New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

Matty Healy is the chronically online hero we all need

The 1975’s recent tour was magical, messy and a reminder of why I fell in love with the band in the first place.
Markus Hillgaertner
Lead vocalist Matty Healy of The 1975 performing at the Southside Festival in Neuhausen, Germany in 2014. (Photo by Markus Hillgärtner via Wikimedia)

At my first The 1975 show, Matty Healy spat on me. On a whim, my sister and I decided to fly from New York to Toronto to experience it last winter. The compulsion was the inevitable result of the several months we had spent slouched over our phones devouring every tweet, TikTok and interview about their latest album, “Being Funny in a Foreign Language.” We saw Healy chaotically thrash around the stage, kiss rows of fans and frantically drag an interviewer through Manchester — and we knew we had to be a part of it. 

Being in Canada for the first time, we had never been stabbed by the aggressive chill of a Toronto winter, especially without the right wardrobe. Canadians are nice — but not nice enough to have coat checks at concert venues. Bitterly cold yet coursing with pre-concert adrenaline, we mistakenly rushed to the VIP entrance, where a nice guard let us through. Awestruck, we slipped into the towering 20,000-seat arena and ambled right up to the barricade. Fans who camped overnight to be in the front row clung to the bars like life rafts. 

The other attendees spoke about Healy as if he were their lovingly deranged friend. I felt that way too, but, in true Matty fashion, I was self-aware about the intensity of this parasocial relationship. My first semester of college had been an obscure web of inundating work, unfamiliar social spheres and low-level existentialism. Listening to The 1975 on my way to school is like walking with a shamelessly comical yet emotionally sensitive friend I needed. 

Maybe the woman on my right was feeling a similar attachment, because she yelled “KISS ME, I HAVE BIG BOOBS!” between each song. Healy heard it, lectured her about social awareness and then negotiated with her — they settled on him spitting red wine into her mouth instead. When he stepped onto a speaker and did just that, everyone around jumped like feral children. As I was washing red wine out of my hair later that night, I questioned how I have gotten to this point.

It’s no surprise that The 1975 was propelled to fame by the most chaotic, surreal and unhinged social breeding ground this world has ever seen — also known as 2010s Tumblr. Vocalist Matty Healy, guitarist Adam Hann, bassist Ross MacDonald and drummer George Daniel released their first eponymous album in 2013 to instant critical and popular acclaim. The self-titled album, which Healy described as “apocalyptic teenage romance,” reflected on the fixations of their moment: soft grunge, provocative lyrics, British boys and indie music worthy of gatekeeping. 

Their first album contained 16 songs, only half of what is in the deluxe edition which totaled 39 tracks. They featured barely intelligible singing and lyrics that made hardly any sense but conveyed visceral feelings at the same time. I was only 10 during the Tumblr zeitgeist, yet somehow the band has both maintained and developed these early themes to compound their relevance so much that I still relate to them a decade later. 

The 1975’s music always elicits joy, no matter how messy or incendiary. With lyrics like “And then you took a picture of your salad / And put it on the Internet,” “I’m sure that you’re not just another girl / I’m sure that you’re gonna say that I was sexist” and “Maybe I would like you better if you took off your clothes,” there has always been personality and irreverent humor in the social commentary that sits within their music. It contains astute reflections on hyperawareness, the loneliness in our society despite constant virtual connectivity and the commodification of intimacy. The music is smart, unhinged and good.

The 1975’s latest album cycle for their fifth studio LP, “Being Funny In A Foreign Language,” illuminates why their music is still relevant. Amid all the ridiculousness, romances and pretentious but self-aware statements — not to mention, X, the platform formerly known as Twitter,  cancellations — Matty Healy’s finger is, and always has been, on the pulse of popular culture.

Notably for this album, the band brought on Jack Antonoff — who is known for working with the likes of Lorde, Lana Del Rey and Taylor Swift — as a producer. Reacting to the polished personas of modern celebrities and sensing the call for Healy to revert to his previous rock-star sleaziness, he crafted a self-referential and deliciously manic stage act for this tour. It oscillated between teary vulnerability and brash trolling — the reason I was spat on in the first place. He subtly drew attention to the blurred lines between our polished personae on social media and the messy humans we are in real life. 

It seems prophetic that in an era of Swift-Mania, Matty Healy was romantically linked to Taylor — he consistently capitalizes on the current moment. It’s also perfectly characteristic that the band recently shut down a Malaysian music festival with a kiss between its members as resistance to their anti-LGBTQ+ laws. Healy later addressed the backlash in a later concert while Subway Surfers and satisfying videos played on the screen. It was a hilarious critique on our diminishing attention spans mixed with inflammatory social commentary, and yet, a return to their true form. 

The 1975 processes contemporary problems by dancing, joking and ridiculing with the knowledge that we can only clean up so much of the disarray. It’s better to be aware, sit in the rubble and continue on. When washing red wine out of my hair in the hotel shower, I knew that The 1975 taught me to embrace the chaos of the moment without sacrificing levity, amusement or senseless thrill.

The 1975 are performing at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 14 and 15 . Go, embrace the chaos — but stay away from red wine.

Contact Joyce Cayre at [email protected]

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