An Era to Stand Alone
Issue 5, Volume 113
A new era has arrived.
Ever since The 1975 made headlines with their debut release of “Chocolate” (2013), their prominence in the U.K. music scene has only grown. Their 2016 album, “I Like It When You Sleep for You Are So Beautiful yet So Unaware of It,” saw them launched into international fame and critical acclaim, topping the Billboard 200 and setting a record for the longest album title to ever do so. Over the past 10 years, the Manchester-based band has gained a reputation for their musical (and personal) eccentricity, dedicated fan base, and enthralling performances.
However, their defining element lies within frontman Matty Healy’s knack for writing particularly nuanced lyrics, littered with subtle metaphors and recurring motifs both among and within albums, enabling The 1975 to form an identity not around genre, but rather lyricism. Additionally, the band has allowed themselves to experiment considerably with their musical range, so much so that the band’s devoted fans have often described each album as a new “era” of The 1975’s music.
Fans have debated whether “Being Funny In A Foreign Language” (BFIAFL), their most recent project, represents an entirely different phase or is an evolution of their introductory era ushered in by “The 1975” (2013)—and understandably so. Both album covers are in black-and-white, an aesthetic echoed in all of the corresponding music videos, and critics and fans alike have argued that the musical styles the band employs resemble that of their debut album.
While BFIAFL does share many qualities with “The 1975,” the band has changed immensely since their debut, feeling like the harbinger of an entirely new identity for the band. Where “The 1975” seemed like the band was figuring out their style, BFIAFL is an ode to their creativity and ability to defy musical norms.
Sonically, “BFIAFL” takes inspiration from all of The 1975’s previous albums. The project features a groundbreaking exploration of sound and genre––something that is not unheard of in the band’s history, but is done in exemplary fashion in “BFIAFL.” In contrast to their previous projects, The 1975 displayed a mastery of their chosen genres in each song. The band juxtaposes piano ballads with ‘80s-synth-pop songs with an indie Christmas song. Specific songs showcase their musical growth exceptionally well, notably the upbeat, aptly named “Happiness.” The second track of “BFIAFL” opens the album exquisitely, as Healy’s hopeless lyrics contrast the masterfully crafted dance-pop atmosphere, producing musical and lyrical layering. While the first half of “BFIAFL” has its highlights, the second leg of the album is filled with musical gems.
“Wintering” is the band’s take on a simplistic, indie Christmas song, in which Healy illustrates his apprehension of his family reunion, while simultaneously paying homage to his upbringing. Directly following “Wintering,” the raw yet powerful “Human Too” flaunts Healy’s vocals, which often go unnoticed in favor of the band’s musical experimentation. It’s a simple take on the conventional slow pop song, as Healy’s lyrics are accompanied solely by a piano melody and a subdued, almost soothing, snare drum. Aptly, the lyrics are straightforward, but the emotion in Healy’s voice is incredibly powerful. It’s rare that the frontman allows his vulnerability to manifest itself in his vocals, but “Human Too” is brought to life by his emotion and expression.
The penultimate song, “About You,” is the pinnacle of The 1975. The song’s combination of stunning vocals, intricate melodies, and groundbreaking experimentation encapsulates everything that is The 1975. Attempting to categorize “About You” into one binding genre would prove problematic, as the band masterfully synthesizes soft-rock with the underproduced vibe of indie songs, while also drawing influence from the upbeat songs from earlier in the album. Healy’s soft voice complements the track perfectly, and the feature from Carly Holt is impeccably chosen.
Beyond the music itself, the themes that Healy touches on throughout the album take The 1975 to new heights of vulnerability. Healy’s openness shines through far more than in previous projects, as he acknowledges his shortcomings under the public spotlight, as well as his history with addiction and substance abuse. “Part Of The Band,” a lyrical masterpiece, highlights this perfectly, as Healy closes the song off singing “Am I ironically woke? The butt of my joke? / Or am I just some post-coke / average, skinny bloke / Calling his ego imagination?” These lyrics flow beautifully, but they’re also particularly self-reflective for Healy, talking about his addiction, his ego, and his own self-consciousness.
With that said, BFIAFL is not perfect. Each song stands alone well, but there is a connectedness lacking throughout the album as a whole. Where previous albums seemed to have a more intentional structure to them, “BFIAFL” felt more like a combination of 11 interesting but entirely individual songs. The motifs that adorned Healy’s lyrics in previous projects were far less prevalent. BFIAFL touched on a wide range of interesting topics, but there seemed to be a central theme that was lacking —which would have provided the band with something to organize the album around. Instead, it felt rather sporadic at times, jumping between songs that had no relation to each other.
Even with this flaw, “Being Funny In A Foreign Language” is by far The 1975’s best album yet. The band showcases great musical growth, while still allowing themselves to challenge the conventions of the genre. Healy’s lyrical genius accompanies the exemplary musicality in an album that is the pinnacle of The 1975, giving fans much to look forward to in the coming eras.