Alok and Harrison Bring New Life to Bronski Beat’s “Smalltown Boy” With “Tell Me Why”
Three generations of electronic music are colliding on Alok and Harrison’s “Tell Me Why.”
It all started in 1984, when Bronski Beat’s “Smalltown Boy”—about a young man who runs away to find the freedom to be himself—was an outsider’s anthem. Its driving beat and soulful vocal gave runaway feet something to dance to. Then in 2006, Swedish DJs Steve Angello and Axwell—known at the time as Supermode—turned that upbeat tune into a commercial boom with “Tell Me Why.” The pair went on to form crossover supertrio Swedish House Mafia with Sebastian Ingrosso. Before they turned the States onto big room house, U.K. artist Harrison was already starstruck.
“I grew up listening to the Supermode version of ‘Tell Me Why’ on MTV,” he said in a press release for his and Alok’s new 2019 take on the tune. “This was my favorite dance song, so when I made this version, I knew it was going to [as] be awesome as it’s recognizable.”
Alok was thrilled to team up with Harrison for this. “It was amazing doing this collab with Harrison as we were able to explore both our own music elements and common taste for this classy dance song,” he explained in a statement.
Alok and Harrison’s take is a worthy successor. Its slowed tempo packs all the emotional heft of the social castaway while pumping synth textures and propulsive percussion burn a disco light at the end of the tunnel.
It’s the first collaboration between the Brazilian and U.K. DJs. Harrison previously worked with international DJ superstars David Guetta, Tiesto, Avicii and more, while Alok brought Brazil’s vibrant scene to the stages of Belgian festival Tomorrowland, EDC in Orlando, and the big floats of his home country’s Rio Carnival.
With “Tell Me Why,” both producers cement a new place in the ongoing story of dance music’s decade-spanning culture. The track is out now on Alok’s label, Controversia. Build yourself a new life on its time-tested mood with SPIN’s first listen below.