by Pet Shop Boys featuring Years & Years

Writers - Lowe/Tennant/Alexander
First released - 2019
Original album - Hotspot
Producer - Stuart Price
Subsequent albums - Smash
Other releases - single (US Dance #6; didn't appear on the overall UK singles chart but hit #1 for UK physical sales)

"Dreamland" was the first single from the Pet Shop Boys' album Hotspot. It's a collaboration with the British band Years & Years, co-written with that band's lead singer Olly Alexander. As stated in a press release for the single, "The song was written in London and produced by Stuart Price at Hansa Studios in Berlin and The Record Plant in Los Angeles."

It was first discussed publicly in May 2017 and was originally slated to appear on the next Years & Years album. But when that album (Palo Santo) was released in July 2018, it wasn't included, possibly because it doesn't fit with the album's underlying concept, which concerns what has been described as "a genderless dystopian society populated by androids." "It is still being decided who will take that one," Alexander said of the song to interviewer James Wilson-Taylor, waffling on whether it would eventually emerge as a recording by his own band, by the Pet Shop Boys, or by a third party altogether. "I'm sure you'll hear it," he affirmed, but quickly added, "One day." But nothing further was heard about it until nearly a full year later, in April 2019, when Neil and Chris noted on their official website that they were "back in the studio" with Alexander. They were apparently working once again on the song, preparing it for release. As it turned out, the "one day" that Alexander had earlier alluded to arrived on September 11, 2019, when the Boys offered its world premiere on Zoe Ball's BBC Radio 2 morning show.

According to Alexander, the lyrics of the song were inspired by an amusement park named Dreamland in the coastal town of Margate in southeastern England. They offer what he describes as "a subversive political statement," with Neil telling him that it "makes sense right now with [U.S. President Donald] Trump closing the borders." Neil encouraged him to make the lyrics even "more direct." It would be a mistake, however, to tie the song's sentiments exclusively to Trump and circumstances in the States. After all, the song's narrator sings, "I'm so tired of my homeland." The fact that these words were written by a native British citizen (two if you count Neil), not to mention the Brexit controversy in Britain and the rising anti-immigrant sentiments there as well, calls for a more "extended" reading of the song.

It's easy to see the connections, as the lyrics express a wistful longing for something that seems increasingly unavailable in the U.S./U.K. sociopolitical climate: "a dreamland in another world far away.… a free land [where] they welcome everyone to stay." The narrator goes on to describe this dreamland as "a kind of amnesia where all problems seem to disappear." Pointedly, he points out that "you don't need a visa" to go there. In other words, governments and politics have no sway over one's personal freedom to come and go. "I don't wanna wake up," he repeatedly sings, displaying his clear preference for this imaginary, ideal world—which he says that he loves—as compared to the real one.

The lyrics also invite an alternate reading that have nothing to do with sociopolitical concerns. This is especially true if you regard the "you" being addressed by the narrator as not being the "dreamland" itself but rather as a lover. If he is indeed singing to a lover, then such lines as "You got to take me / You got to make me" become the narrator's pleas to that lover to take him away to a "dreamland" of eternal love where they can find themselves "staying forever, leaving all our worries behind." In this case, of course, when the narrator says, "I love you," he's not saying it to the dreamland itself but rather to his lover. The fact that the song is performed as a duet between two openly gay men adds further poignance to this interpretation.

Meanwhile, the poppy, highly energetic music had originated with a track Chris had already composed even before the prospect of collaborating with Alexander had come up. He had tentatively called it "Anno Domini" (Latin for "In the year of the Lord"), though he concedes, "I don't know why it was called that." Opening with a triumphal synth-trumpet fanfare that subsequently recurs throughout the track, the song finds Neil and Olly trading vocal lines of the verses, while they duet on the chorus. Short, concise, and vibrant—a latter-day take on the classic PSB sound—it has "hit single" written all over it.



Officially released

Official but unreleased

List cross-references