Yung Lean: In My Head
by Brandon Thomas
Thanks to the internet, the world of new music is vast and wide. Anyone can put a song on their website, or upload a poorly produced music video to YouTube. Most of it goes unnoticed. That lack of notice is usually justified.
And then occasionally someone like Yung Lean comes along.
In the early 2010s, a group of Swedish teens began uploading rap demos to Tumblr and Soundcloud. The same group gained even more notoriety when they began uploading videos to YouTube. This trio, the “Sad Boys,” and their de facto leader, Jonatan Leandoer Hastad (Yung Lean), soon found themselves on a meteoric rise across Europe and then the rest of the world.
Music documentaries have become a popular subgenre in recent years. The Beatles, Amy Winehouse, and The Beastie Boys have all been the subject of recent, popular docs. Of course, these are artists already known and immortalized through their music and pop culture. The beauty of Yung Lean: In My Head is how the film uses Lean’s underground status to its advantage. The air of mystery is half the point.
This documentary isn’t one that suffers from a lack of involvement from the principals. Lean’s story is told through his friends and collaborators, video footage shot while on tour, and family photos and video. Thankfully, the film doesn’t get too caught up in talking heads explaining every little detail. The copious amount of footage shot during the American and Canadian tour helps paint a picture of artistic freedom that slowly unraveled into drug-fueled chaos.
Lean’s story takes a dramatic turn later in the film, one that shifts the focus away from music. This is an area where other films might stumble or even choose to not devote much time at all. Instead, In My Head pivots with ease. The focus was never just the music – it was Lean himself.
In My Head may not have a subject with the culture cache of the Fab Four or Elvis Presley, but what Yung Lean does have is a compelling story born out of artistic creation and personal perseverance.