After a global tour that cemented Matty Healy as a full-on weirdo (and apparently a good showman), The 1975 is back on the road. Only now, the already popular band has significantly more people paying attention to its frontman. At this point in his career, Healy’s name has become associated with bizarre, offensive behavior and internet drama—especially since his short-lived fling with the most famous woman in the world.
Now, the 34 year old is claiming that he wants to rehabilitate his image or, at the very least, make people understand him better. Should the internet believe him? Should we even care? Is this just another stage of his satirical performance art? And if so, is Healy secretly the most amusing rockstar we’ve had in a while? First, let’s see what this nepo baby—the son of a British talk show panelist—has been up to recently.
On Sept. 16, The 1975 kicked off their Still… At Their Very Best tour—not to be confused with the At Their Very Best tour, which they concluded in August. (That’s the one that birthed all those videos of Healy kissing fans and eating raw meat onstage.) Right now, the band has only played seven shows of the tour’s first leg—yet Healy’s onstage antics have already produced several headlines that would make any publicist nervous. It seems like it’s just the beginning of another chaotic media cycle.
On Sept. 21, the English singer deleted his Twitter (or X) account after a very curt, very embarrassing interaction with Boygenius member Lucy Dacus, in which he used the R slur. (This is what white leftists who want to seem edgy but have enough sense not to use racial slurs love to do.) Healy tweeted that he had told Dacus that her supergroup inspired him to start a new band called Boy[insert R-word], then added that he “doesn’t speak to her that often.” Dacus simply responded, “You don’t speak to me at all.” BOOM.
A few days later, at a Sacramento concert, the frontman told the crowd that the band was going on an “indefinite hiatus” from live shows after its current tour. The same night, he performed next to a naked wax figure of his body on stage, which some people seemed to find alarming but was mostly just funny. Then there was a Hollywood Bowl show last Monday, where he gave a seemingly sarcastic apology that was way too corporate-sounding to be sincere. “Because some of my actions have hurt some people, I apologize to those people,” he told the crowd in a dismissive tone. “And I pledge to do better moving forward.”
He continued, “I think it’s also important that I express my intentions, so everybody knows that there is no ill will coming from me. You see, as an artist, I want to create an environment for myself to perform where not everything that I do is taken literally.”
“You can probably also say that men would rather do offensive impressions for attention than go to therapy,” he added, reading an advertisement for the mental-health platform BetterHelp from a set of cue cards.
In the midst of all this, rapper Ice Spice finally responded to the scandal around Healy that both galvanized Swifties and formally gave the singer his “cancelled” status. To briefly recap what feels like music-industry legend at this point, Healy went on comedian Adam Friedland’s podcast, where he admitted to watching racially offensive porn and laughed while the hosts made offensive jokes about Spice. In a Variety interview last week, the 23 year old said she was “confused” by the whole thing and that Healy apologized to her “a bunch of times.”
For a while now, it’s seemed apparent that Healy’s whole provocative schtick is primarily just a schtick. In a May New Yorker profile of Healy, Jack Antonoff said that “Matty is a deeply sincere person, who can, at different points, be misunderstood because of how much he enjoys a bit. If you don’t know him, if you don’t get him, because you’re not really tuned in to the work, you might assume a cynicism that is literally not there.”
I can’t say that I’ve ever been tuned into Healy’s work for several reasons. I don’t like his yelp-y, extremely British voice. I found his band’s singles that my friends encouraged me to listen to (“Chocolate,” “Sex”) to be mediocre at best. To be perfectly honest, I’ve mostly just resent The 1975 for all the (incorrect) Arctic Monkeys comparisons that the media makes. Still, I feel like one can easily point out that his controversial performance art is simply bad and inadvertently comical in the ways it goes wrong—like when he kissed his bandmate in an act of protest at a Malaysia festival in July, just for the government subsequently shut down the event and ruin everyone’s fun.
Overall, Healy reminds me a lot of Doja Cat, in that his attempts to be a provocateur are only problematic by internet standards. They’re not transgressive in a way that prompts interesting conversation beyond “that’s bad!” or moves the needle forward or backward. Not everyone can be Madonna in the ’90s!
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