It’s easy to be worried about Lewis Capaldi. His new Netflix documentary, subtitled How I’m Feeling Now, has a scene where the brilliant young troubadour is so anxious that his shoulders twitch uncontrollably, like a robot on ketamine.

By the end of the show, Capaldi has a dietician, a coach and a therapist, and is visibly calming down for the imminent release of his second album. But on the way, it’s often a raw watch. He receives a diagnosis of Tourette’s syndrome, which explains not just the shoulder twitch, but his whole foul-mouthed and self-revelatory persona.

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There are hints that the death of his gran, followed soon by the suicide of his aunt, are the biographical roots of his extreme anxiety. “I always thought when I was ill, I was gonna die, that this was it”, he recalls.

Singing his “wee songs” for appreciative audiences has, since boyhood, clearly pulled Capaldi’s fragile psyche together.

But when that musical auto-therapy – and the searing self-criticism that drives it – meets the brutal demands of the current pop industry, trouble is inevitable.

Coming up with another set of songs to keep himself ravelled – when an entire entourage of managers, co-writers and record executives depends on his second album succeeding – only intensifies his stress.

I’ve been listening to the powerfully crafted singles released ahead of his second album, Broken By Desire To Be Heavenly Sent (out on May 19). Capaldi has said the songs here, written mostly during the lockdown meltdown depicted in the documentary, are sadder than he currently feels.

But a bell went off in my head listening to the current single, How I’m Feeling Now, with its near-whispered answer to all of his self-laceration: “I know. I can. I won’t.”

It slightly reminded me of Amy Winehouse coolly resisting going to rehab (“and I say no, no, no”).

I was glad to hear, from his latest round of interviews, that Capaldi would actively give up on music, if absolutely necessary. He said: “It’s only making music that does this to me… Otherwise, I can be fine for months at a time. So it’s a weird situation – right now, the trade-off is worth it. But if it gets to a point where I’m doing irreparable damage to myself, I’ll quit.”

That sounds like Capaldi has a much more robust inner compass than Winehouse – and by the end of the documentary, you see that Capaldi (or Luigi, as his dad calls him) has parents that look like solid and supportive rocks. But what I think might also be different between the two stars is the nature of the youth pop culture they swim in.

Winehouse constructed for herself a bee-hived, brassy and sassy persona – but one that couldn’t ultimately protect her (and her talent) from a voracious tabloid press. What Capaldi does is deconstruct himself (and the pop process) in advance, on his own terms, before anybody else gets the opportunity.

And where his songs are relentlessly, even lugubriously heart-on-sleeve, his social media is what you might call arse-on-sleeve.

He’s constantly making a klutzy, sweary fool of himself, demystifying his popstar status. Capaldi is the Diogenes of mainstream pop, having the same innate wisdom, as well as a fondness for sharing news of his masturbation activities.

The National: Lewis Capaldi headlining Latitude  PICTURE: CHARLOTTE BOND

Now, this is a social media generation whose personalities partly depend on identity-forming tech like Instagram, Twitter or TikTok.

So for them, Capaldi’s permanent public display of his failures and flailings has become part of his star quality (“He’s an emo-monarch”, said one music paper recently). In the past, PR hacks would have strenuously suppressed public knowledge of Lewis’s mental health condition.

Now it becomes a natural hot topic for this generation of fans, for whom psychological balance is as “political” an issue as any of the nuclear missiles or rogue wars of my own youth. And when I hear the plaintive guitar/piano chords of Capaldi’s songs, I am reminded of the similarly chiming music tracks that accompany an extraordinary social media phenomenon, recently brought to my attention.

This trend indeed elevates youth mental health to the level of protest against the current system.

IT’S to be found in that Valhalla of the performatively personal, TikTok. Its hashtag is #corecore – so-called to distinguish it from other social media trends, like #cottagecore, #loungecore or #normcore. As the name implies, #corecore is a kind of meta-awareness of how the net (and digital commerce) tends to produce these endless mini-trends.

But as a meme, #corecore has received more than two billion views on TikTok. So there’s more going on here than ironic “air quotes”, just some satire on earnestness and kitsch.

There’s real anomie breaking through here – an acute distress about how closed off the future is for Generation Z. The most striking meme I’ve found is a montage (from @kamrynmarie._) of young workers sitting in their cars or tiny rooms.

They rail away against “employers who don’t care for you”, or about the lack of collectivity or meaning to what they do every day. There is a copious amount of crying involved.

Across it all, there is a sense of what some crusty radicals (a few generations ago) might have called “alienation”, even “class consciousness” (that is if the class was a poorly organised, software-addicted precariat).

But amid our general worry about younger generations – emotionally susceptible to the selling strategies of social media corporations – I would say that #corecore is good news.

We are so used to these system-led emotional injuries being framed as deficits and problems. For example, the Capaldi documentary ends with a freeze-frame advert for, a charity for those “struggling with their mental health”.

But what if the psychic distress of Gen Z could be seen as an asset, steerable in a radical direction? That it’s not just about coping with the bad world on the inside, but reconstructing a better world on the outside, alongside others?

Current leadership stramashes aside, surely this is why there’s such a consistently thumping endorsement for Scottish independence among the 16-35s. For them, independence is a horizon of collective improvement, resting on a modern identity that effortlessly fuses the local and the global.


READ MORE: Scottish independence support steady despite SNP drop in Savanta poll

The US chart-topping Capaldi is an exemplar of exactly this, as is Humza Yousaf (if he’s allowed to get a clear chance to stamp himself on his role).

A progressive independence is a direct answer to the #corecore lament. That is not to say that it’s the only potential political answer on these islands.

This generation is up for grabs.

Not that one would lump any political duties onto Mr Capaldi.

One of his funniest interviews, on The Jonathan Ross Show, involves fan pictures that demonstrate his similarity to female politicians – rather strikingly like Angela Merkel and the younger Liz Truss, it must be said.

As if in practice for a stand-up career he could easily embark on, Capaldi comes straight back: “Since that picture, I’ve realised that Truss and I have a lot in common. Like Liz Truss, I would also make a terrible prime minister”.

We can unburden you of that prospect, Lewis. But please continue to be your antic, sensitive and melodic self.

This gives your audience the permission to use their heart—and their sense of beauty, humour and honesty—to guide their lives in these tough, unforgiving times.

Which is certainly about a form of self-determining power, if not quite a politics.

Go well, Scottish Beyonce. And most importantly, stay well.

Lewis Capaldi: How I’m Feeling Now is currently on Netflix