In the three years since he and his fellow Years & Years bandmates, Emre Turkmen and Mikey Goldsworthy, burst on to the scene, Alexander's become a pop rebel with a cause, using his platform to uplift the queer community and be a voice for mental illness awareness. It only makes sense his writings become more personal. 

"Even though the older songs have been about me and my life, I've felt more empowered to be even more confessional in my writing," he tells us. "I'm not shying away from certain topics anymore." And that includes more sexually overt songs, including Years & Years' new single, "Sanctify."

"Sanctify" is about Alexander's experience hooking up with a straight man. At a certain point in this relationship, Alexander explains, things became chaotic. "There's so much that goes on in an experience like that. On the one hand, the guy is struggling with his sexuality and feeling unable to express himself as anything other than straight while also desiring me," he says. "I'm on the other side feeling like both a sinner and saint or a devil and angel, leading this guy down a path of ‘sinfulness’ while, at the same time, helping him explore his sexuality." 

Laced within Alexander's lyrics is a coded language speaking to the experience, one that's more common in the queer community than many outside of it may believe. For example, when Alexander sings "You don't have to be straight with me, I see what's underneath your mask" in the song's second verse, he's speaking to this partner's queerness and the mask of masculinity they're hiding behind. Then, on the other side, there's Alexander making peace with his identity. "I feel like being gay is a blessing. I wanted that to come through in the song." 

It does. This open and honest Olly imbues the pop world with a more rounded and inclusive representation of queer life. How great is it to hear queer people singing about queer sex in a way that's actually queer rather than coded for the heterosexual masses? Pretty darn great. 

Bless up. Watch and listen, below.