The 1975 Goes Beyond 'Dream Pop,' by Sophie Dull
The 1975 is music exactly as it should be: unapologetic and heartfelt. The Manchester-based band has become increasingly popular as a result of their newest album release this past October, Being Funny in A Foreign Language. Although categorized to be a “dream pop” band, there isn’t just one box to confine them. From the band’s initial self-titled album release in 2013, they have played around with various sounds from the melancholy guitar solo in “Robbers” to the techno anthem, “I Like America and America Likes Me” — all crafting the band into a well-versed mix of lyrical art.
The main reason that The 1975 stands apart from other bands is the fact that there’s hardly anything they’re afraid to bring up. Frontman Matthew Healy frequently mentions religion, politics and media consumption all under his umbrella of postmodernism beliefs. Aside from the band, Healy is not only a brilliant thinker, writer, and artist, but also globally aware of the future of our society by noting current political elections and the climate change crisis. Each album as a whole can be a lot to take in all at once, so let’s break down a few of my favorite tracks.
“Robbers” from The 1975
The introduction to this song is enough to immediately fall in love with the band, and I love the simplicity of it: entertaining the idea that love doesn’t always have to be complicated. Because it’s much slower and emotional than most of the others on their debut album, it’s clear this one was meant to stand apart. This track tackles ideas of love, lust and rebellion by exemplifying what every teenage romance initially feels like: a complete, encompassing infatuation for someone else. Healy’s fascination with all-or-nothing, Bonnie and Clyde type love inspired “Robbers,” and it truly feels like a moment in time where nothing else matters but our love for another person. We are willing to risk it all for them.
“Love It If We Made It” from A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships
This is definitely a track that is best accompanied by the music video. There’s a lot to talk about with this one, and I absolutely love how unapologetically real it is. It’s clear how fed up Healy is with how the American government functions, and coming from a British man, that should be a warning sign in itself. Throughout the song, repetition of “modernity has failed us” sets the stage for his list of complaints regarding the racism, sexism, prejudice and lack of action from those in power. Throughout the music video, we are shown clips from broadcasts and newspaper articles that add an impact to the pressing concerns Healy addresses. With each new problem mentioned, one thing remains clear: change begins with us.
“People” from Notes On a Conditional Form
A prime example of how The 1975 shifts between genres, this was initially a released single that definitely shifted the band’s audience. Admittedly, I wasn’t a huge fan of this heavy-metal, almost screamo sound at first, just because the shift was dramatic from their typical synth-pop, poetic melodies. But I quickly realized, that’s exactly what they wanted. With the first lines of the track being, “Wake up / Wake up / Wake up / it’s Monday morning and we’ve only got a thousand of them left,” we are immediately engrossed in the urgent, nearly mocking point that Healy is getting at. What are we doing with the time we have left? We’re sitting around on our phones, distracted from the revolving world around us.
“It’s Not Living If It’s Not With You” from A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships
Arguably one of the band’s most upbeat and lively tracks, the true meaning of this song can be often misunderstood by the personification of heroin, a battle that Healy fought during the band’s rise to fame. In an interview post-addiction with British GQ, Healy described his thoughts on how his substance abuse had caused him to walk a thin line between losing not only the band, but himself as well. Despite his dark message behind the lively lyrics, the band does what they do best by layering these complex issues behind an ’80s-style, eccentric beat.
“I Like America & America Likes Me” from A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships
With a difficult topic, this purposefully autotuned anthem is a plea to end gun violence in America. The introduction poses a series of questions — “Is that designer? Is that on fire? Am I a liar?” — all symbolizing the distracted and avoidant behaviors that not only citizens, but even politicians have when addressing this pressing matter. The title itself even boasts the overconfidence of Americans while Healy’s use of autotune hints at the distorted reality of the media that everyone seems to be running from the truth. Later into the song, the lyric “Kids don’t want rifles, they want Supreme” speaks for itself while mocking the American government. The message that we can’t keep allowing these tragedies to happen without any change is clear. Once again, aside from the weight of the lyrics, the band is somehow able to fuse rhetorical questioning with an auto-tuned trap beat. Brilliant.
“Happiness” from The 1975’s newest album, Being Funny In a Foreign Language
One of the first singles released from their newest album, “Happiness” was a refreshing flashback to what once was: the original, ’80s pop sound that made The 1975 so popular. Healy has mentioned that this track came about while the band was simply messing around in the studio after planning to record again for their next album, hence the title. Recorded in only one take, this playful song brings initial listeners back to the bliss of the 2013 self-titled release. Being a flamboyant love song with lyrics like “I would go blind just to see you / I’d go too far just to have you near,” the 1975 is truly back and better than ever with their new album. Going on nearly a decade of releasing music, they haven’t lost the sound that grew their fanbase into millions worldwide.
One of the classic trends through each album is beginning with a self-titled track as an introduction, often the opening for their concerts. Up until the release of A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships, this track was just a rendition of the one from the first album: a simple melody that paves the way for the rest of the songs to follow. The release of Notes on A Conditional Form was the first album to take a different approach, and I was surprised more people weren’t talking about it. In the introduction to their fourth album, Greta Thunberg has a four-minute pressing speech on the need for climate change awareness. Thunberg states, “We have to acknowledge that the older generations have failed / There are no gray areas when it comes to survival,” among many other powerful statements, while urgently addressing listeners to stand up and begin a change within their own lives. Her impactful speech sets the tone for this album, as “People” was a dramatic change from previous releases.
Additionally, the first track in the newest release of Being Funny in a Foreign Language repeats “I’m sorry if you’re living and you’re 17” among other complaints about how the current generation isn’t doing enough for the future of our society. It’s clear when the weight of these pressing issues became apparent for the band to share, and the decision to address them throughout their albums was wise for reaching such a large audience.
From Healy being young and falling in love, struggling with addiction, and now fighting for climate change awareness and an end to gun violence, the band has an arc similar to that of growing up. First we’re young and distracted, and then adulthood becomes a time when change must be made. Relationships fade. Problems become reality. This band has grown together through thick and thin, and the music they release is a beautiful reflection of it. As Healy said himself in an Apple Music interview, “I like the all encompassing aspect of life — you can have the sad bits, but don’t leave the dancing out, you know what I mean?”
The 1975 has been my top artist of the year for the past three years, so it’s safe to say I truly believe the band has something special. From heavy guitar to simple melodies, they’ve experimented with nearly every genre possible. After all, their current tour is titled “The 1975: At Their Very Best.” I’ll let you listen and be the judge of that.