the 1975: sad boys writing happy sad songs
A dear friend once asked me about The 1975. “Oh yeah,” he said, “aren’t they that band of sad boys playing happy sad songs?” Yes. Yes they are. Or they were, at least. When The 1975 debuted in 2013 with their self-titled album, calling the group sad boys was deeply, almost perturbingly, on the mark. American audiences had shown a lot of love to the Arctic Monkeys the same year, with “R U Mine?" and "Do I Wanna Know?” achieving huge radio success, and The 1975 followed right along in a similar vein. Two of their biggest tracks from this album, “Chocolate” and “Sex”, are both riddled with double entendres and storytelling, lead vocalist Matty Healy truly was and is spectacular at writing music for the self-proclaimed “sad-kids.” These kids aren’t to be confused with emo-kids, or even hipsters, they were 2013’s crossbreed. Cigarette kids, “guns under their petticoats” kids, all black thrifted clothes kids. They existed, however briefly, and quickly made room in their niche music scene for The 1975. They created their own scene, blasting into the industry with a 33 song deluxe album that reinvented the indie-pop genre. Oddly enough, however, the genre that gave The 1975 their platform was brit-pop, bubbly, undulating, and radio friendly. This was highly unlike their appearance and fanbase, which was at times brooding and dark. Those pop singles allowed the band the avenue to let the other 29 songs on the LP be conceptual, moody, and emotional. It was a perfect balance.
Enter “I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful yet So Unaware of It.” In their two year hiatus, the band completely reinvented themselves. From this very dark, very British band, almost grunge in appearance, bloomed something very bright and very pink. Lead singles “Love Me” and “UGH!” took the radio by storm. This begged the question though, where did the sad-kids go? Yet lo and behold, they were still there! Dressed in new colors and trying new things, trying to find happiness and growing up. The fans were growing with the band, something that happens so rarely in music. The transition was smooth, the songs were incredible, and they entered this realm of indie-pop in a new and exciting way. This was not to say that they weren’t lacking in sad songs. Sad boys playing happy sad songs may have still been accurate, but the desperation for pop-leaning music was not as strong on the sophomore album. Sad, emotional songs, lived in their sad, emotional homes. They played no tricks, and pulled no punches (save for a few notable exceptions, “A Change of Heart,” perhaps), and created a new space for emo kids to fill; one in which feeling their feelings was fully accepted, and attempting to look cool was unnecessary.
The 1975’s beautiful third child, “A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships” was simultaneously the most simple and most complex of the three albums. It’s white, bright, clean, and lacking color, almost sterile. “Give Yourself a Try” and “It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You)” were the pop focused singles from this album, but even still something had changed. The necessity for calling women vapid and vain had passed, the need to put up appearances was completely gone. Here, in the flesh, is an album that criticizes society as a whole. “Love It If We Made It” is a complete slap in the face, packed with biting notes on pop culture, race, and power. “The Man Who Married A Robot” examines our unhealthy fascination with the faceless embodiment of the internet. It’s so incredibly honest, from tip to toe. But the album’s made of such simple parts, the production is intuitive, the lyrics aren’t vague, they’re open and specific. What’s most enjoyable however is not the shift in fanbase; more grown and more mature now, ready to examine the world around them and pay attention to the goods and bads. No, what’s most striking now is the image of the band. They wear what they want, they dance how they want, they play how they want. It’s the image of a band so fully consumed within themselves that they aren’t afraid to be honest anymore, and this is reflected so beautifully in the people that follow them. The band has grown to a new peak, a place where any direction will be a good one, and they’ve improved themselves and their music along the way. At the end of the day, isn’t honesty and openness, to examine the world and our place in it, and to come out clean and understanding, what we wanted all along?