The 1975 never fail to amaze me. I first discovered them when I was a sad 15-year-old, and would listen to and cry along with their self-titled album. The combination of melancholy music and depressing lyrics perfectly summed up that period of time in my life.
“A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships,” the third studio album by the 1975, tells the millennial narrative of being cripplingly lonely, despite being constantly connected to others through phone screens. A postmodern society living amongst advanced technology that has ruined their lives. It reminds me of “Black Mirror,” but as an album.
The quartet is led by Matty Healy, who wrote and produced this album through his trials and tribulations with rehab to knock his drug abuse, which he started to help cope with the effects of fame. He comes off as being unfazed by his stardom, yet somehow ashamed of it at the same time. He is not one to show off fame and fortune, and uses his large platform to educate fans on more serious topics like politics and mental health. He addresses this on “A Brief Inquiry.” Healy describes the modern technological age as almost an apocalypse waiting to happen.
The album opens with the same self-titled song that appeared as the first track on both their first and second albums. This time, however, it is remastered and synth is added over the vocals, which appears throughout the rest of the songs as well. Each manipulated version of the introductory track sets a theme for the rest of the record.
One of the first singles released, “Love It If We Made It,” captures the essence of the album into one song. Healy cries out “modernity has failed us” at the end of each verse, and includes a direct quote from Donald Trump, “I moved on her like a bitch,” and reminds us of one of the strangest moments of the year: “Thank you Kanye, very cool!”
“Sincerity Is Scary” describes the difficulties of being sincere on the internet. When breaking down the song, Healy said in an interview with Genius that, “It’s harder to be really sincere, because you have to be really human, and you have to be really sappy, and you have to be a bit soft, and it’s easier to be ironic in the face of those situations.” Forming and maintaining relationships online can be difficult, he said, but essentially make us feel even lonelier, since there is no human interaction. “My relationship with social media is kind of like, this is what I do. Whereas for a lot of people, young people especially, this is who I am,” said Healy.
The 1975 use a lot of references to political events, specifically in America, on “A Brief Inquiry.” “I Like America & America Likes Me,” named after the performance art by Joseph Beuys, pays homage to a trend sweeping across America: SoundCloud rap. Healy’s heavily autotuned voice repeats the lyric “I’m scared of dying, no gun required,” as a way to show that across the world, we’re all the same and afraid of one thing. The most memorable line from the song, “Kids don’t want rifles, they want Supreme,” is a reference to a poster a teenager held during the March For Our Lives protest that read “It’s easier to buy a gun than buy Supreme.”
“The Man Who Married a Robot/Love Theme” tells the story of a lonely man named @SnowflakeSmasher86 who “lived in a lonely house. On a lonely street. In a lonely part of the world.” The spoken word story is narrated by Siri. The lonely man has fallen in love with the internet, who he says is his best friend. “The man shared everything with his friend: All of his fears and desires; All of his loves, past and present; All of the places he had been and was going, and pictures of his penis.” This song sounds like it tells the story of a dystopian future, which is what made me instantly think of “Black Mirror,” but is the reality we are currently living in.
As the album comes to a close the songs slow down. These are some of the least memorable songs from the album because of the extremely slow music. “Surrounded By Heads And Bodies,” “Mine,” and “I Couldn’t Be More In Love” all sound relatively the same and are honestly the songs thats I always skip.
“I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)” is a cinematic ending to “A Brief Inquiry” and sums up life in the digital age. Social media severely distorts our own self image, making us more self-conscious and depressed. These powerful emotions drive someone to feel like they have always felt that way, but Matty reminds himself that is all an illusion, that social media is fake and that we can log off anytime we want.