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Song You Need to Know: Jack River, ‘We Are the Youth’

A celebration of youth activism, and a reminder of our collective power, “We Are the Youth” is arguably one of the year’s most important songs.

Dane Singleton*

Jack River has unveiled what is likely one of the most important songs of her career, unveiling the uplifting and powerful protest anthem, “We Are the Youth”.

Released today, “We Are the Youth” drawn upon Jack River’s (the musical moniker of Holly Rankin) long-held passion for climate and environmental movements. Yet while the track itself is the product of a lifetime of righteous anger and desire for change, it wasn’t until late 2019 – while performing at the School Strike 4 Climate rally on Gadigal land – that inspiration for the song struck.

“I played to 80,000 young people, and I realised that I didn’t have an anthem for them, and myself – to express how we felt about the times,” explains Rankin.

Empowered by this moment, and inspired by both the multiple global social movements of the last 18 months and Rankin’s own experiences which include her undertaking a law degree in 2019, it became clear that now was the perfect time for a song such as this.

“At the same time as there is widespread climate injustice, there is ongoing abuse of power on many fronts in our society: against First Nations people, in the halls of parliament, and in workplaces everywhere,” Rankin explains. “People are tired of it. We want change and action, and we are ready to work to build our way out of a broken system.”

Inspired by the forebears of the “political pop” style of music – including Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, et al. – “We Are the Youth” is arguably one of the most important songs released this year, serving as a call to fellow activists with lyrics that speak directly to their urgency.

I’m tired, I’m tired of silence / I’m sick, I’m sick of violence,” Rankin sings. “We’re gonna run through the streets tonight / We’re gonna run to the riot”.

Meanwhile, the track also comes accompanied by a video which, directed by Rankin and Nyikina Warrwa and Wangkumara Barkindji filmmaker Marlikka Perdrisat, is assembled from hours of archival footage, and focuses on global change-makers such as Jean Hinchcliffe, Grace Tame, and Brittany Higgins, in addition to global advocates like Amanda Gorman (US), Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim (Chad), and Autumn Peltier (Canada).

“This song is dedicated to the billions of young people driving urgent political and social change,” a title card explains at the beginning of the video. “We are living in the anthropocene. The actions of this generation will define the destiny of humanity and the planet for the rest of time.”

While it remains to be seen whether “We Are the Youth” will serve as the spark for change that is so desperately needed, it remains a celebration of the work that young people are doing around the world, while also serving as a galvanising reminder of our collective power.

“I want people to feel like this generation has their back if they’re taking urgent action,” Rankin explains. “We’re all in this together, and every single individual’s actions matter.”

Jack River’s “We Are the Youth” is out now via I OH YOU.