Matty Healy divulging on the meanings behind the lyricsyoutube.com/user/RapGeniusVideo

Lyrics are what drive music. I am obsessed with the poetry that complements musical phrases of impressive impact or refreshing simplicity. I can appreciate that a lot of people disagree. Some people don’t hear lyrics at all, only melody, the words ignored in favour of the music itself. Instrumental music can move me, but it is the lyrics that have the greatest impact.

There is no formula for the perfect lyrics. Artists are often stuck in a constant toggling of the private and public, classical timelessness and contemporary currency, accessibility and obviousness. There is an almost impossible equilibrium for each of these; when one is imbalanced and overindulged, it often results in cringe worthy musical moments. The bigger an artist becomes, the less relatable their life and content is going to be. Song lyrics are an endless tension and as subjectively ‘good’ as songs themselves.

The thought of singing 'Love It If We Made It' in any social, non-political setting seems absurd

For me, the perfect song lyrics are timeless – relevant to the world today, as well as whatever is to come. References to specific pop culture, celebrities or brands unsettle me. Kanye West’s reference to Taylor Swift in 'Famous' is painful to listen to, not only through its indecency, but also in its reliance on a knowledge of their feud. That said, a completely timeless song must still mean something and convey an emotion to be moving enough. At the moment, my favourite example of this is Beyoncé’s 'Pray You Catch Me'. It captures neglect and dislocation within a relationship in a poetic way, not overly forceful in its subject, nor overly attempting to establish itself as a 21st century song. Generally, the whole of Lemonade achieves this, yet at the same time, serves as a poignant exploration of culture and oppression. To me, this is, or was, the ideal.

The Ivor Novello Awards took place last week, prompting my reflection on the importance of lyrics, the only award ceremony judged by the writing community. This year, one of my favourite bands, The 1975, were awarded ‘Songwriters of the Year’ and ‘Best Contemporary Song’ for 'Love It If We Made It'. I can’t deny I was surprised, as to me, this marks a shift in interest and a revaluation of what is important in lyrics.

'Love It If We Made It' was probably my favourite track on the critically acclaimed A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships. However, it is an outlier in my lyrical taste. It is politically saturated, described as a ‘protest song,’ but also deflected by the band themselves. The creative process is fascinating. The lyrics are a collage of a year’s worth of tabloid headlines. It is entirely relevant to the day it was released, full of references to Kanye West, the death of Lil Peep, as well as Trump, fossil fuels and the refugee crisis. It is laden with human atrocity, for 'modernity has failed us'. There is something obscuring in the electropop instrumentation, you could ignore the lyrics in favour of it, as the words are delivered at speed with unwavering monotone. However, to do so makes you fall into the trap of ignorance that has facilitated such disaster. The combination of music and lyric is almost unsettling, yet serves its purpose with ease.

The 1975 performing at the O2 as part of their 'Brief Inquiry' tourLottie Reeder

Instantly, the idea of a protest song takes me to Bob Dylan. You couldn’t get further away. 'Blowin’ in the Wind' contains no visible markers of a time or place through its lyrics, contributing to its timelessness, accompanied with an acoustic guitar, emphasising the implicit weight of the words. It is an archetypal example of a song that is both immune to time and reflective of its context. I remember singing that song in a primary school assembly, being amazed by the sentiment which I would later realise is in its futility. The thought of singing 'Love It If We Made It' in any social, non-political setting seems absurd. Whilst the references and meaning may lose their relevance against time, the song serves as an important historical marker of attitude and atrocity of 2018.

The 1975 can obscure meaning in metaphor; they did so on the music of their first album, which in some ways is my favourite. Their second album erred towards topicality, some of the songs breaking away into the modern world. 'Loving Someone' is a good example of this, and has become the band’s LGBTQ+ anthem, but mostly criticises images of love and the tropes of art. 'Love It If We Made It' drives straight into the political subject, before stepping back in the short hook – ‘I'd love it if we made it’, showing their ability to engage a listener whilst conveying their message.


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A brief inquiry into The 1975

It has the feeling of a rally. The monotone melody of the words means there is only the option of shouting it. The experience of this song live was electric. Healy said of his purpose, ‘we need to make sign of the times.’ It appears that the writing community agrees. Whilst I always thought that politics should say out of music, this suggests the potential of lyric is today’s world, which is both exciting and terrifying.

I still believe in art that won’t age – we keep performing Shakespeare, looking at Van Gogh paintings and listening to Bob Dylan, but there’s some uncertainty in where the song came from and the precise details of what it represents that requires a google search. The 1975 will remain unavoidably present through their lyrics.

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