The 1975's win at the BRITs marks a very different era for band anticsYouTube/BRITs

The Brit Awards 2019: the frontman of Britain’s biggest band takes to the stage to quote a Guardian article, declaring that ‘‘male misogynist acts are examined for nuance and examined as traits of difficult artists while women and those who call them out are treated as hysterics who don’t understand art.” The same ceremony in 1996: the frontman of Britain’s then-biggest band instead incoherently grunts, engages in some juvenile boasting, and then refuses to leave.

Matty Healy’s interjections come as another part of a wider reaction against a certain, and previously tolerated, form of masculinity

Aside from originating in Manchester, the differences between Oasis and The 1975 in this context could not be starker: the former cocksure and crass, the latter introspective and ruminating, complete with album titles which sound like Buzzfeed long-reads (A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships).

For Oasis, their appearance at the BRITs was just another chance for them to show that they didn’t care. They emerged at a time when ‘lad culture’, now thankfully shunned, was triumphantly rearing its head. Both Loaded and FHM had circulations of around half a million. What became known as Britpop appeared to be a cultural movement which genuinely revolved around bands. And at least some of those bands were intent on living up to this cult of brash masculinity. Oasis captured this atmosphere to the point that in one weekend in 1996, 250,000 fans packed a field in Knebworth to drunkenly shout along to their bold ballads of ambition and escape.

Today, the musical landscape seems strikingly different, as those rare rock stars lucky enough to collect an award don’t drone, brag and mock like they used to. The 1975’s Matty Healy instead chose his moment to raise awareness against the prevailing culture of misogyny in the music industry. Healy reflected upon similar issues in a recent interview with GQ where he said he has “never been interested in masculinity as an idea because [he has] never been fearful of it.” In a world where Gillette adverts are designed to prompt masculine reflection and #MeToo has brought to light the horrific nature of power structures in Hollywood, Healy’s interjections come as another part of a wider reaction against a certain, and previously tolerated, form of masculinity.

There is a tendency to generalise when it comes to Britpop, as we conjure up images of the most uncouth excesses of Oasis as typical of the era. It was a seriously heterogenous movement that incorporated elements as diverse as class warfare, New Labour, patriotism, and naturally the future of rock and roll. Male grandstanding was hardly the genre’s defining aspect even musically, from the ambiguous androgyny of Suede to the candid vulnerability of Bends-era Radiohead. You can see why Healy seems bent on self-consciously modelling his band after the latter.


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A brief inquiry into The 1975

And neither should the change from that era to now be overstated. As various media outlets have noted, some more gleefully than others, something of a Britpop revival has taken place. Bucket hats, Harrington jackets and Fred Perry shirts are now everywhere at music festivals, and both Gallaghers are rumoured to play at Glastonbury this year. Bands like DMA’s are only the latest to attempt to imitate the musical style (with, in their case, painfully derivative results). But a return to the styles and the music has not been accompanied by the excesses. Noel Gallagher has retreated into a comfortable role as an affable and opinionated aged rocker, and Liam’s media appearances are now generally more farce than impropriety.

The exchange of role models from the mid-90s to now does tell us something about how attitudes have shifted. The idea of the Gallaghers’ 90s behaviour getting coverage, let alone laughter and plaudits from the media establishment is now unimaginable. Many object to The 1975 on the basis of their music - and a personal case can be made that their brand of melancholy indie pop does not merit the status they currently enjoy. Fortunately though, we at least have a band that are trying something different. There are conversations that need to be had, whether or not the problems they address were exacerbated by the likes of Oasis. Come the next pres, it’s certain that ‘Champagne Supernova’ may well pop up next to ‘The Sound’. We may not yet need to prune our playlists, but a change in our attitudes and behaviour is long overdue.

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