Years and Years’ new single is about Olly Alexander’s relationship with a straight man

“I’m not shying away from certain topics anymore.”

Olly Alexander has revealed the true meaning behind Years and Years’ long-awaited comeback single, Sanctify.

The dystopian high-budget video for Sanctify debuted yesterday (7 March) to widespread acclaim, with the single premiering today on iTunes and streaming services.

Upon release, the lyrical content (and the video) left fans scratching their heads. Olly answered all our questions in an interview with Nylon, and said the track was about his romantic experience with a straight man.

“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,” said Olly. “I’m not shying away from certain topics anymore.”

He then opened up and told Nylon: “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.

“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.”

He also said the track is a celebration of being part of the LGBTQ community: “I feel like being gay is a blessing. I wanted that to come through in the song.”

Sanctify is the lead single from Years & Years’ forthcoming new album, which serves as the follow-up to their chart-topping debut Communion.

Last year, Olly revealed that he was advised to not talk about his sexuality during the band’s early years.

“I kind of had one media training session early on with this woman who kind of advised me not to come out,” Olly admitted. “‘You don’t need to – you don’t need to make it a big deal. Why should you have to express your sexuality?’

“I can see where she was coming from, and I understand why that might have been the norm to tell musicians in the past.

“After a certain point I realised I was getting this real anxiety and stress from worrying about what interviewers might ask me. I felt like the music was about me and my identity, so it didn’t make any sense for me to not talk about this.”

Olly added: “I made the decision – it did feel like a bit of a choice – really, really early on that I’m just going to be out as much as possible.”

Last summer, the singer launched a new LGBTQ documentary, Growing Up Gay, for the BBC, which can be streamed on the iPlayer now.

Related: Olly Alexander interview: Being bullied at school made me ‘hope I wouldn’t turn out to be gay’



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