REVIEW: Years & Years 'Starstruck' AR Filter

1st June 2021

@ollyyears / @yearsandyears


Welcome to the first of The Music Trip Reviews. In these articles, we’ll be looking at and reviewing recent XR (AR / VR / 360˚) media released by musicians. Given that this sort of tech has only recently been adopted by artists as a promotional tool, we felt it was important to analyse what’s successful and what’s not in the hope that it’ll help creators, musicians and brands maximise the potential of this immersive media. We focus on 4 specific categories: Use of Music, Use of Technology, Innovation and Degree of Success. 


First up under the microscope: the Starstruck Augmented Reality Effect released by Years and Years on Instagram! This AR effect is centred around a game, asking users to nod their head as the falling arrows instruct them. It’s like a Dance Dance Revolution for head nodding - and when you reach 3 successful nods, sunglasses drop down onto your face and the beat drops, launching into the chorus. 


Use of Music: 

‘Starstruck’ is classic Years & Years: fun, catchy and a proper summer bop. It’s got numerous remixes and Kylie Minogue is even getting involved, so the track is being pushed hard. The song itself works a dream in making you want to dance and move around - the perfect soundtrack for a game that’s based on you bobbing your head. Lyrically, it’s clear concept of being starstruck in love makes for a great visual theme for an AR filter: stars, sunglasses and shimmering lights add up to create an attractive aesthetic that people want to engage with and share. They’ve also been wise in choosing the snippet of the track that leads up to the chorus, so if you fail multiple times at the game (like I did) and you never get the teased resolution of the beat dropping, you immediately want to stream the song to hear the whole thing.

Great / Good / Meh / Lame 


Use of Tech: 

There are a few features in this filter that really take advantage of the capabilities of AR; notably, the camera tracking the movements of the user’s head and translating it into actions in the game, which, after 3 successful moves, prompts the iconic ‘Thug Life’ dropping (albeit slightly more beautiful) sunglasses as the beat drops. It’s a great example of how AR can be applied to a music release campaign, and offers a far more engaging experience for the fans that allows them to interact to the track. Interaction with a brand without being redirected away from the app is one of the most valuable features AR brings to social media promotion. We are able to hear the song, play the game and share our results easily and quickly. With every use, the song and artist are getting noticed, not scrolled past. The Starstruck clip is played on a loop too, starting afresh every time you miss a head nod - ideal for getting the song stuck in fan’s heads. (The down side of this however is that not everyone sticks around long when trying filters - sometimes it can be worth putting the best bit at the start...). 

Great / Good / Meh / Lame 




The several nods to iconic pop-culture moments are entertaining, creative, and a brilliant way to encourage sharing even from people who don't consider themselves fans, as their followers will still enjoy it (striking this balance is a great move). From the Dance Dance Revolution base of the game to the Thug Life style sunglasses at the end - there's loads of familiar moments for people to enjoy while the track works it's earworm magic. In terms of pushing Augmented Reality to its innovative limit, this effect isn't groundbreaking, but this isn't always necessary provided there’s some creativity present, which there certainly is here. 

Great / Good / Meh / Lame 


Degree of success:

I imagine this filter has done pretty well in promoting Starstruck - Years & Years have a young fan base who are digitally orientated so there's no doubt in my mind that they will have loved this filter and it would have got a lot of sharing. Even if it’s not shared, it will have made a lot of organic impressions as they also released it on multiple accounts - the lead singer Olly’s and the band's official account. The only flaw I could find with it was that it was near impossible to pass the game and get to the chorus /sunglasses bit - but this can sometimes be down to individual phones and not the programming. Effects that rely on games can sometimes put people off sharing if they can't win it, but they can also work even better as people start obsessing to get it right. 

Great / Good / Meh / Lame


So, well done Years & Years! The simplicity of the game, it’s relevance to the track, the immediate earworm, and the amount I wanted to share it all add up to a good Augmented Reality effect. 

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