The Forgotten Child

Writers - Tennant/Lowe
First released - 2019
Original album - Agenda (EP)
Producer - Pet Shop Boys, Tim Powell
Subsequent albums -(none)
Other releases - (none)

A song originally from the Super sessions, Chris had mentioned "The Forgotten Child" as a candidate for a future "dark techno album" that he and Neil were seriously considering. But it instead found its way onto their early 2019 Agenda EP, for which Neil described it as its "one rather sad song."

Indeed. By far the loveliest and most somber of the tracks on Agenda—even one of the most somber tracks in the entire PSB canon—it grieves for a symbolic lost and, as the title states, largely forgotten child. But it does so in an ambiguous manner that leaves the song open to various interpretations. For one thing, it refers to how "borders are crossed" and to "emergency laws" that could easily apply to the situation in the United States from late 2018 up through when the song was released in February 2019—the battle between Congress and President Trump over his planned "border wall" with Mexico, his claims about an immigration crisis, children separated from their families at detention centers, and threats to invoke a "national emergency"—although it seems all but certain that the Boys wrote this song before all of that political brouhaha launched into high gear in Washington, D.C.

Of course, those references to borders and emergencies can be applied equally well to any refugee crisis, and there always seems to be one or more of them somewhere in the world at any given time. So rather than focus on any one particular set of circumstances, let's focus on the more universal generalities. The lyrics call out several sad, bitter ironies:

The Boys don't offer any solutions, except perhaps by implication. If there is a solution, maybe it's for us not to forget the child, not to let her become lost. Perhaps if we were actually to remember the child—both the children around us and the child within us—the times would become less brutal, wars and refugee crises would become less likely.

It seems hopeless, but it's a truism that things become truly hopeless only when we truly give up hope.

That's my interpretation. Several of my site visitors, however, have suggested radically different interpretations, to which the lyrics clearly lend themselves. Please see my fourth bullet-point annotation below for some of these alternate viewpoints. I can't say that I agree with these other interpretations, but I can't say they're wholly without merit, either.

In Annually 2019, Neil attests to his own intentions in this song, which pretty much line up with those noted above. He says that "It's sort of got two things going on." First he confirms that the lyrics refer to "a refugee who's gone missing while fleeing for safety with her family." Then he adds that he's also making a point "that maybe we've all forgotten something about human values."


List cross-references