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Filtering by Category: Mental Health

Remembering Your Roots In Loyle Carner’s "Not Waving, But Drowning"

Key lyrics 

Dear Jean

“I’m out the south, out the house, never out of touch

Trust, out of sight never out of mind.”

Desoleil (Brilliant Corners)

“Speaking of love well it must be

Cleaning the bed when it's dusty

Who else gonna moisture my face when it's crusty?”


“Cus I got nothing to lose, if you hit me then I bruise, I could tell you that its just as real.” 

Dear Ben

“We clung to each other like sailors in a storm as our world pitched and bucked, our breath stolen by grief

But you stood strong, filled such big boots.”

Where’s the meaning?

The 1957 poem by Stevie Smith, from which Loyle Carner’s second studio album takes its name, gives the account of a drowning man, struggling in water, while on-lookers from the shoreline mistake the gestures as waving. This, Carner tells the Guardian, is how he felt when first drafting his newest mellow musings: “I’ve had some small success, moderate, tiny success on the grand scale of success, but enough that people think I’m going, ‘Look at me in my new house with my beautiful girlfriend’. And, sometimes, especially when the album process was beginning, I was drowning! And everyone thought I was hanging out.”

This idea seems to underpin much of ‘Not Waving, But Drowning’, an album that’s unapologetically honest and emotion-filled, as Carner opens to the listener and appears at his most vulnerable. Tracks like ‘Still’ (with lines such as ‘Saying I’m lost / still’), dive into the world of a man thrashing about, looking for the answers to seemingly unanswerable questions. Carner projects his biggest insecurities in lyrics for all us to listen to and read. He reflects, with extreme clarity, on modern-day anxiety which leaves us all ‘still looking for the answers’, but first we’re ‘Tryna find the right questions’. The search for meaning is endless as Carner learns to accept himself, and connect with his roots.

Loyle Carner, though the name a pseudonym and a play on his own surname: Coyle-Larner, has no ulterior motives. He does not pretend to be some elevated figure, which in the world of hip hop and its typical talk of girls and guns, is strikingly refreshing. He talks with willing openness about his own personal issues from ADHD, which he was diagnosed with at the age to six, to the loss of his stepfather in 2014. Carner raps, in ‘Still’, that ‘ADHD is the best and worst thing about me’, attempting to break the stigma around mental health issues that persist today. Lines like these hark back to his 2017 debut, and Mercury prize nominated album, ‘Yesterday’s Gone’, with lyrics in ‘Sun of Jean’ that read: ‘But she said that it ain’t me without ADHD’. Carner finds stability in accepting himself and sees his own mental health issues not as barriers, but as quirks that make him unique.

‘Not Waving, But Drowning’ also tackles the issue of race. ‘Looking Back’ encounters an artist in search of his heritage – something Benjamin Zephaniah referred to as Carner’s “own personal black consciousness movement.” Again, identity and one’s search for a sense of self lies at the heart of Carner’s work. Carner writes of growing up mixed race and feelings of alienation that come with a lack knowledge about one’s cultural history: ‘Face this / Like water, never taste this / Evil, white rose to a racist’. Again, Carner sings that he feels ‘lost / Wondering my cost’. Again, this south London hip-hop artist takes us back to his roots in search of meaning and reassurance.

Even after this constant search for self in a large world filled with insecurities about being lost, Carner always finds cohesion and balance in family life. Several tracks on this new album talk of his mother, and his new partner. He opens with a heart-felt love letter to his mum, ‘Dear Jean’, rapping poetically about how he’s ‘fallen for a woman from the skies’. Carner never forgets his roots. He is endlessly grateful to those who brought him and shaped his outlook on life. Carner tells his mother that he might be moving ‘Out the south, out the house never out of touch’. Retaining connections with those you love seems to provide Carner with strength.

