By Edward Burnett
Those who are long term readers of Rock N Roll Reports will be very familiar with Brighton rock band YONAKA Who have been the focus of previous articles as well as a special exclusive interview back in November on the site. The band released a new single last week entitled ‘Seize the Power’ and naturally we just had to cover it. This isn’t your standard single though as it actually brings with it big change alongside the expected familiarity. To truly analyse this change, I am going to divide the single into three different themed categories of discussion. Firstly the musical style then the lyrics behind it and finally the unique use of tonal shift with colour’s role in enforcing this.
As promised, I am starting with the music and sound itself. Lead singer Theresa Jarvis is well known for her amazing vocal capabilities and these are unsurprisingly on show here again. However, here is where the first change lies as far as this single is concerned. There is far more presence of spoken word in this song than in any of YONAKA’s previous back catalogue of work. This change is needed though for the topic of the song as it allows Jarvis’ voice to come through as sermon-like, connecting with the listener on a deeper level with this direct approach. This is all the more important with when the theme of empowerment is considered which runs through the whole of ‘Seize the Power’. It is the resounding message of getting up and fighting again which will be spoken about more in the lyrics section but it is nevertheless vital to mention now as the two go hand in hand. The drums from Rob Mason start simplistically with a steady and slower beat than usual but soon build to a far more rhythmic pattern which compliments the single’s chorus and in total acts to ramp up the emotion behind Jarvis’ vocals.
Now onto the topic of this song and the lyrics which help convey it. ‘Seize the Power’ seems like a check up on yourself as a listener, especially your mental health. Like the title suggests, it is fully about seizing that power and empowering oneself to do what has been viewed as the impossible for too long. YONAKA encourage us to break through these self imposed barriers of doubt reminding us of the power we all have as individuals. This core message is undoubtedly influenced by the Covid pandemic and its depressing reverberations around the world with social distancing and lockdowns negatively affecting many people’s state of mind. Yet Jarvis states at the beginning that she “woke up this morning...looked in the mirror” and felt “different” as she had “finally made a decision”. Here she is empowered by making a positive step in the way of decisiveness, escaping those perils of doubt which have rendered many to be unmotivated to seize their life back during the pandemic. Following this, Jarvis opens it up to the listener asking “hey there, how you been?”. This is a question which essentially now more than ever we need to ask one another. Looking out for others and even simply asking if they’re okay is empirical. The key line which summarises this whole message to perfection is “as soon as you taste independence, you start living in the present”. As most of our lives have been on pause this past year, none of us have been living in the present but rather a limbo which we are only starting to come out of. Our independence has been somewhat removed with continuous lockdowns and curfews being enforced by governments globally in an attempt to tackle the spread. With all this in mind, that lyric resonates all the more powerfully knowing that’s we can start to live again. It is an undying message of hope as well as the mentioned welfare and empowerment.
Finally we come to arguably the most important change of all with this 2021 release, the tonal shift in colour. Previous YONAKA releases, including 2019’s debut album ‘Don’t Wait 'Til Tomorrow’, have predominantly featured red as the core colour of the artwork as well as the bands “Y” logo. I see this as reflecting the band’s music at the time with red often being used to show anger and therefore unhinged emotion. Such unhinged and raw emotion was always present in YONAKA’s previous songs showing the red to be an accurate thematic reflection on the music produced. However with ‘Seize the Power’ there has been a noticeable colour change from this familiar red to a tranquil blue. Even the band’s logo has embodied the new colour too. Make no mistake, this again is key to the current ethos and mood of YONAKA’s new song. Blue is a calmer colour which can be shown to represent more control rather than unhinged, raw emotion. This tonal shift is evident in the music as Jarvis is far calmer and composed via the spoken word throughout the song and that undying desperation has been replaced by an unwavering confidence, reflecting a gaining of control. Another way of saying gaining of control? Seizing the power.
Overall, this is an extremely brave and bold single to produce which is full of thematic as well as stylistic change, all while maintaining the brilliant core essence of YONAKA. This hopeful message of empowerment is exactly what both the rock music scene and the world in general needs given our drastic situation. It’s certainly worthwhile listening to YONAKA on this topic of seizing power as they are experts on doing so. With music as good as this to follow up on an already amazing debut album, the power is well and truly in their hands.
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