The 1975 is an English band that can be categorized in the genre of indie pop rock, because their lyrics comment on social and political events. Their music is a mix of 80s influence and R&B to appeal to a generation of social outcasts. Their new album “Being Funny in a Foreign Language” was released on Oct. 14. Matty Healy, the lead singer of the band, is often accredited as the lyricist for the band and he describes this album as an exploration of empathy. He said that he named the album “Being Funny in a Foreign Language” because being funny in a culture or a language you did not grow up in is, “… the height of sophistication and empathy because you are straddling two cultural boundaries.” It sounds cheesy but he says empathy and love is the solution to all our problems in the world. If everyone could step across cultural and language boundaries, find a way to relate to a different culture and then be funny is the ideal to aspire to.
The diversity of music in this album is mixed with nihilistic yet idealistic lyrics being a constant thread weaved throughout the album. One of the songs on the album which exemplifies this concept the best is “Looking For Somebody (To Love).” This is reminiscent of Queen’s “Somebody to Love” and “Pumped Up Kicks” by Foster The People. It has a similar upbeat nature as these two songs with a lonely, desperate message. Through the first listen, one of the most shocking lyrics, was “A supreme gentleman with a gun in his hand looking for somebody to love.” Healy, as someone from the United Kingdom, is writing about the abnormal events of school shootings and how it has become a normalized phenomenon in America. He is wrestling with the idea of cause and effect and what brings perpetrators to the point of performing the horrendous act of taking people’s lives and leaving a trail of trauma. In these lyrics and music, you hear the intentionality behind the album and find an outlet to express the grief and depression we often feel towards the world, but then that is counteracted by the overall message of the album: empathy.
Throughout the album, you see the complexity of simplistic emotions like love and happiness. The album tackles how, in our culture, you always have to question or second-guess these “simple” emotions. However, these “simple” emotions have so much more to work to do to become fully realized within an individual because our society and media want to promote this depressing worldview. The album is trying to get to the question: how do you hold depressing societal perceptions and events with an idealistic and hopeful outlook?
One of my favorite songs on the album is “Human Too.” The song is about recognizing everyone as a human capable of good and bad. How often do we neglect other people’s humanity because we hold people to an unrealistic standard? We forget a commonality we all have is the ability to make mistakes. How do we hold in tension the ability to make mistakes and the power of empathy?
In my opinion, The 1975 gets to the heart of a lot of deep social and personal issues. They put so much thought and emotion behind their songs and I think they are exemplifying their album title. Their music reaches across cultural boundaries to show the commonality of society: the need for empathy.