Declan McKenna’s Viral Cover of “Slipping Through My Fingers” 

By: Jacqueline Olechowski

In September 2023, Declan McKenna’s cover of ABBA’s “Slipping Through My Fingers” went viral on TikTok. Fans flooded his comment section noting similarities between McKenna’s voice and Paul McCartney’s, and they begged him to release the full version on streaming platforms (honestly, he even looks like he could be one of The Beatles). McKenna originally covered the song during an Instagram livestream in June 2021, and somehow it took two years for the clip to go viral. McKenna noted how the thirty-second cover overshadowed the release of his new single “Nothing Works” and announcement of his new album, What Happened To The Beach?

Unfortunately, I fall into the category of fake fans who care more about his ABBA cover than his new music, even though it’s been almost four years since his last album came out. McKenna’s breakthrough came with the release of his first single, “Brazil”. His catchy, indie-rock songs are known to have political messages – “Brazil” criticizes FIFA for awarding Brazil the FIFA World Cup in 2014 without acknowledging the poverty and inequality affecting Brazilians. In a comment under the music video for “Brazil,” a fan writes, “This kid made a song with a strong political and social meaning, put in it a brilliant riff, sang it in a strangely charming and scratchy way.” McKenna’s cracky voice and addictive melodies were the perfect soundtrack for my angsty teenage years. I associate his first album, What Do You Think About the Car?, with being seventeen and driving around with my best friend, screaming his lyrics without actually thinking about what they mean. The nostalgia of “Slipping Through My Fingers” reminds me of the nostalgia I feel listening to his debut album. The minimal production and soothing acoustic guitar make the song feel even more melancholy – I don’t think I realized how sad the lyrics are until I heard McKenna’s version. 

“Slipping Through My Fingers” was inspired by ABBA band members Björn Ulvaeus and Agnetha Fältskog’s daughter, who was seven at the time the song was written. It expresses a mother’s sadness and helplessness over how quickly her daughter is growing up: “The feeling that I’m losing her forever / And without really entering her world”. Any song about adolescence or growing up is guaranteed to strike a chord with me. McKenna seems to have known that I’ve been reflecting on the fact that I’m already halfway through my third year of university – why else would he release the most bittersweet song the day after my last exam? Until the release of McKenna’s new album, I’ll allow myself to wallow in my nostalgia and listen to the beloved ABBA song on repeat. McKenna’s third album, What Happened To The Beach?, comes out on February 9th. I can’t wait to hear what new fun indie-pop songs the singer-songwriter has in store for us.