The 1975: Acknowledging Privilege, Addressing Drug Culture & Critiques on Modern Society

The year: 2013. The date: 20th February. Our setting: the worldwide web’s largest video streaming service, Youtube.

By now you must be wondering why all this information is relevant. So just to settle matters, this article has nothing to do with Pope Benedict XXVI’s resignation or the hotly debated Eastleigh by-election.  It is in fact the release date for the music video of The 1975’s breakthrough single “Chocolate”. Embodying the rebellious attitudes of young adolescents and their relationship with the authorities, topped off with all the aesthetical icing reminiscent of a John Hughes coming-of-age drama, the tune caught the attention of the British public, earning platinum status and peaking as high as #19 on the UK Singles Chart.

Starting out as a group performing Bon Jovi and Ghostbusters at a Senior Citizens’ Centre, the Macclesfield natives performed under the names Big Sleep and Drive Like I Do before eventually settling on their current title. For the band, the single’s success represented a long awaiting footing in Britain, occurring nearly 11 years after they formed whilst attending Wilmslow High School.

Swiftly followed by the distribution of their self-titled album, the group cemented their status as individuals who wished to discuss the trials and tribulations of young adulthood. From discussing sexual encounters (“Sex”) to reflections on the impact of drug use (“M.O.N.E.Y”) their work gave an insight into the life of millennials growing up in UK. And to no surprise, the album was met with conflicting responses. For an older generation, Healy’s polarizing song writing unearthed a feeling of disparaging rejoinder. Rolling Stone’s Caryn Ganz went so far as to say that “the LP mostly forces unconvincing emo lyrics into a bloopy 1980s package.” Despite this, the success of the debut LP is undeniable. And it was no chance anomaly. In a world that exists around the subjectivity of fact, apocalyptic foreshadowing and narcissist compulsions, it is to no surprise that a disenfranchised generation resonated with a contemporary voice resembling that of the 60’s beat generation.

Fast forward to 2018, and the band are receiving a much more positive all-round review from critics, most notably from NME who went from voting them ‘Worst Band’ in 2014 to Best British Band in 2015. The 1975 have become a group accessible to all ages, and while their newfound celebrity could be passed off as a result of a “change in sound”, it’s more likely that critics are simply less in touch with young people than they’d like to believe. Ignorance is bliss, but no one has been able to ignore their latest project, “A Brief Enquire Into Online Relationships”. In the singles released so far, an extension of introspective semantics joins forces with observations of contemporary society and the synthetic nature of human interaction to shape a whole new outlook for the collective.

Their first single, “Give Yourself A Try”, encompasses this change in pace from the band. A sincere reflection on his life so far, Healy manages to manoeuvre between a self-reflective narrative, intertwined with a heart-warming message for a generation who are persistently victim to life’s ups and downs. Among his honest and quite frank take on his own experiences so far, the song’s chorus radiates the idea “Won’t you give yourself a try”, as if to say that people must give themselves a chance by being true to their own identity. A fitting sentiment given the current climate. The 1975 are certainly providing a fresh outlook on life, whilst looking back towards an earlier, punkier sound that was present in previous installments of the band in this single

But what stands above them all is Healy’s recognition of the privilege such success bestows. The 1975 are at a point in their career in where they are in possession of a large international following, consisting especially of a younger audience who look to the work they produce for inspiration. With this comes a responsibility to make sure that their work promotes a message that ratifies younger individuals to become more self-aware and comfortable in themselves. Additionally, using this platform wisely is paramount. Whether it’s Bob Dylan or Childish Gambino, artistry has always been rooted in the fundamental idea of engagement with its setting. When musicians fail to reflect the landscape from which their art is created, superficiality dominates.

And right now, it appears as if The 1975 are taking that responsibility seriously.

Words by Thomas Fleury

Thomas is a recent graduate from South London. His work spans anything from music, to film, to theatre. It has also been said that he has an unhealthy obsession with 90’s alternative R&B. He can be found on Instagram at @fleury.t


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