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The 1975 “Being Funny in a Foreign Language”

One of the biggest pop bands of the last decade leaves fans wondering who they are trying to be today

After emerging onto the world stage of pop music with their chart-topping self-titled debut album in 2013, the 1975 have since grown to take on more mature and ambitious projects. Frontman Matty Healy has directed the band away from their earlier, youthful emo-pop expressions towards more mature postmodern social statements through projects like 2018’s “A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships'' and 2020’s “Notes on a Conditional Form.” However, “Being Funny in a Foreign Language” — released Oct. 14th — struggles to effectively commit to a single direction for the band in 2022. 

“The 1975” — the first track of the album — doesn’t appear to amount to much more than a pedestal for Healy’s ego and pretension. Somewhat obnoxiously, the song features Healy repeating the line “I’m sorry if you’re living and you’re seventeen” a total of nine times. However, it’s still unclear who gave the 33 year-old singer the responsibility to portray that everyone younger than him is doomed to sadness.

Track two, titled “Happiness,” attempts to instill some life and light into the aftermath of the band’s upsetting title track through a five-minute performance of rather generic dance music. While the song might make a move in the right direction, it’s a little too long and instrumentally repetitive to keep listeners meaningfully engaged.

“Looking For Somebody (To Love)” follows next and finally presents listeners with a performance that arrives somewhere near the band’s familiar standards. Of all the songwriting on the album, this example is most likely to be genuinely mistaken for a song written in the mid-1980s — although that isn’t necessarily a terrible thing.

The arguable highlight of the album arrives with the fourth track, “Part of the Band.” Immediately, listeners are unsure of what to expect as the song begins with nothing but a quaintly orchestrated string rhythm underneath Healy’s soft, yet energetic vocals. 

Lyrically, Healy displays entertaining creativity on this track through a personal narrative of his own youthful struggles characterized by obsessive crushes, questions of sexuality and identity and drug addiction. The song crescendos into an outro in which Healy shows a moment of vulnerable self-awareness as he sings, “Am I ironically woke? The butt of my joke? / Or am I just some post-coke, average, skinny bloke / Calling his ego imagination?” Instrumentally, the track blends orchestral, folk and pop elements seamlessly into a performance that blossoms into a wholly heartfelt memory of the turbulence of adolescence.

“Oh Caroline” follows up and delivers a song reminiscent of a meticulously crafted radio anthem, which while catchy and fun, feels confined and robotic. It starkly clashes with more genuine moments on the album like “Part of the Band”.

Euphoria reaches its peak on the sixth track of the album, “I’m In Love With You”. Unlike “Happiness” and “Oh Caroline”, the band’s performance on this song shows no sign of trying to be anything other than its pure and genuine self. Healy keeps the lyricism joyfully blunt in the way he describes his feelings, saying “I can summarize it for you / It’s simple and it goes like this / I’m in love with you.” 

Along with the lyrics, the track’s brilliantly clean and organic pop production launches itself deep into the most euphoric realms of our imaginations, while the song’s bright acoustic performance from the rhythm section brings the overflowing joy of the performance back to our present reality on Earth.

The album’s enthusiasm is then followed by a brief interruption in “All I Need To Hear,” which ultimately amounts to nothing more than a forgettable moment of sadness expressed through a slow-tempo R&B sound that would not necessarily stand out from a crowd of other songs in the genre.

The band abruptly returns to experimentation and positive energy in the following track, titled “Wintering.” Here, Healy channels his characteristic sarcasm through a seasonally appropriate narration of familiar tropes of modern family life. The song's sense of humor is elevated by an upbeat tempo along with lighthearted instrumentation, which once again becomes a near perfect example of a seamless blending of pristine pop production and genuine performance.

Unfortunately, the album most certainly does not end with a bang, as the last three tracks blend into an unremarkable final few minutes that might leave listeners wondering where the rest of the album went. 

One could easily listen to this 43-minute album in one sitting and conclude that, although it definitely has its moments, “Being Funny in a Foreign Language” will not sit among the 1975’s greatest accomplishments. The album jolts listeners between scattered genres and emotions in a way that lacks any concise direction or cohesiveness and effectively leaves fans wondering who the 1975 even are these days.

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