The final track, ‘Dear Ben’, features a melody that is almost identical to the album’s opening. Here, Carner’s mother reads aloud a poem to her son, Ben, who she has watched grow ‘from first kick to first kiss’. Jean Coyle-Larner does not shy away from the truth. She writes of a lost ‘compass’, and how she and Carner ‘clung to each other like sailors in a storm’ after the death of her second husband, Carner’s stepfather. It’s really no surprise that Carner can never forget his roots when his mother is so open and honest. The poignancy of the final line is undeniable: Jean talks of how she has ‘gained a daughter, I’ve not lost a son’ in a reply to Carner’s opening revelation about moving out. The meaning of this album is tied to more than just lyrics and words. They come from an unbreakable bond between an artist and his roots.  

Muse points

  • Carner’s openness surrounding his mental health and ADHD is refreshing in the social media age and serves to destigmatize and help others struggling with similar issues. Should artists be more proactive and combat issues such as mental health problems?

  • While one might attribute the search for identity as an outstanding factor in much of modern day hip hop (look to Childish Gambino’s ‘This is America’), few artists are as a personal as Loyle Carner. Do artists have a responsibility to be honest in their music?

Cause warriors

Young Minds UK

Young Minds is a UK-based charity focused on empowering young individuals with mental health challenges such as ADHD. They have a parent’s helpline that can be reached at: 0808 802 5544.

Additionally, they have the YoungMinds Crisis Messenger that can be contacted for free 24/7 support if you text ‘YM’ to 85258.


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Perceptions of Beauty: Kay Soul “As I Am”


‘With Instagram stars and twitter scars promoting
Multi images of beauty,
Comparing ourselves to the incomparable,
Living inside of society’s mold,
These are the words of a contrite heart’

Where’s the meaning?

Kay Soul’s timely lyrics provoke thought and reflection on the subtle, yet prominent, effects that social media, and media more generally, are having on social interactions and behavior, particularly amongst today’s youth. With the constant, incessant notifications of social media and the seemingly dopamine-esque rush that they create, The Keiser Family Foundation has found that the average youth (i.e. 13-18 years of age) spends approximately 9 hours a day consuming media.

Kay Soul’s lyrics touch upon the deeper context behind these startling statistics, that perception is, to a large degree, reality. With the concept of beauty, and the idea of what ‘type’ of beauty society values, largely dictated by a machine learning algorithm that ensures you see the pictures and videos that are most appealing to your past behavior, coupled with spending copious amount of time with media, the youth, and to an extent all of us, become ingrained with the social construct of beauty. And when we look in the mirror and do not see that which we see on social media, we try to conform ourselves to live in society’s mold of what we should be, as Kay so beautifully puts it. Whether this be through plastic surgery or clothes, new shoes to hair styles, we yearn to be accepted. Which is no flaw in itself, as human beings we have an inherent desire that burns at our core to be accepted, but is it the ethereal ‘society’ that we are trying to be accepted by and is that where we should be placing our efforts for acceptance?

In trying to be a vision of something that we are not, perhaps we lose ourselves in the process. And it is precisely this sentiment that Kay highlights when she says, ‘these are the words of a contrite heart’. With her soulful vocals and melodic sound, Kay has used this song to express that in a world where we consume concepts of beauty by the minute, we should stop and have a moment of introspection, to reflect on for whom are we trying to be accepted. And perhaps the answer is no one at all. True beauty is simply being you, or as Kay puts it “as I am.”

Muse Points

  • Think of the way you present yourself to the world. Who are you trying to impress? Who is it that you are trying to be accepted by?
  • Why is it the case that you want to be accepted by that particular group, institution, or person?
  • How has this desire to be accepted been influenced by social media?
  • Think upon your own social media behavior, can you point to times where you’ve been influenced by that platform’s ‘concept of beauty’?
  • To you, what does beauty mean and is your interpretation of beauty different than that which you see on social media?

Cause Warriors

The Keiser Family Foundation is a non-profit organization focusing on national health issues, as well as the U.S. role in global health policy. Unlike grant-making foundations, Kaiser develops and runs its own policy analysis, journalism and communications programs, sometimes in partnership with major news organizations.